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Life Is Too Short To Drink Bad Wine: 34 - A Terrible Shock

“”All at once, and without any sound from him, the window catch gave way and Jeff toppled backwards out of the double storey window and disappeared from view. We heard no cry from him. There was a wild dash to the door as we all tried to get to him at once…’’

Dreadful consequences result from two-year-old Jeff’s fall, as Gayle Woodward reveals.

We were being able to spend more time together as Jeff grew older and would go to sleep at seven o’clock of an evening. We had fun and laughed a lot. Woody had left the job with his former boss and got a new position as electrician and engineer at a small photo processing company. He had access to film developing equipment and took many black and white photos of Jeff and developed them himself.

One night, after some hilarity between us, Woody farted. It was particularly pungent and I yelled and gagged. I decided to go into our bathroom where we had air freshener and all other poisonous cans on a high shelf away from Jeff, above the door. I was going to spray the air in our living area to freshen it.

He decided to follow me there to stop me. He didn’t like the perfume. I shut the door of the bathroom to reach up to the shelf when suddenly he was pushing the door open. I pushed back. We were giggling madly. His greater strength meant he was able to force the door a tiny bit, just enough to reach up to the shelf himself.

He grabbed, not the air freshener he thought he had, but a spray can of Fire Engine Red paint. He sprayed his ‘air freshener’ liberally into the bathroom. I immediately realised what he had in his hand although had to turn my face away to avoid getting the spray in my eyes. I screamed at him to stop. My hand was turning red, including the diamond rings on my left hand. Our spotless white towels were splotched red, as was the door and wall.

He was laughing, I was screaming. It was pandemonium. Finally I got him to stop and after his shock had subsided we set about cleaning my rings and my hand. The towels were ruined for ever but we were able to clean the door and walls.

We travelled to the far north for my cousin Jan’s wedding in Kaitaia. We were booked as a family with Mary’s boyfriend Peter into a motel there. On the way we had dropped in to Grandad’s house in Mangonui to see him and show him how big Jeff had grown.

We had taken Jeffrey there at six weeks of age, when we had to bath him in Grandad’s sink. Now he was two and not yet fully toilet trained. He still wore nappies although could use the toilet if prompted. Grandad suggested to me in no uncertain terms that Jeff was old enough to be out of naps now that he could talk. I was rather indignant, but filed the suggestion away for further use.

On the afternoon of the wedding, Woody, Peter and Dad were all sitting outside at the motel beside the pool. Jeff woke up from his afternoon nap, walked out into the blinding sunlight, saw all the men there and said, “Body wake up now”. The delight amongst the men was immense. The saying is legendary in the wider family now. Jeffrey was a real favourite of Mary and Peter. Jeffrey called Mary ‘Auntie Mit’ and she adored him. She bought clothes and Peter gave Jeffrey a little wooden horse on wheels which he used for months with great pleasure.

We had decided that we would have another child as a playmate for Jeff. I had read that three years between siblings is a good gap, meaning the older child is out of nappies and able to feed and dress himself. In effect, you have one baby and one little child. I fell pregnant almost immediately. I knew I was pregnant when I got up one night in the early hours to the toilet and fainted on the way back to bed. This strange occurrence was to happen at each following pregnancy in years to come.

In February, we booked a bach at Onetangi for the three of us. It was up the road from the beach but very close to the section that my parents owned by the native tree reserve. The two storey bach was on a steep section with a large and steep front lawn slopping down to the road. We could use the fronds from the nikau palm tree on the lawn to slide down the grass, toboggan-like.

Jeff was two years old and very talkative. He was a little unsure in the water but would enter and splash about if one of us was holding onto his hand. Woody had arranged to borrow Farley Scott’s boat to row out for a spot of fishing. Jeff and I walked with him along the beach road to collect the boat and wave him off on his fishing expedition. We three came across a man’s shoe left by the side of the road. Woody said, “Hello, someone’s lost their shoe”. We continued on.

Later that afternoon, Jeff and I walked back along the road to meet Woody as he came ashore. When we reached the abandoned shoe again, Jeff asked me, “Why did Daddy say hello to that shoe?” What could I say? This little boy had to know the reason for everything. He was inquisitive and inquiring. He had an utterly literal mind.

Mum and Dad with Mary and her new baby daughter, Lisa, had taken the ferry down to Onetangi to visit with us for one day. We slid down the lawn amidst much laughter, Jeff riding on his Nana’s frond. Later, we were in the living area of the bach having a cuppa. Mary was in one of the bunkrooms breastfeeding baby Lisa and we all were chattering. Jeff was standing on a sofa and leaning back against the concertina type windows, his backside on the window sill. All at once, and without any sound from him, the window catch gave way and Jeff toppled backwards out of the double storey window and disappeared from view.

We heard no cry from him. There was a wild dash to the door as we all tried to get to him at once. His father was the quickest and came across a pale and winded little boy lying very still on the grass under the window. He scooped Jeff up in his arms and brought him back up the side stairs and into the bach.

I was in shock. Jeff did not seem to have anything broken but he was accusingly quiet and pale. Woody and Dad left to rush down to the local shop to phone a doctor on the island. The doctor arranged for the Flying Boat plane to come down from Auckland to collect Jeff and take him to Auckland hospital for observation.

Woody rang his parents to ask them to meet us in Auckland. So while Mum and Dad and Mary stayed on in the bach, Woody and I, with Jeff in my arms, took off from Matiatia and flew to Mechanics Bay, landing in the water of the harbour and floating in to the ramp. There we were met by an ambulance and Woody’s parents who paid for the plane and then followed us to the hospital.

It was determined that Jeff had no injuries at all and had merely been winded in the fall. Apparently, very young children have no fear of what is going to happen in these cases, and fall completely relaxed, and he had fallen on thick and bouncy kikuyu grass which had acted like a mattress for him.

It is fitting to note that Mary’s breast milk dried up at the shock of it all and she had a few difficult weeks getting her breastfeeding for Lisa going again.

And I had a miscarriage of the baby I was carrying the next month, maybe as the result of the awful shock I had suffered.

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