Thursday, May 23, 2013

A Family With Polio from the Heart of An Eight Year Old – “Little Boy”

1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

I am back at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. No, the summer isn’t over but Dad is coming to get me. He can’t stand having all of us gone anymore and will pick me up on the weekend to take me home. Our neighbors will watch me while he is at work. He and I can wait together for the time Mom and Colette will come back home on the train that took them away. Colette is getting better and doing more and more with her polio stricken legs as they have treatments several times a day at Spears Hospital in Denver.

For some reason many of my aunts, uncles and cousins are at Grandma and Grandpa’s. They all decide I needed a hair cut before Dad picks me up. Out comes a large kitchen towel which is fastened around my neck with a clip clothes pin. I don’t remember who begins the hair cutting process. One starts, then another decides it needs a bit of evening up on the other side. The infamous photo is snapped when Uncle Wes has the scissors and is trying to make the left and right sides even. I look down and see hair all over the floor. About then someone says “we’d better quite before she looks like a little boy”. I know Dad has us two girls and maybe he always wanted a boy but I sure am not about to volunteer at this point.

I look in the mirror, where has all my hair gone? At least I am going home and my hair would grow. Everyone keeps saying that over and over “your hair will grow.” I wonder what else they are thinking?

Grandma gives me a quarter the next morning and I get to walk to the dime store again. I get some blowing bubbles and a small number puzzle to work on. I hope the hours will soon fly and I will see Daddy driving in with our green station wagon. I even miss that old car, I can’t begin to tell you how much I miss my Dad!

Of course, the hours dragged by. I help Grandma make a cake to have when Dad gets there. There are no more thunder storms, it is as if even the weather knows I am going home and is on its best behavior.  It is a wonderful day with sunshine, blue skies with puffy white clouds and peonies, now that I know how you have to spray them to leave the ants outside, in order to take the flowers inside, I can help Grandma even more. I remember the first time I sniffed them and got a nose full of ants. That was icky.

I have Frisky and just know Dad will love him. My Frisky wouldn’t water the trees in front of our house like the neighbor’s dog does either. I have my bottle for my big doll and so many things to tell Dad about that have happened this summer. Not to mention, there will still be a little summer left before school starts and I can see all my friends at home.

I hear the crunch of tires in the driveway. There is that old green Plymouth. I run, yes, the screen slams and I don’t even get in trouble because I am jumping into my Daddy’s arms. Tomorrow we’d go home! I think this is the best day in my life. The only better one will be when that old steam engine train finally chugs to a stop and I get to see my Mom and Colette once again. That is now just a few weeks away.

“Daddy, Grandma and I made you a cake with seven minute frosting and coconut! And we cooked pork chops, mashed potatoes and gravy for your dinner.”

“It smells wonderful, did you help her?”

“Oh, yes, she helped me to be a good cook while I was here.”

I didn’t know then but those cooking lessons and the ones Mom gave me would come in handy as Mom was going to be in bed most of the following year. It was at this point my eight year old self learned how to take the city bus downtown and get all Mom’s shopping list at several department stores with her charge card. Colette and I also did meals, housework – all except ironing because we weren’t tall enough. None of this hurt us a bit. Dad was right there beside us walking us through. I know Mom had several kinds of arthritis crippling her. I am sure the stress from Colette’s polio might have taken its toll and Mom had pneumonia too. I remember the mustard plaster blistering her chest. I remember her joints all swollen up and red from the arthritis. I also remember how she helped Colette with her exercises to strengthen her legs every day. Mom talked me through breathing exercises to strengthen my lungs from the times I had pneumonia. An RN might be the patient, as my Mom was that year, but she never stopped being our RN too.

Colette and I learned many valuable “life skills”. We could cook, make brownies and cakes from scratch, we learned how to plant and keep a vegetable garden. We hung wash and hurried to get it in before the rain came. We learned all about cleaning from Mom. Dad helped with all the housework too. Dad took us fishing and we went on picnics. We played with our Ginny dolls by the hour. There might have been some things we missed as a family due to polio but love and closeness were not among the number of things missed. We had that richness as our family “glue”!

(C) Marijo Phelps all rights reserved - use giving proper credit only.

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