West Side Stories 

Right after we came home from Florida in 1945, my father got sick. He coughed, he coughed, and he coughed. He was sure that he'd gotten tuberculosis from his brother-in-law, who had just died. Pa still smoked. He rolled his own. So eventually he went to the doctor to find out about his TB. It was cancer of

the larynx.

He was at the Illinois Research Hospital, and Marge and ma and I and Aunt Anna went down to see him one night. Aunt Anna told him that he was wasting his time in a research hospital, he should have her doctor in Maywood. So he's putting his coat and hat on when the doctor walks in.

"Where are you going, Mr. Ryan?"

Pa said, "I'm going home. These ladies are dragging me out of here."

The doctor said, "Well, let me tell all of you, if you leave here you won't live more than six months. If you stay you've got a chance." So pa took his hat and coat off and stayed.

When he got out of the hospital he had to go for treatments every day, five days a week. He said they put pins in his neck. And his neck was dotted with holes--pin marks. I suppose it was an early form of radiation.

He did that for a whole year. Marge came over every day and took him on the streetcar--maybe by then there were buses--and took him down to the hospital. It was down by County Hospital. It was part of the University of Illinois. Every day he went for almost a year, and then one day he decided he wouldn't go anymore. He couldn't eat. Food never went down.

So then the doctor came out to the house. "What's with you, John, that you're not coming to the hospital?"

My father said, "You're not doing me any good."

The doctor said they could feed him through his stomach. They said that the passage between his throat and his stomach was gone, and so that was the only way they could do it.

Pa said he had had a long life, and it was a good life. And he didn't see any reason why he should have somebody feeding him through his stomach. So he wasn't going to do that. And he didn't.

I walked to the door with the doctor. This was just before Pegge was born. The doctor said to me, "How are you keeping out from under all this?" I said, "Well, I just do what I have to do. That's all." He said, "Well, you know your father has cancer?" I said, "Yes, we know that." He said, "Well, he won't live very long."

So because I was expecting a baby very soon, pa and ma went to Rosemarie's. She lived on Cicero Avenue on the north side. And that's where he died. It always seemed strange to me that both ma and pa died at Rosemarie's. I took care of them most of the time, but they both died at Rosemarie's.

Although I must say I never did much for my father. He always took care of himself. He got up every morning and shaved, took a bath, put a clean shirt on, and then sat down and read the newspaper. On Memorial Day, a few weeks before he died, I helped him take his shoes off. He was going to lie down, and he couldn't take his shoes off. That's the only thing I can ever remember that I did for him personally.

He didn't like going to Rosemarie's. They told him that he could watch the traffic on Cicero Avenue. He said, "What's that?" Monroe Street was his home, and he felt he was displaced. But everyone felt that I shouldn't be taking care of ma and pa when I was expecting in a few weeks. That's why they went in both cases, because I was almost due.

Pegge was born three weeks after my father died, and Mary Jo was born five weeks after my mother died. So I always thought it was a real blessing to have a new baby to take their place. A new joy. You didn't have time to think about how bad you felt.

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