In My Younger Years


I seldom write about myself, but the past few days I have been going through a few old plastic tubs where I store some keepsakes from my childhood. Inside this tub was now a very discolored, tattered, and torn 8″ x 10″ envelope that has to be about 65 years old. Inside it, were similarly yellowed, tattered, and torn pieces of paper with my poems and other stories that I had written, starting as early as eight years old and going into my mid-teens. Yes, I’d say I always loved to write; hence, my blog.

For the essay that follows, I received an “A” in the seventh grade. It’s dated January 13, 1960, and I was 13 years old. I guess the assignment was to write about our health. It brings back pleasant memories of my school days and includes some details that I surely would have forgotten had it not been for this old document. I think this writing implies that I was fairly optimistic about my life and my family, but also rather matter of fact when it came to my health issues. I couldn’t read anything into it that said to me, “why, me” or that I felt in anyway hindered or sorry for myself by the limitations on my activities. I do vividly recall though, many moments when I was very scared because I thought I may not be able to find my next breath:

“As far as my health goes, I think I have been pretty lucky about not having any very serious illnesses. When I was a baby every time I caught a cold the doctors would say I had the croup, but it turned out to be asthma. At first, the attacks were pretty bad because the doctors didn’t know for sure it was asthma. Therefore, I didn’t get the right kids of medicine. After the doctor diagnosed it as asthma, he prescribed what he called a medi-haler for me to spray down into my throat. Now, when I have an attack it is not as bad as it used to be. Of course, I had most of the other childhood diseases such as measles, chicken pox, mumps, colds, and sore throats. I had to go to the hospital when I was only five years old to have my tonsils removed. My mother tells me I was not afraid at all. It is a very good thing not to be afraid of doctors and dentists. I have quite a time with dentists. The dentist had to take out most of my baby teeth because there wasn’t room for my permanent teeth and he said my teeth would not be straight if he didn’t pull out my first teeth. He gave me sodium pentothal and gas. He had to cut through my guns to let one tooth break through because it wouldn’t come down in place on its own.

I realize good health depends a lot on what you eat and the way you take care of your body. Children my age need plenty of rest and a good diet to help them have good health. Also, good teeth mean a lot to your health and if I don’t brush my teeth every day I will get decays in them and that will cause my teeth to hurt. Without my teeth I wouldn’t be able to chew my food properly and it would cause me to be sick.

My mother and father had to rush me to the hospital when I was in the fourth grade because I had been climbing on a fence and fell and cut my arm so deep it cut through the muscles and went down to the bone. The emergency room doctor had to give me some shots and put in eight stitches. I still have a bad scar from it but I was lucky not to have any more trouble from it. I was really scared of the doctor that time because I had never had any stitches before and I thought it would hurt, but the shot he gave me numbed my arm so I didn’t feel it when he put in the stitches. After that I had to go to my doctor and he took out the stitches.

When my brother was only three months old a friend of ours came to visit and brought her little boy who was about two years old and while he was at our house he started breaking out in a rash. So the next day his mother called my mother and told her that her little boy had Scarlett Fever so my brother and I had to go to our doctors and get a shot to keep us from getting it. I felt so sorry for my brother having to get a shot as little as he was, but he only cried for a minute.

I have noticed that if I get too excited or upset over anything, it sometimes will bring on an attack of asthma. We were taking a trip to North Carolina to visit my cousin when I was two years old and my father had to turn around and come back home because I had an attack of asthma. But before we got home, he had to take me to the Marine’s hospital in Quantico, Virginia, because I had turned a bluish color around my mouth and face from having such a hard time trying to get my breath. My father said he couldn’t find a doctor and the Marine hospital was the closest to us. That night, my mother had to sit by my bed all night and watch the vaporizer. She made a tent out of a blanket and put it over my bed rails so I could breathe. If I didn’t have asthma, I think I would be in perfect health.”

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