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Life Is Too Short To Drink Bad Wine: 73 – Teenage Ups and Downs

Gayle Woodward writes of the worries and delights of being the mother of teenage children.

To read earlier chapters of Gayle’s engaging life swtory please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/life_is_too_short_to_drink_bad_wine/

All three of our now teenage children were out in the weekend evenings. We had impressed upon them that they must not drive in a car with anyone who had been drinking and I was especially worried about the popular Karyn, who was apt to try anything in the quest for a fun time.

She was doing well at school and excelled at netball, being selected for representative teams year after year. I told her she was to phone me at home if she ever felt scared or worried when she was out at night. I would come immediately to collect her.

I did not sleep until I had heard all three come into the house in the evenings. And so for eight years I had broken sleep in the weekends and a desperate feeling that I could protect my children from imagined dangers if only I could stay awake. Woody, who always could sleep like a baby, slept through the whole of the Woodward teenage years and my angst.

However, one evening when Karyn was home and reading in her bed in the second story room next to ours, she heard the sinister sound of knocking on the window next to her bed. She crept out of bed and came to our room. There she came across her dad, gently snoring and most definitely asleep. She shook his shoulders. “Wake up, Dad, wake up! Someone’s knocking at my window,” she hissed.

Her father came groggily awake. “What?” he muttered.

She repeated her story, more urgently as she heard the knocking again.

“Must be bloody tall to be knocking on that window!” he said and with that went back to sleep.

I came from the shower and followed her to her room. There we turned out the light and pulled open the blinds. In the moonlight outside we saw Mark holding a long stick and using it to tap on the window. Mark, who had no key to get in and out later than agreed, had seen Karyn’s light and hoped she would let him into the house.

One weekend night after we were in bed, Woody sleeping and I reading, I took a phone call from Karyn’s friend. Could I come as Karyn was not very well? She would be waiting by the entrance to the netball clubrooms. I would, and threw on clothes quickly.

In just a few minutes I found Karyn and the friend sitting on a low fence at the entrance to the club car park. Karyn had her head down between her knees. Kristy came over to me and shocked me as she explained that Karyn was very drunk!

I thanked the girl and bundled Karyn into the front seat of my car. “What a stupid thing to do! How much did you drink and how did you get it?” I exploded.

Karyn was pale and leaning on the window. “Oh, I only had four glasses of wine. It was just on the table,” she muttered wanly. With that she urgently opened the car window and vomited out into the road. It dribbled down the outside of the door.

I was appalled. I had dropped her at a netball social night, never dreaming that she would try the wine that would be available for the older women of the club. At home I helped her into bed and returned to mine, sleepless.

Woody slept on, blissfully unaware.

Next morning I was up early and found Karyn in a deep sleep. I roused her and giving her bucket, soap and sponge made her clean the side of my car. She did so without a murmur and went back to bed.

I felt even more anxious when she was out on Friday and Saturday nights after this instance.

Mark was in Form Seven and would sit university entrance exams in November. He was constantly tired, and I thought he was overdoing his sports training for cricket, triathlon, bike racing and rugby.

He found most of the school work difficult but persevered. He astounded his parents when in August he played the judge in a school production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Trial by Jury. He sang and acted very competently. We knew he had an interest in acting but I wondered as to how he had fitted in rehearsals of Jury when he should have been studying.

His tiredness caught up with him in early November. He became very ill with intense pain and diarrhoea. Our doctor sent him for a colonoscopy test and we got back results which shocked us. Mark was suffering from Crohn’s disease. We knew nothing of this chronic disease and found out that it was able to be controlled by drugs but that there was no cure. Woody and I searched our family histories but could find nothing like this.

Mark was given drugs but remained at home, in bed. He got sicker and so the drugs were increased. He slept, was racked by pain and a severe headache. A rash and vomiting appeared. We were frightened and took him early one evening and against his wishes, to our GP. The doctor was worried and told us to take him on to hospital.

The local Middlemore Hospital had a very busy emergency department, but Mark was taken straight through to a triage bed. We stood by his hard and narrow hospital bed as he slept fitfully, burning up with high fever and moaning with pain.

Doctors came and went; the hours ticked by. Finally, a shocking announcement. He might have meningitis. The rash and high fever was a worry and a spinal tap procedure would have to be done. As the test was proceeding, Woody and I stood outside the theatre room and could hear Mark as he cried with pain. I wept and clung to Woody, my arms tightly around his neck. I found tears in his eyes too.

The test was negative, and the diagnosis given to us by the attending gastroenterologist was that Mark was highly allergic to the sulphur based drug he had been given in increasing amounts, causing the headache and rash. On a more worrying note, Mark was severely undernourished because of his constant diarrhoea and vomiting and would need to be admitted to hospital until he could be stabilised, both with his Crohn’s and the lack of vitamins and minerals in his body.

He remained in hospital for two weeks and gradually improved as different drugs were tried and valuable fluids entered his body via tubes. A hospital teacher came to his bedside and found out he was due to sit Bursary exams. She bought text books for Mark to study and I phoned his school, explaining his predicament and arranging for aegrotat results for the important exams he would miss.

A never-ending stream of friends came to his bedside. The two bed ward he was in became a favourite haunt for nurses as the refreshing laughter and noisy chatter of the teenagers crowded around the bed echoed out into the corridors.

Mark lost a lot of weight but it never dimmed the sparkle in his eyes. He was able to sit the very last exam and get to take part in graduation parties. He did not hold much hope of qualifying for university with the aegrotat results he would get. He worked hard to get back to his former fitness and began a life long association with the various drugs that controlled the disease.

In January when Bursary results arrived in the post, Mark found to his surprise that he had been awarded a B Bursary with a scholarship in Physical Education. He hurriedly visited the University for a Late Enrolment.


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