BESSIE'S U.S. VISIT (1962)
We had no sooner stepped into the kitchen when Bessie collapsed on the floor unconscious. I went next door for Mrs. Leckie, and between us, we got her to the sofa in the living room. I rushed to phone the doctor and had a difficult time making contact with either him or his partner. Eventually, both of them turned up and examined her. They gave her a hypodermic injection and agreed that this looked like a condition that would clear up after a night's sleep. I explained to them that she was due to travel to the U.S. on Sunday and they told me by then she would be fine. They said she would be okay after she met her daughters again and not to worry. They spelled out a timetable: when she would wake the next day and when she would recover, etc. Up to a point, their prognosis was right, and by Sunday, she was able to dress with some assistance. Although a little fuzzy, she was able to function. Not very happily, on Saturday night, after 10:00, I went to the doctor's house to ask him again if it was wise for her to travel. I got the same reply -- she'll be fine when she gets there. So, with some trepidation, we set out for Prestwick.
After getting her checked in (I had gotten a wheelchair by then), we waited for the boarding call. We waited and waited until it was past time for takeoff, let alone boarding. They finally announced that the plane we were waiting for had left London, stopped for a pick-up in Manchester and was stuck with some problem. They were proposing to load the passengers from Prestwick into a plane which would then pick up the passengers from Manchester and go to London to board another plane for New York. When I heard this, I went after the airport commandant and explained about Bessie's condition. I asked if he could suggest a better way. He did his best, and Wilma and Bessie were transferred to an SAS flight direct to New York. He also arranged for telegrams to be sent, so Helen and Joe were aware of the change. In due course, they arrived, and I know the family was shocked to see her in a wheelchair. But, apparently, she did perk up a little and improved for a few days. But later, she had another bad turn and had to be hospitalized. In addition, her sight was affected and she was partially blind. They did an unusual type of procedure at Temple Hospital, and her condition improved, but her eyes were slow to recover. It wasn't until she returned home that her eyes got back to normal.
That summer was a nightmare for me. I didn't know whether to stay in Scotland or travel to the U.S. to be with Bessie. I did go so far as to interview the American Consul, who at that time, had offices in Glasgow. He assured me I'd have no problem being accepted as an immigrant. However, I didn't go, and had to try to live some semblance of a normal existence. Finally, Bessie had progressed to the point at which she could come home, and I met the plane at Prestwick one morning in September.
Her doctor in the U.S. had advised her to consult with her doctor when she returned home, but I was so steamed at the two "quacks" who had attended her at home, that I took her to Dr. McLeish, who had been her family doctor years before. For the next year, she had several surgical procedures done. The first was a so-called repair job on a prolapsed bladder. That was not completely successful, so after a short interval, she went back to the Vale of Leven Hospital, a new facility in Alexandria, with everything up-to-date and modern. This time, they did a complete hysterectomy, but she was terribly ill afterward. It was only after she burst some stitches, due to a coughing spasm, that they took her back to the O.R., where an examination showed she had a twist in her intestine. When this was corrected, she did improve and gradually was well enough to come home. The above circumstances took possibly a month or more and, for part of that time, I was having my own problems with hemorrhoids. At times, they were so bad that I had to get somebody to drive me to the hospital at visiting time. I was losing time at work, too. I had put off any real treatment for this condition for years, because of the horror stories people would tell about it, and it was a few more years before I finally got rid of it.
Bessie was just out of hospital and I was having my problems, when Elizabeth and John got married in London, so John's family took care of the wedding arrangements. John and Elizabeth met when John came to Clydebank to stand by H.M.S. Aurora, which was being built by John Brown and Company. It was the custom for the Navy to board their stand-by crews in private homes in the neighborhood, and it turned out our next door neighbors, the Leckies, were on the list. They had a couple of Petty Officers assigned to them, and John was one of them. Actually, I think I had made friends with John before Elizabeth even noticed him, because he parked his car next to our house. So from time to time, going in and out, we talked cars and passed the time of day. I was as surprised as anyone when I realized they were dating. I think, if my memories are right, it was double dating at the beginning with one of the McCartney girls from across the street dating the other P.O. That affair fizzled, but Elizabeth and John kept going and blossomed. Margot was their first child, a pretty little girl, and Andrew, their second. Andrew is unique in that he was born in Singapore when John and Elizabeth were posted there in 1967.
In writing about Bessie's visit to the U.S. in 1962, I did not mean to understate the burden placed on Joe and Helen when Bessie landed there with her medical problems. Joe and Helen did everything to take care of her and I can't say enough to commend them for their handling of a difficult situation.