It was the mid 70’s and my father wasn’t feeling well. This is his story.
The headaches were something he had learned to live with. The pain was often so excruciating that they could lay him up for days. Ever since the onset of puberty, four years prior, he’d suffered with blinding migraines and no doctor had yet been able to offer a solution or definitive cause. They assumed it was a genetic curse from his mother who was also endured this particular affliction. Although the headaches were a common occurrence he refused to let them interfere with his rich night life.
The annual Halloween party at the local college was going to be a lot more fun than any of the high school dances he had attended. He was looking forward to it. At 18 years old, he’d just suffered through a car accident and lost his job. He’d come home to heal and his parents were becoming a little antsy with his rhetoric and false promises of looking for a job “soon”. Having to endure the humiliation of asking his parents for help he’d decided that he deserved a night or two to party with his friends.
He arrived at the college soiree and immediately chugged two of his allotted beers. Although his alcohol consumption was minor he began to feel tipsy. ‘Get it together man’ he thought to himself. The girl he was dancing with was hot. It was time to make a great impression. He leaned in for a kiss and lost his balance; he nearly knocked her over.
“What’s your problem buddy?” she asked in disgust.
Before he had a chance to recover he collapsed in front of her. The pine scented wax on the gymnasium floor made him feel nauseous – this certainly was no place to spend his evening. He reached out for his dates hand and she snorted in disgust.
“Drunk loser” she muttered and walked away.
He crawled to his knees and struggled to his feet. He stumbled to the bathroom. He leaned over the sink, swaying and gagging under the harsh fluorescent lights. He splashed cold water on his face and the headache abated temporarily. He could feel the pulse of his migraine build behind his left eye. He knew what was coming and he needed to get home before the headache blasted its way through his skull.
He found his friend in the corner of the gym.
“Hey man” he slurred, “I need you to take me home”.
“No problem Kev, the party’s winding down anyway”.
His friend dropped him off at his parent’s front door and he managed to make his way inside. He weaved unsteadily down the hallway as though he were walking on a deck of ship in choppy waters. He swayed left and right and tried his best to keep his balance. His knees buckled at the entrance to his room and he crawled the rest of the way to his bed. He rifled through his nightstand and immediately swallowed his pain medication. Settling under his covers he longed to fall asleep, but the migraine grew out of control – the worst of his life. He cast aside his pride and screamed for his mom.
Hearing her son’s sickened cries she jogged towards his room. He lay curled in the fetal position, his hands holding his head in a vice grip. His groans of pain and violent retching were followed with moments of unconsciousness and she was more than a little alarmed. Her nurse training took over and she stayed with him all night, applying cold cloths to his pounding head, and holding the bucket he hurled into. She suspected alcohol poisoning and although she was annoyed that he would do this to himself, she refused to leave his side.
His father, an ex-military man, was not as understanding. The boy clearly had too much to drink. His father berated his mother for the show of compassion towards him. He brought this on himself, let him suffer alone, perhaps he’ll be wiser next time.
The next morning the headache wasn’t as severe and he tried in vain to explain himself to his old man.
“I only had a few beers”
His father, of course, did not believe him, so it was only at his mother’s urging that his dad took him to the ER. With nary an exam the doctor declared it another migraine, and sent him home. From Monday to Friday his health did not improve. He was still sick and unable to look for a job; and his dad was fit to be tied.
“Get up you lazy bum” his father bellowed at him.
His dad often let him know what a “good for nothing” he was. Did he party too much? Probably. Was he looking for a job? Not really. But aren’t parents supposed to give their kids the benefit of the doubt? He was sick. Why wouldn’t anyone believe him?
“Get up!” his father insisted again, yanking the blankets off his body.
“Fuck Off” he yelled back. His head swam in a sea of pain and his eyes seemed to float in caustic acid. Another wave of nausea threatened to claim him.
His mother came marching into the room, no doubt to give him some more grief. Fuck them both for not believing.
“Kevin, you’ve been in bed for a week. Please, get up” his mother begged while rummaging through his drawers and picking out some clothes.
“I dun fucin fee gooo”
His mother froze, her hand still buried in his underwear drawer.
“What did you just say” she asked. Her voice quivered just a little.
He tried to repeat himself but every word that came out was more slurred than the last.
“Are you drunk?!” his father asked incredulous.
“You’re on drugs then! Unbelievable!”
“Les, shut up for a second” his mother snapped. She looked at her son thoughtfully and decided to follow her instincts.
“I’m taking him back to the doctor. Get dressed Kevin” she turned on her heel and left the room. His father merely sighed in frustration.
He slowly got dressed which was no easy feat with his balance so badly affected. He tried out his speech and found he couldn’t say more than one syllable words. What the hell was happening to him and would the doctors finally believe it?