Saturday, December 06, 2008

Christmas 1975

On a December Saturday in 1975, a day much like today, my parents dropped my brother and me off at my grandparents to stay the night.

Dad was the front singer in a Top 40 music band that in the 1970s was well known throughout the valley. It was called Music, Inc., and he and Mom were out most every weekend.

On this December night, I fell while playing with my brother and my two young uncles (I was 12; my uncles were 11 and 16; my brother was 9). My right wrist made a sickening noise as I hit the cement in the basement.

Grandpa rushed me to the emergency room, where x-rays revealed fractured bones. I returned home in a heavy cast. No Velcro removable cast for me; I don't think they made them at that time.

My mother had been informed of my accident and she came to get me instead of leaving me there for the night. She opened the door and walked into my grandparents living room. I saw her and promptly passed out cold in the floor.

The cast was burdensome. I couldn't participate in band class, where I was taking flute. I lost the first chair position to my nemesis, Angie. Every six weeks or so it seemed we swapped first chair position. Since I couldn't play it was no longer mine.

I was in the 7th grade. This was my first year for half-year exams (I wonder if they still give those). The cast had my fingers spread apart so that I couldn't hold a pencil (and I of course was right-handed). I tried to write with my left hand but the scrawl was so bad that my teachers opted to give me oral examinations.

Christmas Day came and went. I don't remember anything I received as a gift. A few days later, my mother and I sat in the living room trying to sort through gifts and put things back in order. My father and brother were out doing farm things.

My mother was depressed and in a very foul mood. I remember crying while we worked because her unhappiness was contagious. I was pretty useless with my arm in a cast, too.

A knock on the door startled us. The neighbor burst in the door. She had run all the way up the driveway, which was about 1/3 mile.

My father had run over my brother with the tractor. He had scooped him up and the neighbor's husband was driving them to the hospital.

I was still in my nightgown. My mother hustled me into the backseat along with some clothes and told me to change as we drove.

She sped quickly down what then was a dirt road and headed toward the hospital, going so fast that when she unexpectedly slid through a curve on Catawba Road I fell into the car door. I landed against my cast; the pain in my wrist was enormous. But I didn't say anything.

At the hospital, we found my father in tears. He had been scraping the dirt driveway with a scraper blade on the back end of the tractor. My brother had been riding on the blade. He fell between the blade and the rear tractor wheels. My father dragged him quite a ways before he heard my brother yelling "Daddy help me!"

When my father stopped the tractor and shut it off, the back wheels rolled backwards, up over my brother's chest.

My brother suffered a concussion, broken ribs and other injuries. As a result of his head injury, his eyes went crossed. He was in the hospital for at least a week.

I spent New Year's Day night with my grandparents. My father had a gig to play with his band and my mother was staying at Community Hospital with my brother.

Late that evening, my grandfather, who was 56 years old, said he wasn't feeling well. Not long after, he collapsed.

The ambulance came and he and my grandmother went to Lewis Gale Hospital. I tried to call my mother at the other hospital but the switch board wouldn't put me through to my brother's room, not even when I said it was an emergency. They told me I could reach her at 7 a.m.

I remember calling her right at 7 o'clock to tell her her father was sick.

About three hours later, my mother came into my grandparents house, crying. My grandfather on January 2, 1975, died of a heart attack.

My brother left the hospital in time to go the funeral but he did not. He was still a little boy, after all.

After months of therapy, his eyes straightened out. The rest of him seemed to be okay, too.

When my wrist continued to ache my mother took me to the doctor, where another x-ray showed I had broken it again. I was in a cast on that arm for about 12 weeks straight.

I'm not sure where that memory came from; I think it is the ache in my wrist today that reminded me the thing probably hurts for a reason. I don't think I've ever written about that dreadful time before.

But that was the holidays in 1975.


  1. Holy cow...what a time that was! I'm sure the holidays were never quite the same for your family after that one...

  2. Oh, Dew, I'm so sorry to hear what happened to you. So much loss and pain. But what struck me most was the time you were sitting there with your mom, crying. I wanted to go back and give you a big hug and tell you it would be ok.

    Just an FYI, my kids have exams at school called Stanford achievement and Otis Lennon, throughout the year. I don't know if they are the same as the ones you had in school, though.

  3. Oh my goodness, I can't even imagine all the stress and heartache your family was feeling at that time. I was so relieved to read that your brother ended up just fine, but what a scare. So sad about the loss of your grandfather. I remember when mine passed away.
    What a brave little girl you were, breaking your wrist yet again but being so strong for your mother.

    By the way, the Angie you mentioned, does her last name start with an A now?

  4. Lord have mercy, how awful! I'm glad your brother was o.k. That's always been a fear of Shannon's. Ben loves riding on the tractor with him, but it worries Shannon. Most of the time in the summer time, he won't mow the grass until the children are inside. Both Caroline and Ben have grass allergies, so I guess that worked out for the best!

  5. Tanya - I have no idea about her last name; I lost touch with her after high school.

    June - it was a "holy cow" kind of time, wasn't it?

    SF - I greatly appreciate your kind words!

  6. Wow what a Christmas story.

  7. Wow, what a lousy Christmas. I guess all the Christmases since then have seemed better just by comparison.

    If you were to try to pass this off as a novel, no editor would buy it because it's too far-fetched.

  8. I am sitting here crying reading that! What heartbreak in such a short time! Thank you for sharing it. It really makes you stop and appreciate what you have when you hear a sad story. Although not completely sad--I was so afraid to continue reading to see what happened to your brother and am relieved he's okay!

    I think you and your mother must have a special connection--how you just looked at her and passed out cold (THAT really made me chuckle) and how you were crying because she was down in the dumps.

    Also, you tell a good story. You write well.

    My 7th grader said there are no half-year exams.

  9. Wow, no wonder Christmas can make you sad.

    BTW, My kids do have mid-term exams usually the week they get back from Christmas break.

  10. Is it any wonder Christmas is a time of angst for you? Glad the aching wrist inspired catharsis.. Good to write it out. May this holiday be calm, quiet, peace-filled.

  11. Oh my goodness, that was just awful. I'm so sorry you had to go through such a difficult time. I can certainly understand why Christmas might be a sad time for you.

    I do hope you can find some measure of peace and joy in the holidays this year. I'm glad you went to the Christmas parade!

  12. I was hoping this was fiction the whole time I was reading it. It reads like fiction. Once again, truth is stranger.


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