2018-09-15 / Viewpoints

The Old Timer

By Howard ‘Mac’ McDonald

When I was born in 1929, my mother was deep in a battle with tuberculosis. I was taken from her care and my grandmother took over the job of my care.

I can recall some of life that goes back to when I was two years old. I know that this sounds like so much BS, but it’s true.

I remember my great-grandfather playing the fiddle and me dancing to his tunes. These sessions took place in the dining room and the floor covering was linoleum.

Another memory is sitting on the steps that went to the bedrooms upstairs. My mother would peek around the corner and say, “Is that my baby sitting there?”

That’s all I can remember of her dialog, but I remember I was taking a bottle. I had broken so many baby bottles that my grandma switched me to Nehi brand pop bottles.

I had no idea who this woman was who was covering me with kisses. As time marched on, I realized that this was my mom.

The longer we lived under the same roof, the more these two grew apart in vying for my affection. It was a problem that continued to the last days of my grandmother’s life.

My mother paid her back with care for Grandma. She had a bad stroke and lived with us until 1954, when my dad passed away. To this day, I apologize to my grandma every night that I did not repay her for my care.

My mother’s health being what it was caused me to not have a very good health record. Every disease that came down the road seemed to land on me.

In 1935, diphtheria just about took me to Never Never Land. Little was known about some of the killer diseases back then.

My best friend at the time was Ducky Griest. He and I were really close. One day, he had a Smith Brothers cough drop in his mouth. He ask me if I wanted a taste and, of course, I said yes. He took that drop out of his mouth and gave it to me. I finished it off.

A couple days later, he got real sick and died. The doctor asked his mother who he had been playing with and she answered, “the McDonald kid.”

The doctor came to our house immediately and questioned my mother about my health. My mom said I had been sick. but I was getting better because I had been sleeping for two days. He told her I was not sleeping; I was in a coma.

He immediately gave me a shot of an anti-toxin for that diphtheria. It did its job and I eventually got over the disease.

That wasn’t the end of my dodging the Grim Reaper. I added pneumonia for five long months and my first crack at getting through the first grade went down the tube.

The year 1936 started out with the measles. My mom and dad had me in just about every clinic east of the Mississippi. The prognosis was always the same. They would tell my parents to take me home, keep me warm and, when I died, bury me.

That bit of information did not sit too well with my folks. They never stopped trying to keep me here on this earth.

Old Doc Bowers lived on the corner on Rt. 906 at the ramp to the Donora Bridge. He had a three-legged dog, Spot, who handled his handicap well. I never saw him lose his balance. That friendly canine inspired me.

My biggest medical problem was that I had no appetite. My mom’s dog, Rex, was getting fatter while my weight was on the decline. Old Rex was not a picky eater. He took care of the handouts that I slipped him when the coast was clear.

Some of the pills that I had to take were as large as the end of your thumb. They had an awful taste and usually made me sick to my stomach.

One day, Doc Bowers and Mom were discussing my condition. I overheard Doc tell her to get a jug of Phil Quartronni’s homemade red wine. He said she should heat a jelly glass of the wine and make me drink it at bed time.

In a couple of days, I was sleeping all night and was looking forward to breakfast. I am still a pretty good chow hound and I still like a glass of red wine with my meal.

We will never know if it was Phil’s wine, the horse pills, or maybe the Good Lord who turned things around. The red homemade wine sure did wake up the beast in me.

As 1936 went down in history, my way of life changed. School now became a place of fun and my grades were okay. I somehow slipped by all the way through to 12th grade.

When the superintendent handed me my diploma, he said, “I didn’t think I would see you up here.”

My reply was, “Fooled you, didn’t I.”

It was a different story for my older brother. He did not care for his situation. When he was a senior, he made up his mind that he had had enough of high school. He and one of his friends decided to run away.

This was a major happening in our family. My dad tracked them down in Virginia. The county sheriff had picked them up and detained in the county lockup. We had a guy living with us from that part of the country and that was why they decided to go there.

Dad, Jack Link the Virginian, and I left home on a Monday evening and arrived at the county jail just as they were getting ready to serve breakfast on Tuesday morning.

My brother turned 18 in September 1939 and talked my folks into letting him join the Army. My brother was real good to me when I was so sick. I really missed him when he left for the service.

At one time, he was the youngest warrant officer in the Army. He was just 19 years old.

He spent 26 years in the military. When the Air Force became a separate service in 1947, he changed over to that branch. He fought in Italy and North Africa. He left us several years ago. He would have turned 96 years old this month.

On a lighter note, our neighbor was a well-to-do lady who hired people to do her housework. One day, her maid asked for a raise.

“I have three reasons,” the maid explained. “The first is that I am a better ironer than you.”

“Who told you that?” the woman demanded.

“Your husband,” the maid replied.

“Reason number two,” continued the maid, “is that I am a better cook than you, and your husband told me that, too.”

The old gal was getting a bit miffed and asked, “What is the third reason?”

“I am a better lover than you,” said the maid.

By then, the boss lady grew red in the face and asked, “Did my husband tell you that, too?”

“No,” replied the maid. “The gardener told me.”

She got the raise.

Tell the people who care for you that you appreciate them and keep your powder dry.

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