Friday, December 3, 2010

More Than A Picture


Once more I held the picture in my hands, a picture that has captured me since I was a small child. A small girl sits surrounded by presents, every child’s dream. Games, dolls, crafts, Santa just waiting for the little girl’s attention. Our Christmases were always very slim. Oh, how I wanted to be that little girl.
Over the years I came to understand more about that little girl. I noticed that the smile did not reach her eyes. The happiness that should have been shining in her young face was compromised by the disease that held her to her bed. I want my sisters’ memories to tell this story. My sisters, this is for you.
Memories from my oldest sister Peggy:
It was 1945. We all had whooping cough and scarlet fever at the same time. Dad was in the big bed, me on the couch and June in the baby bed. I was eight. The county put a sign on our door “Quarantined”. Mom was sick, but still tried to do the work outside. I think others came to help. Food was left at the door.
We eventually recovered, but June was weak. Since our local doctor didn’t seem to do anything to help June, Mom and Dad went to a children’s doctor in Dayton. He said she had rheumatic fever. There was a new drug he wanted to try on June. Our local doctor refused to give it to her, and she needed shots. I think it was every day. We made a lot of trips to Dayton forty-one miles away.
We played on the bed since June wasn’t allowed to walk because of her heart. We played puzzles and puppet kind of stuff. Even had a walking penguin. We thought up all sorts of things to do (for the days, the months, the almost two years our sister laid in bed).
After June recovered, Dad’s very expensive, registered cows contracted Bangs disease. June came down with an illness caused by unpasteurized milk. The entire herd was destroyed leaving Mom and Dad broke. It was a miracle in that day that June recovered. Mom was so scared that she would get sick again. June couldn’t leave the house without wearing slacks and warm clothes.
Memories from June, little girl surrounded by toys:
As I remember, I had trouble breathing when I ran and played. I was about four. The baby bed was placed in the kitchen during the day. I wanted to go out in the snow and play so Mom took me out on the sled. Peg play paper dolls, puzzles, etc. with me. I had an ultra-modern wheelchair. Becky Groff, the grandmother of the Royer kids, would come down with a basket on her arm that usually contained a snack (cookie) and a book to read to me giving Mom a break for an hour or two during the day while Peggy was at school. Perhaps every other week.
Memories of the sister born until two years later:
Mom and Dad always protected June even when she was older. Their sacrifices were many, but they were remarkable in their care of their ill daughter. They took a chance on a newly discovered drug called penicillin. They took a chance on a new type of doctor, a doctor for children.
The old wheelchair was often put into use when Mom babysat for someone’s child. It was fun to push friends around in it. When we went through the house after Mother died, we found the old wheelchair sitting in the corner of the attic. A reminder of a sister who survived.
I cannot imagine the guilt and pain my parents suffered during those years. They almost lost a daughter. They lost their cattle, their income. But anyone who knew my parents, knows that they were rich with love. Their strength saved a daughter, a farm and a family.
A child sits surrounded by toys.

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