Thursday, January 18, 2007

More on early reading habits

I practically grew up in a hospital, though I was rarely sick or injured badly as a kid. My mom worked at a hospital for 23 years, all my childhood and teen years. She was a single parent during most of those years, so I often had to work my schedule around hers, at least until I was old enough to drive and could afford my own wheels.

I spent hours and hours at that hospital, especially on weekends, because I was stuck there while waiting for her shift to end. On weekends I was in a bowling league during my younger days, and later on I played soccer (football didn't come until late in high school). My bowling alley was only about a mile from where my mom worked, so when my league was done at noon I would walk to the hospital and wait for her to get off at three. When I played soccer, I usually had someone drop me off at the hospital after a Saturday morning game, and again I would wait for my mom to get off work.

Then, in my teen years, my mom was injured badly and suffered from a cracked disc in her neck. There were several times she was stuck in a hospital bed for days on end, sometimes for a week or two at a stretch. The problems with the cracked disc never seemed to go away, no matter how much surgery she had (on a side note, that was then; now she's been free of pain and suffering from the neck injury for about 15 years). So, again, I spent plenty of more time in the very same hospital where she worked.

Most kids would have hated those hours and hours to themselves. Me, I loved it. It gave me plenty of chances to read. Now don't get me wrong, I was often plenty worried when my mom was a patient, but even then the reading helped me to clear my mind and to temporarily get away from the nightmare that was an only child having to watch a single parent in pain ... and knowing there was nothing I could do about it but be there for her.

So, I had plenty of reading time. And I didn't just sit in the lobby and read, because there were too many distractions. I also didn't read in my mom's room, mainly because I wanted to be able to focus on her when she was awake. No, I found little hidden, secret corners of the hospital in which to read. Most of the security guards and nurses knew me, so as long as I didn't try to venture into any place that was off limits for medical or security purposes, I could roam at will. Usually there was an available hallway, or cul de sac, that wasn't used much -- maybe it was an employees' exit, or a storage room rarely used.

But I found those hidden niches, and I went off into worlds of my own. That's where I discovered Terry Brooks. That's where I discovered Don Pendleton and his Executioner series. That's where I found worlds where all the problems could be made right in the most simple of fashions, with swords and guns in the hands of men intent upon good.

I realize the real world isn't that simple, and I'm not sure I would want it to be that way if it could. Guns and swords are deadly weapons, after all, and deciding who should live and who shouldn't is not an easy thing to decide (if it should be decided at all).

But for a 14-year-old kid waiting for his hurt mom to get better, and knowing he couldn't do anything to ease her pain, it was a great time full of great stories.


Devon Ellington said...

Yeah, I always loved the hours spent alone reading as a kid. I think that's what created the habit of always carrying at least one book with me.

MS. (not Mr.) Devon Ellington
Ink in My Coffee

Ty said...

Oops! Sorry about that. I know a man who spells his name Deven on another blog, so I didn't think.