I felt in my spirit since my Mom’s death in January that the Phillies were destined to reach the playoffs. I had no idea it would happen in such a dramatic fashion. The Mets’ collapse this season reminded me of another amazing downfall: the Phillies’ in 1964. The story I am about to share took place in the fall of 1964. LBJ was President, and New York hosted the World’s Fair. This column is not that dreadful baseball season, though it is about something that happened to me that fall. It was, of course, and will remain a far less known event than those others.
It happened the second week of September. I had just turned ten, and with autumn’s arrival I enjoyed going back to school. In our special education unit we had the basic reading, writing, math, phonics and more. We also had physical and speech therapy.
Part of the physical therapy for some of us was the “standing box.” Those who needed it would spend about half an hour each day in the box, with leg braces locked at the knees. While in the standing box you could do your class work.
I liked to read in the standing box. It helped me to pass the time. I also liked to do word searches and crossword puzzles. The standing box was a great way to stretch one’s hamstrings, as the reading and word games were good for stretching the mind.
Like many physically disabled people, since my childhood I have had bouts with constipation. Occasionally, I don’t go for days. At such times, Mom or Dad would give me what I, as a child, called a “shit bomb” — though not to my parents’ face.
A DAY I FOUGHT MOM AND WON
Mom woke me early that morning. “Billy, you haven’t gone to the bathroom for days. It will be at least an hour before your brothers and sisters get up. I’ll give you a suppository.”
I fought Mom. “No, I will be fine.” In truth I feared having Mom place something foreign up my butt. Mom sensed my discomfort.
She asked, “Would you like to stay home? That way if you need to go, I can wipe your fanny.” Mom was not gentle about wiping rear ends or noses for that matter. It was not a pleasant thought. I turned her down.
“Son, remember to ask Mrs. Barns (not her real name) if you have to go.”
I just waved as I got on the bus with its hydraulic lift. It went without saying, given the options Mom presented to me, that if I messed my pants that day, Mom would have a long session taking her egg-turner to my bare bottom.
I made it to lunch without a problem. Then, I found that Mom had filled my thermos with prune juice. Lunch started at 11:45 and ended around 12:15. By 1 I was dying. The prune juice was doing its job. My rear rumbled. I thought if I stayed in the wheelchair I would prevent the inevitable eruption in front of my classmates; after all, I hadn’t had a B.M. for three days. I recalled Mom’s words, “If you need to go, ask Mrs. Barns.”
Mrs. Barns was the Teacher’s Aide and a Registered Nurse. Still, being a ten-year-old, I felt uncomfortable about having to ask someone outside my family to wipe my bottom.
I would have succeeded too had it not been for our physical therapist Mr. Ben Oak (not his real name). Mr. Oak placed me in the standing box (see picture below). It was about a quarter past one. The class was playing a word game. It was a game at which I generally excelled. But on this day, I couldn’t concentrate. I was very uncomfortable.
Our teacher would put a long word on the blackboard, and we students had to get as many words as possible out of it. We would write our list on a yellow legal pad.
Around 1:30 I erupted. I attempted to squeeze tight. But nothing could stop the volcano.
Embarrassed, I whispered to Mrs. Barns what happened. Mrs. Barns phoned my folks. Mom woke Dad, who had just come home from work. Dad picked me in up in his station wagon. He was silent on the drive home. Though nothing leaked, the front seat where I sat smelled like crap.
As Dad carried me into the house, I yelled, “I am sorry, Mom.” There was no response. Dad laid me on the living room carpet to take my braces off and undress me; I was then taken into the bathroom. The smell nearly made me sick.
When Dad finished bathing me, he put my Phillies pajamas on me. (I proudly wore Jim Bunning’s number 14 on my back.) Dad put me into bed and closed the door. I didn’t have dinner that night.
After supper Mom came into my bedroom. She began our long talk with these words, “if I had given you the suppository this morning, smacked your bottom before putting on the toilet, I could have prevented this mess…I will remedy that right now!”
Before Mom said another word she picked me up, tugged my Phillies pinstriped bottoms down to my ankles and placed me across her lap and blistered my fanny with the egg turner. I have no doubt my backside was pink or red. I probably lied on my stomach that night. I also have no doubt my butt was throbbing. The only other things I recall of what Mom did that night were these words which she spoke to me: “by allowing others to help you, you help them to work out their salvation with God.” Mom had told me this many times; but that early fall evening, I heard and understood! I also know I’ll never forget Mom’s words! They have empowered me to ask for help when I’ve needed it. I also know Dad had to air the braces out for sometime!
I prayed for Mom’s intercession throughout the 2007 baseball season; though the Phillies didn’t make it past the first round of the playoffs, I know those prayers have been answered in a powerful way!
Originally posted 2007-10-11 08:20:00.