I was a kid, no more than 5 or 6, I think I was, when I had my tonsils out in the operating room of the nearby Wood River Hospital. I was truly petrified, me, a kid going into a major hospital, under the knife as I'd heard my situation referred to, with the benefit of ether (I say "ha" to that even now because the gas made me sick as a dog, so much so that I can't stand the smell of ether without wanting to vomit); that, and the masked doctors and masked nurses, the whole nine yards, all bending over me as I lay on my back with a black rubber mask having been placed firmly over my mouth and nose, waiting for the ether to kick in.
"Count backwards from 100, starting now," someone said. I think I 'zongged' off to Neverland around the count of 100, 98, 62..., baseball.
I awoke from the hard table I had gone to sleep on, and found myself in yet another room in a strange bed surrounded by a curtain, and with the most horrific sore throat imaginable. While I lay there semi-awake, becoming more aware of my ordeal, and while hearing the angry wind howling outside the hospital windows, I began accepting the fact that the lady at my bedside was one of the most welcome, nicest persons I believe I had ever met up to that time.
She was not someone I knew, a complete stranger to me, but that didn't seem to matter. She made me feel warm, and safe, and even under my scary circumstance, extremely glad she was there helping me. And as it turned out I needed help as I was coughing, spitting up residual blood passing over and through an extremely unwilling to cooperate, and sore as hell, and raspy, throat. I remember the woman softly speaking, while wiping my sweaty brow as she also assisted with wiping my mouth and chin, bloody napkins and all. The howl of the wind continued.
She told me that she had two little boys, about my age, and asked if I knew them? And then gave me their names? Of course I knew them, we had played together, one I liked, the other I didn't. I used to jokingly tell one how much he looked as if he was seeing the world through the bottom of Coke bottle lenses, his vision obviously so terrible that his eyes looked tremendously large compared with the rest of him. I didn't tell her that part, only thought about it, as my throat hurt so very badly I really didn't want to talk to anyone at all. About that time, thanks to the after effects of the ether, I vomited more blood into a nearby pan, and into the napkins the nice lady had at the ready.
Not sure when I passed out only to wake and find the kind and pleasant and helpful lady was still at my bedside, still ready and willing to give me continued care, pretty much the same care as before. At one point, I fell back into a sound asleep only to wake to a nurse's visit, coming in to check on me. The other woman was gone. And later in the day my mother came to the hospital room, startling me awake by suddenly pushing back that curtain surround, saying she had come to visit and find out all about her little boy. That and to confirm all had gone just as she and the doctors told me it would go?
"Yeah, pretty much," I managed to squeak, "... But you didn't say nothing about how bad my throat was going to hurt, that part you didn't say anything about."
I managed to ask: "Where'd the nice lady go?" My mother was lost for an answer.
After a disappointing effort to down a bowl of promised but only somewhat soothing vanilla ice cream, and yet another visit by the talkative nurse heard over the howling wind in the background, I was finally discharged to home in the care of my mother.
It was days later that I learned that the mother of my aforementioned two friends, well, she just simply couldn't have been the same person who had helped me as I lay there in my hospital bed. For you see she had died around that same time in a major explosion over at the local ammunition plant where she had worked.
I did try and say something later about this to Coke bottle eyes and his younger brother as we played one day, but I'm not sure either really understood what it was I was talking about. Maybe because you see at that time I did come to believe that their mother was the one that did show up out of the blue like that, and helped me when I needed help, yes even considering that explosion that took her life. As to why she did that, mother to those two boys, one I liked and one I didn't, now why her ghost would do that for me? I have no idea, but I'm grateful, nevertheless. What a nice woman she was.