When I was four years old, I had my tonsils removed. Back then it meant two days in the hospital, and the promise of all-you-can-eat ice cream.
At home, mom was rarely available to tuck me in or fix a single meal because she worked two jobs, but in the hospital she never left my side. The visitor chair looked hard and cold, yet she curled up under a thin blanket and slept sideways.
I was anesthetized and taken to surgery. No memories of bright lights, but I recall being asked to count backwards from 100.
I may have been four, but I was also cocky. “99, 98, 97, 96, 95, 94, 93…” The numbers poured from my lips. “92, 91, 90, 89, 88, 87…” I was on a mission to display my mad math skills. “86, 85, 84, 83, 82, 81…”
I imagine the impatient doctor, scalpel poised, making hand motions to the gas-man to hurry things up.
Memory fades until lunch the next day. Staff delivered a try of mystery meat and boiled spinach. Where was the promised ice cream?
I downed the loafy meat, but pushed away the green slime. Mom fluffed the pillow under me so I could rest more comfortably.
At that moment, a nurse entered and scolded, “You’re gonna make an invalid of that child!” No doubt my illness lacked threat of imminent death.
The nurse however should have feared for her own from the daggers mom glared.
“And she hasn’t even touched her vegetables,” said the white-uniformed curmudgeon. “I’ll take care of that.” She jabbed a forkful of green slime through my sealed lips.
Shocked and angry, my mother yelled, “You’ve got a lotta nerve!”
A queasy wave hit my stomach. The nurse stuck a second forkful to my lips as the first exploded back at her. Bleached whites turned to mottled shades of putrescence.
I remember my mother’s laugh, followed by words I shouldn’t have understood.
But no ice cream.