Not Supposed To Happen
John looked over at his eldest son, the tears glistening in his eyes and trickling down his young cheeks. He may have been nearly eighteen, closer to being an adult than a child, but in that moment he looked just like a little boy – scared and confused – and all John wanted to do was to hold his son close to him and let him know that everything was going to be alright. He looked as though one heavy gust of wind might break him in two – little did any of them know just how close to breaking point he really was.
John-Boy paled, and as he made to turn and go he stumbled – John leaping forward just in time to catch his son before he plummeted over the edge of the cliff.
"John Boy?" The young man's father asked, expression saturated with concern as he sat cradling his son in his lap upon the dusty ground. John-Boy looked deathly pale, and it was only now that John Walton noticed the sheen of sweat upon his son's forehead. Hi skin was more sodden with salty perspiration than their recent race up the edge of the mountain would justifiably necessitate, and placing the back of his hand to the young man's flushed cheeks he withdrew it immediately as he felt the fire of his burning furnace of flesh beneath.
"The aches started yesterday," John-Boy explained weakly, "and when I woke up this morning my neck and back were so stiff it felt as though I'd been running a marathon in my sleep."
John's heart sank.
"Why didn't you tell us son?" He implored him.
John-Boy shrugged. "I hoped it might be nothing more than influenza… and let's face it, in the worst case scenario, it wouldn't have made any difference, we both know that there's nothing to be done…"
John sighed, his face fell and set into a grim expression.
"Come on, let's get you home son." He breathed as he heaved John-Boy up into his arms and gently carried him back down the edge of the mountainside.
Thankfully John-Boy, to everyone's relief, was nowhere near as sick as his mother had been. The fever raged for several days - during which time he was delirious and out of his mind with the infection – but this disease didn't progress with quite the same debilitating aggression which Olivia's had. Upon the third day, whereupon the fever finally broke, he was able to get up and walk with some little aid and showed no sign of exhibiting the same paralysis his mother had experienced.
Doctor Foley diagnosed a non-paralytic form of the polio disease, and said that John-Boy had been very lucky. He'd probably been incubating the virus since Olivia had first got sick, but after three days of the fever, headache, nausea and vomiting he concluded that he was finally over the worst. The muscle pain and weakness persisted for a further two weeks. His legs were tender to the touch and it was clear that every examination caused him great discomfort – John didn't know what was worse, watching his paralysed wife lying helplessly in bed for all these long weeks, or seeing his son in such pain.
He concluded that the pain would pass, and that it was better to suffer the temporary agony of the cramps and crippling spasms and get up and walk away once the disease had run its course, than to never walk again.
John-Boy's illness however signalled another tough couple of weeks for the family, but finally mother and son made a full recovery. Olivia had to regain the strength in her legs and John Boy too was weak for a few weeks. Once she was strong enough Olivia insisted to be allowed to see her son, and spent most of her time sitting at his bedside. He was greatly comforted by her presence, and appeared more settled and less bothered by the pain. Their eventual return to full health marked the end of a winter which had tested every single member of the Walton family. What had very nearly torn their lives apart had ended up drawing them all closer together, and they all felt blessed to be able to seek shelter and find solace in each other.