My sister is on her way home; her visit stirred memories of my youth, so I thought I’d share a few of them. Some of these I wrote several years ago and sent to a few of my daughters. However, they may not have saved them and, as I recall, not all of them had computers at the time.
The earliest memory that I have is when I got my arm caught in a washing machine wringer. I don’t know how old I was and I’ve never really talked to anyone about it, since there’s no one around anymore to discuss it with. I know I wasn’t in school yet, as we were still living in the upstairs of Hager’s Garage—we had moved to our basement house by the time I started school, so I would guess I was 4 or 5. The washing machine was downstairs, in the back room of the garage, which opened into the alley; it was driven by a gasoline motor, so mom would set it in the doorway to the alley to allow the fumes to escape. I don’t remember whether the wringer ran all the time or if mom just forgot to turn it off. At any rate, I was fascinated by those two rollers and was ‘teasing’ it by putting my fingers on the bottom roller and seeing how close I could get to where they came together. The machine finally ‘won’ and began drawing my hand and arm in. Mom came running in response to my screams and smacked the machine with her hand—I can still see those wringer rollers flying through the air. She picked me up and ran with me in her arms to Dr. Bakke’s office, which was only a block or so away. There are really only three things I remember about the rest of the incident. The first is the huge x-ray machine coming down from the ceiling to take a picture of my arm to find out if it was broken; it wasn’t. Secondly, I vaguely remember being roused in the middle of the night once, and taken to the doctor’s office. What I don’t remember, but what mom told me later, was that one night, a week or so after the accident, she checked me before she went to bed and found blood all over the bed. She took me to the doctor right away; she said the doctor told her that I was developing gangrene and that if she’d waited until morning I would probably have lost my arm. The doctor had to excise all the gangrenous flesh and skin which then led to the third memory—a skin graft. Dad and I went to the doctor’s office one evening and the doctor proceeded to take about a dozen small plugs of skin from the area of dad’s shoulder blade. He had a small instrument that removed a plug about ¼ “ in diameter, which he then laid onto my elbow. I could see some of those circles on my arm until I was in my early 20s. Although I don’t remember it, mom told me that I had to carry a bucket of sand for a couple of months so the muscles in my arm wouldn’t atrophy. To this day, I don’t know whether being forced to carry that bucket and use my left arm is what makes me use my left hand for some things or if, not being able to use my left arm, I used my right hand for things for which I would normally have used my left. At any rate, I remain somewhat ambidextrous today.