Anniversaries are funny. On the one hand, they remind us to celebrate or commemorate important events in our lives: birthdays, weddings, deaths. And yet every year, hundreds of personal anniversaries pass by on our calendars for totally unremembered events: the day we started kindergarten, getting our drivers license, our first kiss.
Here’s one of my own incredibly insignificant anniversaries that I should not remember but do: today, March 28, 2022, is the 67th anniversary of the day I had my tonsils removed in 1955, age 6.
Why do I always remember it? I’m guessing it’s because it was the first time I remember thinking of myself as a Really Big Deal. I was going to have AN OPERATION! I knew what that meant because my oldest cousin, Herbie, had returned from the Korean War and told us thrilling stories of being in a NAVAL OPERATION, so I fully expected him to meet me at the hospital in a big blue boat.
When I was gently made aware by my parents that mine was not even remotely like a boating operation, my little mental sky clouded over quickly. Now more details were given to me about how the operation was all about my “mean old tonsils,” that a doctor needed to take out while I was asleep. What? Before my mental sky experienced a full-fledged thunderstorm, my parents assured me with what must have been promised ever since the first cave-parents consoled the first sick cave-kid upon learning that Dr.Hardrock would remove that first prehistoric tonsil: “Afterwards you get ICE CREAM!”
Oh, how we wee ones can be bribed so cheaply! I still remember how when the orderly came to take me away on the gurney to the operating room, my mom was cooing over how I’d awaken to Borden’s Double Dutch Chocolate—two scoops! That’s what I was thinking about when they put that old-fashioned strainer gizmo over my nose and applied the equally old-fashioned ether cloth. You know you ain’t young anymore when you see such items today in one of those Old-Timey Medicine Museums.
Of course, what I actually awoke to after my operation was a very sore throat accompanied by bouts of vomiting into a thoughtfully-positioned porcelain emesis basin aka The Barf Bucket. Though I don’t specifically remember it, I’m told that after my last heave, I lay my little head back on my hospital pillow and through closed eyes and with my scratchy voice whispered: “I’ll need lots of fudge sauce on top.”
My sister Gloria, who is three-an- a-half years older than I am, would probably want me to mention that the operation was not just a tonsillectomy. As with so many such procedures back in the 1950’s, doctors also removed my adenoids—that enlarged lymphatic tissue that could hinder a child’s breathing. My family lore has it that when my charming ten-year-old sister heard that her kid brother was having them removed, she announced that as far as she was concerned, my only purpose in life so far had been to “Add-Noise” to what had once had been her nice quiet family of three.
Of course I shared not one taste of the Double Dutch chocolate with Gloria, but in my mind I was already wrapping with pretty paper and a big bow, for her eleventh birthday, my used emesis basin.