“Love truth but pardon error.” Voltaire
Our son was just a bit over three years old and a husky lad so it took both Doris and I to hold him so the doctor could work on his foot. He had good reason to be frightened for every once in a while ever since he was a baby, asthma would choke him up. Doris would then give him a needle of adrenalin. He learned to hate those injections. Doris always carried a shot in her purse just for him for we never knew when asthma would attack. I’ve already written a post about the parasite in his foot that required we take him to the doctor. But we had to gang up on him again in our home for the treatment had to be repeated a second time—or perhaps it was a number of times.
It didn’t help that this our son Vernon fell from a low wall in our front yard there in the interior and broke his arm. The doctor declared it to be a green-stick break so with time and a bandage it returned to normal. But I am sure that did not increase his love for doctors and the whole field of medicine.
Vernon was about one when the other missionary couple, the Campbells decided to return to Canada. So the suggestion was made for us to take a few weeks holidays before they left. Monica stayed with them till we returned but we needed to find a place for Vernon. Dna. Maria and Snr. José were doing a good job raising their young family so at our suggestion Vernon stayed with them. He was about a year old then, still on a bottle. We knew he was getting the best of care in this simplest of Brazilian homes. Dna. Maria from that time on called herself Vernon’s black mama—though she wasn’t really black. Dna. Maria couldn’t read and didn’t get Doris’ instructions straight so Vernon got his vitamins three times a day—not just once. I gather it didn’t do our son any harm but we had a bill at the pharmacy for the extra vitamins.
We figured it worked out great for our boy to stay with this “black mama.” But I’ve always wondered if even at that age he felt abandoned during those weeks. And what about being held against his will in a doctor’s office in the interior and later on a more difficult situation? Here is that story…
During our time back in Canada between our two terms in Brazil, the new board under which we’d be working required extensive—I mean extensive medical examinations. One of those tests I will never have again—ever; but this is about Vernon, not me. Anyway, we travelled from the Ottawa area to a clinic in Montreal operated by Dr. Lloyd Caswell. Going there made sense to us for the Caswell family was friends of the Kennys. But the clinic wanted a vial of blood from Vernon who was about five at that time. For me to even write about it makes me feel so bad that I have to blink repeatedly to keep writing. There was no way that we could hold our screaming boy to get that blood—no way. Finally in desperation they took a drop of blood from a finger.
This is for sure, when Vernon began to talk it was largely Portuguese he used. Soon it became his first language for friends his age spoke Portuguese. Too, we used Portuguese much of the time around the house for our maid spoke it. The result was that if we wished to be sure our children understood we used the language they knew best—Portuguese. When we returned to Canada for our year’s furlough, Vernon picked up English and soon made it his primary language. When we were transferred to Haiti Vernon quickly picked up Creole and some French from his Port au Prince school. He could chat in four languages as we all could during that time. He was a plucky lad adapting quickly to languages, countries and that included Canada and his new-found relatives.
Another situation he encountered was not a medical one but the school both our children attended in São Paulo. Vernon had a teacher that carried a ruler under her arm as she taught. She used it on knuckles when there was a wrong answer or lack of one. Vernon became so afraid of questions that if we asked about any details of the Biblical story we read together as a family, he would freeze up unable to answer anything at all.
I am not sure there would be any good answers or better ones for the difficult situations we met while raising our children in Brazil and Haiti. Perhaps those situations our children encountered built in strength of character that stood by them later in life. Then of course there were many positive experiences that came to us living in two other countries outside of Canada—I shall have to recall and write about some of them. As I look back I am sure God gave us help all along the way and that divine grace stood each one of us in good stead.