Perhaps my broken bone foresighted my broken brain. Not the break itself but the response to it.
A child. Springtime. Judo after school. Went up the belts rapidly. Orange belt. After school play with friends. Energetic. In dresses and tights. No thought of breaking anything in myself. But then, well, I did.
I walked down my street holding my arm, holding my screams in because I didn’t want to fret my friends, until they went into their homes and I couldn’t keep quiet anymore. My parents’ neighbour happened to be visiting them. My Uncle was living with us at the time. Four adults heard my screams like an approaching siren.
The neighbour was horrified. This child screaming? Didn’t she know how to behave‽ He stormed out as I wailed in. Embarrassed over her kid upsetting the neighbour, my mother wanted nothing to do with me. “You deal with your daughter, Khush!” she commanded as she disappeared into the kitchen. Uncle was worried. “Do something, Khush!” he said, galvanizing my father into action.
Dad checked my arm, yelled through the walls at Mum to get something to make a sling out of. She got a thin blanket — probably a flannel sheet. It was soft, creamy white, and covered with pink rosebuds. He made a sling and put my arm in it while she returned to the kitchen, wanting nothing to do with this screaming child. I stopped screaming. The sling really did make it bearable. Besides, decades later, I now know that being cared for reduces pain.
By the way, I’d perfected the art of making my displeasure known to medical things when we had to line up in Bombay for vaccines before coming to Canada. I was five years old. When I discovered how much they hurt, I yelled my head off. My lungs used to power those vocal chords like a train’s shrill whistle. I stopped my rather loud protests when my parents explained about vaccines and their necessity for our move. But when, later on after my bone break, the X-ray nurse wrenched my arm for no good reason I could see, I didn’t stop. They hurt me. I hurt them right back through their eardrums. Don’t you love childhood logic? Anywho…
Uncle drove Dad and me to Sick Kids like all Hades was after us. The emergency entrance was in a different place back then. Dad had me wait in a small waiting room with a shut door with other kids, who all stared at my rosebud sling and snickered. I couldn’t wait to get out of there.
A junior resident was the only nice person I met at Sick Kids. But then Dad was a doctor and he’d tasked him with finding out how I broke my arm so close to the elbow, requiring a full cast for 6 weeks. (I believe it ended up being 5 — I used to have robust health and heal fast. Wouldn’t know that now, eh?) He was no match for me. I grinned and laughed as he took away the pain and dodged his subtle attempts to get me to spill.
The next day the neighbour who’d told off my mother for not controlling her misbehaving child brought me a Chitty Chitty Bang Bang car as an apology. Yup, he only had sons. But that worked well for me, being given a boy’s toy, for I loved that car. Loved the movie.
This makes me remember a story Mum told me once of the three of us getting off at Gibraltar from the ship taking us to Bombay. It was a day trip and a break from onboard life. Me a baby, crying with my lusty lungs. A woman told off my Mum, to take that baby back to the ship if she couldn’t control her. Mum did no such thing. Told her I was hungry and so obviously I was crying. Basically, in British speak, told her to stuff it. Wonder when she started caring about what others thought…
The foresight I got from my green fracture taught me only not to be surprised my family didn’t believe my brain injury (not for a good long while, Mum the first to believe after the elder statesman Uncle Homi), that others couldn’t tolerate the effects of my injury — demanding I behave as if I had a healthy brain and somehow had power to get my neurons to work properly — just like that neighbour didn’t believe anything was wrong and I was simply misbehaving. Still, I found being abandoned difficult (yeah, I know, stating the obvious). And could not comprehend how not one member of my highly educated, medical family didn’t seek real treatment for my injury on my behalf. They could sling my arm and take me to doctors who knew how to restore an arm to full function with first a cast and then physio, but they didn’t want to learn how to sling a brain nor find doctors who could restore my brain to full function.