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A Family With Polio from the Heart of An Eight Year Old Part 6
by Marijo Phelps
01/20/11
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I was back at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. No, the summer wasn’t over but Dad was coming to get me. He couldn’t stand having all of us gone anymore and would pick me up on the weekend to take me home. Our neighbors would watch me while he was at work. He and I could wait together for the time Mom and Colette would come back home on the train that took them away. Colette was getting better and doing more and more with her polio stricken legs as they had treatments several times a day at Spears Hospital in Denver.

For some reason many of my aunts, uncles and cousins were at Grandma and Grandpa’s. they all decided I needed a hair cut before Dad picked me up. Out came a large kitchen towel which was fastened around my neck with a clip close pin. I don’t remember who began the hair cutting process. One started, then another would decide it needed a bit of evening up on the other side. The infamous photo was snapped when Uncle Wes had the scissors and was trying to make the left and right sides even. I looked down and saw hair all over the floor. About then someone said “we’d better quite before she looks like a little boy”. I know Dad had us two girls and maybe he always wanted a boy but I sure wasn’t about to volunteer at this point.

I looked in the mirror, where had all my hair gone? At least I was going home and my hair would grow.

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

Of course, the hours dragged by. I helped Grandma make a cake to have when Dad got there. There were no more thunder storms, it was as if even the weather knew I was going home and was on its best behavior, sunshine, blue skies with puffy white clouds and peonies. Now that I know how you had to spray then to leave the ants outside in order to take the flowers inside I could help Grandma even more.

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

I heard the crunch of tires in the driveway. There was that old green Plymouth. I ran, Yes, the screen slammed and I didn’t even get in trouble because I was jumping into my Daddy’s arms and tomorrow we’d go home! I think this was the best day in my life. The only better one would be when that old steam engine train finally chugged to a stop and I got to see my Mom and Colette once again and that was 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 out 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 with proper credits.

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