Roger M. Goetz Chapter 16

Looking Back

by Roger M. Goetz




We were all promoted to fourth grade, and Miss Myers moved up with us.  I was very happy about that, even though learning multiplication tables that year was a challenge.  Nevertheless, I finally mastered them.

I also started piano lessons again that fall.

There is an interesting note about Miss Myers in Mom’s diary written on Nov. 21, 1949:

Roger played a piano piece for the first time the other day and he liked it so well he says, "This sweetens me up; it’s so pretty."

His teacher Miss Myers was ill last week, so he bought her a gift.  His own idea and he picked it out himself – 2 Xmas tree ornaments and took them over.  He missed afternoon [piano] practice doing it and I says, "What about practice" and he said, "Heck!  It’s more important to get Miss Myers well."

During my childhood years, I almost always bought presents at the Ben Franklin dime store in "Campus Town" at 2532-34 Lincoln Way

 * * * * *

That Christmas holiday from school was not much fun once Christmas was over.  Mother’s diary barely touches upon it the following February:

Roger had his tonsils out Dec. 29 [1949] – Bled for 3 ½ hrs. but got along otherwise.

Like my mother, it often took a long time for my blood to clot.

Boy, does this account overlook a lot that happened from the point of view of the nine-year-old that I was back then.  I’d never had surgery before and just getting ready for it in my Mary Greeley Hospital room was traumatic.

There, the nurse handed me a hospital gown to put on after I’d taken all my clothes off with an explanation of how to don the thing.  It was like a backwards shirt.  You put your arms in the sleeves and it tied behind you.

The nurse left the room and I did as I was told.

Horrors!  The thing only came down to my waist!
Feeling terribly embarrassed, I scrambled into the hospital bed as fast as fast and yanked up the sheet to cover my nakedness.

When the nurse came back, I complained.  She said she couldn’t find a bigger one because they were all in the laundry.

I had to suffer with what I’d been given.  The next morning, however, I complained to the next nurse on duty; and she promptly gave me one of an appropriate length to wear.  That was a relief.

Once on the operating table, I was to be anesthetized with ether.  The man administering that seemed kind enough when he explained it to me.  Then the procedure began.  He put the mask over my face and told me to count slowly backwards from one hundred.  The hiss of ether began.  I didn’t like the smell–sort of like rancid rubber.

"One hundred . . . . ninety-nine . . . . ninety-eight . . . ."

With my eyes closed, I saw a point of light in the center of a black field.  Almost immediately, a line of light spiraled counterclockwise outward from that point.

"Ninety-seven . . . . ninety-six . . . ."

The spiral grew bigger and bigger, and I stopped counting.

"Keep counting," the man said.

"Ninety-five . . . .  ninety-four . . . . "

The spiral reached the outer edge of my "vision" and I felt something in my head sort of vibrate briefly–sort of like the sound of a power saw starting to saw wood–accompanied by a slight sensation of tightness and of pain.

"N-i-n–e-t-y . .  t–h–r––e––e."

I knew no more.

A couple of days after I got home, Dad told me he was with me as I slowly regained consciousness.  When he talked to me, he was surprised at how terribly belligerent I was, for he’d never seen me act that way before.

The next morning, the nurse came in and wanted me to drink a glass of orange juice.

I tried to decline.  My personal experience told me that drinking orange juice before I’d been awake at least an hour and a half would upset my stomach.  Sometimes it even made sick to my stomach.

The nurse wouldn’t take "no" for an answer and said, "Doctor’s orders."

So, feeling very grumpy about it, I drank it.

Fifteen minutes later the doctor came in to examine my throat.  He told me to say "ah" and pushed my tongue down with the widest wooden tongue depressor I’d ever seen–almost as wide as my mouth!

No sooner had he done that, than, unbidden, a tiny stream of orange juice issued up my throat, out my mouth, and onto his face.

I wasn’t the least bit embarrassed or sorry that his orange juice had dowsed his face that way.  Rather I felt a kind of triumph:  I’d drunk the orange juice against my wishes at his orders, so he deserved what he got.

I’ll give him this, though: he didn’t react.  Just wiped his face off and looked again.

At home, recovery wasn’t much fun because I had a severe sore throat for several days.

I was supposed to take an aspirin for pain, but I couldn’t swallow the pill.  I kept gagging.

My folks consulted with the doctor and he told them to crush the aspirin and sprinkle it on some ice cream.

That worked.  But what a way to ruin ice cream!

 * * * * *

A month and a half later, Mother was pleased with what she saw and recorded it in her diary:

Roger is gaining weight and growing and looks healthier since he had his tonsils out.

Yet all was not well. In the Fall, I had loved to run and play outside.  I could placekick a football as far as any other boy in my class.  But now, playing had become an effort.  At home, just walking up a flight of stairs winded me.

Mom, noticed this, and the doctor had my basal metabolic rate measured.  I had a low thyroid and had to take thyroid extract.  It helped, but they had to keep increasing the dosage over the years.  By the time I was in high school the dosage was much larger than usual.  As I say, it helped, I could enjoy recess activities again, but I didn’t have the energy to participate in sports.

By the time I was in high school, things had improved some, and during my senior year at Ames High I participated in an intramural badminton tournament.  I was happy to do that because summers my brother and I used to play badminton in our backyard when I was in junior high and with Ed Krekow while we were in high school.  I felt I did quite well.  I defeated all of my opponents but the last one: David Leon Martin, a sophomore, so he was the school badminton champion that year and I was runner-up.  I was actually surprised that I made it that far.

The one sport I enjoyed playing in college was intramural volleyball which I loved.  But I reluctantly quit that after injuring my thumb and being unable to play the organ for three weeks.  I won’t try to glorify my decision by asserting with the fake nobility affected by some artists that no sacrifice is too great for the sake of my art.  Rather, I was just plain scared to keep playing volleyball and risk permanent injury to a finger.

After moving to Minnesota, there eventually came the time when I could not fall asleep nights, so I stopped taking my thyroid extract and all was fine.  My low thyroid condition was gone because I had learned to enjoy seafood while at seminary in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and no longer lived in Iowa where the soil was poor in iodine.  When I told my doctor that I had been on six grains a day, he shook his head and said he’d never heard of such a high dosage before.

 * * * * *

I learned a valuable lesson in the spring of 1950.  I tried to lie two or three times to one of my friends on the way home from school and my attempts failed miserably.  Every time I tried to fib, I broke out in laughter, thereby giving myself away.

And speaking of going home from school, I should perhaps mention that we didn’t have a hot lunch program at school.  We walked home for lunch every day.  That worked because the schools were neighborhood schools and most mothers were home during the day.

 * * * * *

At the end of the school year, I remembered to bring Miss Myers an end-of-the-school-year gift.  One of the kids asked if she was moving up to teach us fifth grade.  She told us she wasn’t.  If memory serves me correctly, she returned to teaching third grade in the fall.

It was the end of an era in our short, young lives.