Category Archives: Amputation

The mice in a tin leg ……..

The reason for starting my blog was not only to have a platform to waffle loads of thoughts that run through my head but also to leave something like an online journal for my children to read one day.  Not only so they could reminisce about all the humorous things they said and done but also to have an idea of what and who their Momma is/was and where she came from.

How many times I have thought “Oh I wish I had asked Mom or my grandparents about those things – What was it really like during the War as evacuees?  How did you manage?  How did you feel?” All those unanswered questions that I can never find the answers to now they’ve all gone.

My Mom wrote a short journal of memories which I pounced on after her death.  It gave me an insight as to the sort of child and woman she was.  We seem to view our parents as just that “Parents” never really giving a lot of thought to the “Individuals” they were and what shaped them into being the way they were.

As a consequence I`ve decided to write about my Dad.  Friends will know a little of the history of my Dad, and some of you may have heard me mention that he was an alcoholic – a very lovable alcoholic, never ever violent, he was also a compulsive gambler, which made our lives very hard from a financial point of view.

My earliest memory of my Dad was when I was 3 years old.  He was being helped in the front door by paramedics, he was on crutches and looked so very pale and ill.  In the weeks/months after this I remember him being in bed with a cradle to keep the covers off his lower body.  I don’t ever remember being told why or what had happened, maybe I`ve forgotten.  He had had his leg amputated.

Now one thing I do know is that my Dad was a Sportsman.  He loved football, cricket and horse racing.  I have photos of him as a young man playing for his football team, I believe he was only average but Sport was a huge part of his life.

Whilst playing in a cricket match he got hit in the leg by a cricket ball.  It bruised and didn’t heal properly.  After some weeks he complained to my Mom that his foot didn’t look right and his leg was still very painful.  She had a look, his toes had turned black.  I don’t know if he sought medical help then or whether he waited but gradually his foot and then his ankle turned black – it was gangrene.

I do know that by this time he was admitted to hospital where they told him they would have to amputate.  He had a deep-vein thrombosis in his leg.

My Dad refused surgery and said he would rather be dead than lose his leg.  My Mom told me she sat by his bedside and begged him to have the surgery – he would die without it – did he really want to leave her with 2 little girls to bring up alone?

By the time he agreed the gangrene had spread up to his knee.  Eventually he agreed.

As an adult I can`t comprehend such a major thing happening in my life that I was completely unaware of.  How terrible this time would have been for my parents – and yet – to my parents credit – life continued for me and my sister without any knowledge of what was happening.

So all I remember was Dad coming home after surgery.  Mom said he used to scream with pain – phantom pains in his missing leg and he was so very difficult to live with then.

Move on a few years and here was my Dad – with his artificial leg – made of tin – this was in the late 60`s – early 70`s – I’m sure things are more advanced now.

Here was my Dad – at the pub 7 days a week – even Christmas Day – coming home drunk with no money left to pay the rent or the bills.

Here was my Dad – refusing to ever come on holiday with us as he would miss a darts match or a cricket match, where he would umpire.

Here was my Dad – who was really no Dad at all to us – just a sad old drunk sat in the armchair waiting for the pub to open.

Here was my Mom – working 3 different jobs to make sure we had food on the table, make sure we were warm and had everything we needed.

It was no wonder I spent most of my teenage years thinking what a waste of space he was.  Seeing other Dads, supporting their children, looking out for them, protecting them and then there was mine.

Forward fast to my adulthood.

Here was my Dad – the most lovely grandfather to my Sons, gentle, kind, loving and fun – telling them he had mice living in his tin leg 🙂 – no longer drinking.

Here was my Dad – looking back with regret for losing his wife and children through divorce brought on by his unreasonable behaviour.

He passed away on 8 January 2000.  Emphysema and pneumonia.

I look back at my memories of him.  I can now see clearly that what drove him to drink wasn’t just a selfish choice but most probably depression from the lifestyle he had to adapt to.  The loss of his beloved sports and let`s not forget that in those times Men were Men, who had to look after their families – it wasn’t the done thing to show weakness.  How hard life would have been for both my parents and who am I to ever sit in judgement.

I can understand now.