Thursday, July 27, 2006


There is no pain you are receding
A distant ship, smoke on the horizon.
You are only coming through in waves.
Your lips move but I can't hear what you're saying.
When I was a child I had a fever
My hands felt just like two balloons.
Now I've got that feeling once again
I can't explain you would not understand
This is not how I am.
I have become comfortably numb.

From “Comfortably Numb” (Gilmour, Waters)

I loved living in Waverly, TN and if I could have been raised in one place (I attended 9 different schools growing up – more on that latter) that would be where I would have chosen. It was a beautiful community; at least it was between 1958 and 1960. Main Street leading into the city from the east was a completely covered by a canopy of mature elm trees and made the trip, especially by bicycle, a kind of magical mystery tour for a pre-pubescent boy.

I had learned the art of working for money and had many an odd job like digging up old rose bushes for elderly widow women in the neighborhood and mowing several yards. Naturally, I did not yet have my own mower and gas, but rather used the customer’s equipment.

This situation was the spawn of the only dream I ever had come true. I dreamed I was using a neighbor’s new Lawn Boy mower and hit something and all that was left of the mower were the handlebars – the rest totally vaporized! The very next day I hit a rock and knocked out a large chunk of cast metal from the side of the Lawn Boy. I agonized about telling Mr. Payhal when he got home that afternoon, but as it turned out he was a very understanding and logical man. “Could have happened to me just the same son - don’t worry about it.” Wow, if only my dad had been that insightful!

Anyway, one hot August day I had ridden down the long elm tunnel into town a couple of times, gone to the store for my mom and returned with a full basket, mowed three yards, and dug up one old stubborn hedge bush for a lady down the street. I was just about at the end of my youthful stamina when Richard begged me to “camp out” with him that night. Camping out to us meant sleeping out in the yard rolled up in our sleeping bags. We fancied ourselves great outdoorsmen ever since the Boy Scout Camporee the previous winter.

The night was very hot and humid, as most are that time of year. However, I have always had a habit of pulling the bed covers up under my neck while I sleep. I had grown up with quilts and loving the feel of them next to my skin, even in the summer. So, up around my neck came the insulated sleeping bag.

They found me the next morning, in the fetal position wrapped in the sleeping bag unable to move and only semi-conscious. This was probably the closest I ever came to dying.

The doctor diagnosis was that I had sweated all the sodium out of my body – I had no electrolytes and my hands were drawn into fist and “felted just like two balloons.” To this day, when I am very sick and dehydrated my fingers will began to draw toward my palms and feel swollen and puffy.

There was no Gatorade in those days, so the solution was to get as much salt into me as quickly as possible. Under directions of the doctor, who never suggested a hospital for some reason, I had to drink glass after glass of tomato juice with about an inch to two inches of salt in the bottom.

It was several days before I regained any strength and began to look and act normally. The incident gave my mom and dad quite a scare and the condition affected me for years. I had very low tolerance to heat and when I went into the Air Force I was the first one to ask for the salt tablets during PE. I was also very weary of my propensity to heat exhaustion in Vietnam.

With the energy and stupidity of youth, I was back out ridding the tunnel to town in a couple of weeks, mowing yards, and grubbing flower gardens again. However, I was more conscientious about drinking plenty of water from that point on.

Ah, those were the days my friends that I long for when I think of my youth, my Norman Rockwell, or Herb Mandel days - days of playing in the streets, along the creek bank, in the woods, in the sage grass fields, and taking in the wonder of being young and on the cusp of becoming a teenager.

When I was a child
I caught a fleeting glimpse
Out of the corner of my eye
I turned to look but it was gone
I cannot put my finger on it now
The child is grown
The dream is gone
And I have become Comfortably numb.

From “Comfortably Numb” (Gilmour, Waters)

The fleeting glimpse is youth and it cannot be held long or long enough, and too soon we become comfortably numb and stop dreaming. All that is left are subtle reminders of those days, things like your hands feeling like two balloons.


Ron Southern said...

Yeah, Bubba! Good ole salt tablets!

Fathairybastard said...

I remember reading this one. Can't believe I didn't comment. Nice post.

Scott from Oregon said...

I never got to the point of a doctor, but I sure lost all my salt a time or two in the summertime as a kid.

Thank god for high sodium TV dinners!

Suldog said...

Did my own post using this lyric as background, a while back. It concerned drug usage, though. Nice job here, Mushy.

I did have that feeling when I was a kid, but never knew why. Now maybe I have the answer. Thanks for the food for thought.