About those things you just can’t change

Yucca icicles
The big yucca in front of the house is home to some three dozen sparrows, hiding in there behind the unusual icicles.  A Cooper’s Hawk sat on the front gate during the storm, hoping a silly sparrow would come out to dinner. (Photo by Jericha Franz)

Sometimes I am especially un-eager for an occasion to end.  Just once in a while along comes something or other to offer just that extra bit of time.  But one can’t be particular about about the “something or other part”.

There are few things in life that I enjoy less than heavy snow.  Few things I enjoy more than visits from my daughter, Jericha.

early in snowstorm 1
The yucca early in the storm, orbed

What a lovely vacation week my daughter and I were having during her visit here last week…  On Christmas Eve along came word of a winter storm so big and fierce that forecasters were calling it Goliath.  They said it would pound away at New Mexico, top to bottom, and all the way across over Christmas weekend.

Jericha shovelling
Jericha facing a melting Goliath

No matter what can be said about dangerous forecasts, sometimes they are more correct than not.

From late Thursday through Sunday evening we were alternately stirred and numbed by reports of misery in the form of five foot drifts of blizzard snow in parts of New Mexico, to be followed by the coldest temperatures of the year.

Once the actual event launched itself there were reports of 100 or more weather related accidents in Albuquerque, images of scores of semis parked on I-40 eastbound — unable to budge due to the storm.  I-40 eventually was shut down from the Big I in Albuquerque all the way to Amarillo, Texas.

The White Sands National Monument in southern New Mexico was among scores of sites shut down, in a jolt to my psyche — I had the notion that snowflakes historically avoided that region.  Two or three flakes every hundred years or so, perhaps?

Jericha’s flight back to pleasant California was set for 6:05 a.m. on Sunday, in the heart of Goliath, giving me pause as I had not driven at night for six years, nor in a snowstorm more recently than 2006.  And here comes a 32 mile trip up the highway doing both?  Hmmm.  I always did like challenges but this one was seeming a trifle, well, life threatening?

flinging snow
She’s having too much fun flinging that snow around!  There was lots more earlier, but I shoveled some of it away to make for faster melting.

Luckily — for us — I live in the Middle Rio Grande Valley, where the Manzano Mountains to the east and a mesa made of old volcanoes to the west often block the worst of weather.  Such proved to be the case this time.  Instead of us digging out from a predicted eight inches of snow, we spent time on Sunday removing less than four inches from walks and driveway.  The stuff was eager to melt, too.

The friendly thing about Goliath, for us, was that Jericha was able to reschedule her flight till Monday morning — even though at the same ghastly early hour.  She even had a small savings on the cost, and no penalty.

The extra time was golden.

I fussed and grumbled about this morning’s early trip to the airport, but the roads were quite clear, no more snow was falling, and night driving was as pleasant as those years when I did lots of it.  Three cheers for not making things worse in your mind than they turn out to be.  One of these days I’ll learn the trick.

So, for many of us in the high desert of the southwest an extreme blizzard, while the Northeastern part of the country featured green grass — even the occasional lawnmower.  Trees blossomed, and sprouting shoots popped up in the woods.   Over where my daughter lives,  the South Bay region near San Francisco, there were hard freezes at night.  She had to get a roommate to bring her bonsai in from the patio for several nights.  Freezes also occurred in far southern California.  Not so far from Death Valley, the hottest place on the planet, in summer.

Another head scratcher.

But us?  Those five foot drifts in southeastern New Mexico never materialized.  Or not for long — they got eight foot drifts over there.  The National Guard had to be called out.  Things were every bit as tough for them as was predicted, and then some.

A smaller storm is due on Tuesday, maybe another on Friday.

Climate change, El Niño?  …  ’Tis the season to be weirder?

Yucca in snow sm_1024
Sketch by Emily Lee


Collective action on behalf of the planet


Saskatchewan oil well.  Photo by the late Alex Barta

Recently the Baha’i International Community released a statement to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris.  It’s quite down to earth and emphasizes the role of collective human thought and action, how this is to be found and focused.  Below I’ll share a few excerpts.   If you’ve been eager for something a little beyond science and geopolitical solutions, this is quite exciting!

The full text is available to read or for PDF download at:  BIC Statement on Climate Change for Paris

…A rich and deepening consciousness of the oneness of humankind is the only way that the obstacles inherent in dichotomies like rich/poor, north/south, developed/developing can be overcome. Designations of this kind are not without basis, for some countries do have more financial resources than others. But while such realities are not to be denied, neither should they be allowed to paralyze constructive action. Rather, they should be incorporated into the perspective that an integrated, sustainable and prosperous world will not be built by “us” working together with “them”, but by all of us working on behalf of everyone. …

…The principle of the oneness of humankind highlights the powerful connections found between raising the well-being of people and reversing environmental degradation. It is true that the ecological footprint of certain areas is far larger than that of others. This is a reality that will need to be addressed through both voluntary choice and governmental regulation. But equally important will be lifting billions out of poverty in ways that not only reduce harm to the environment, but actively improve it. Addressing social needs in the context of environmental ones responds to the pressing moral imperatives of climate change. But its rationale is highly pragmatic as well, for climate change calls for urgent action, and the dividends of such steps are greater the sooner they are taken.

Efforts of this kind also lay a foundation for valuing people and the planet as explicitly as profit has been. It is widely recognized today that the single-minded pursuit of financial gain has all too often led to the destruction of both natural systems and human lives. This legacy has left deep ambivalence about the role the corporate sector and market forces should play in sustainability efforts. Such questions are complex and not simply answered. But what seems imperative is that good faith efforts be integrated into a just global effort that avoids all forms of exclusion that breeds opposition, hostility, defensiveness, and distrust….

…What might this look like in practice? Consumption habits provide a helpful illustration. People might be open to recycling, for example, but live in areas without services such as drop-off centers or community composting. Without appropriate supports from government, then, possibilities for individual change are severely constrained. Institutional action to create an enabling environment is needed. Government has a vital role to enact the policies, laws, and regulations needed to support the desired actions and behaviors.

This framework, however, merely sets the stage. For ultimately it is individuals who take the initiative to adopt new patterns of action or continue with business as usual. Human behavior and personal decision-making are therefore critical to the success of sustainability efforts, particularly in the sphere of values, ethics, and morals. Such qualities might seem diffuse or somewhat “soft”, but changes in lifestyle will not be sustained if normative drivers of behaviors such as attitudes and beliefs do not shift as well. Consumption habits will not change if acquisition and the ongoing accumulation of luxury goods are seen as powerful symbols of success and importance. Building more sustainable patterns of life will therefore require continuing conversation about human nature and the prerequisites of well-being…

…Setting humanity on a more sustainable path to the future involves transformation in attitudes and actions. Reform of institutional structures will be critical …. Yet ultimately it is people, whatever their role or place in society, who implement the policies of a central administration or ignore them, who participate in well-conceived programs or continue patterns of life as before. We all have agency and none of our decisions are without consequence. Establishing sustainable patterns of individual and collective life will therefore require not only new technologies, but also a new consciousness in human beings, including a new conception of ourselves and our place in the world…

Chaco Canyon raven
Raven overlooking a scene at Chaco Canyon, New Mexico — a civilization which overstepped its available resources, and collapsed.

Polio Blogs 4: Little brother and gifts

You can only wobble around hospital corridors, showing off your new skills with leg braces by kicking your popular young doctor in front of his peers, for so long.

Children’s Hospital discharged me just before I was due to start first grade, at the age of six.  Oddly, I remember almost nothing about the event, in contrast with clear recollections of leaving Haynes the previous year.

What I do vividly recall is our family’s registered nurses — mother and grandmother — pulling and pushing the heck out of my legs as I lay on a high, hard table they’d acquired just for physical therapy sessions.  And, since the only bathroom the old farmhouse had was upstairs, I remember a bedside commode (which I hated) and taking baths in the kitchen, in an antique metal tub that people filled by hauling containers of water from the sink.  Later it was emptied by the same timeless method, but out the back door.

Before writing about my truncated elementary school career — evading twits, nits and kids demanding to know “Can you still have babies?” — there are two side-themes to the life of an athletic girl sideswiped by paralytic polio that need mention.  My tow headed younger brother, and certain problems with gift giving.  Gifts showered upon me, that is.

Donnie and Mother at beach
Donnie and our mother at Duxbury Beach soon after my release from Children’s Hospital.  That was me in the hole behind them, shucked out of my leg braces for a pleasant change.

Donnie and our mother had also contracted polio during our pond swim on Cape Cod in August, 1953, and though bad-flu sick, both recovered well.  At the age  of three Donnie — whom my mother, at moments of stress in coping with me, unfortunately revealed was a child she had not anticipated and, in fact, had not wanted at the age of 43 — was used to his big sister taking care of him.  He arose from his sick bed after ten days and his main companion was still gone.  Dire stories, frightened remarks about her, the fears of both father and mother over her future — these things wore heavily on him.  And at that age he didn’t have words to share his feelings.

It was a state of mind from which he never recovered in his short life.  All the more because when he was seven and I was nine our grandmother, his mainstay during my absence and the person who called him “my best friend”, died as an apparent suicide.  She threw herself in front of a speeding car one dark July night.  Family whispers had it that she felt she was becoming a burden on two of her three children.

I’m grateful, now, that she was there for Donnie during the first years of our family’s adaptations.  In many ways those were the best years of his life, as he got a lot of attention from her.  He needed that.

People have some pretty twisted ideas about what being a burden truly means.

On the morning when my aunt and uncle carried me off to Haynes Memorial Hospital thirty miles north Donnie, sick though he was, hid behind a big chair and would not come out for Grammie for hours.  She herself was “worn to a frazzle” after days and nights of tending  three extremely sick family members.  Her only sleep had been in a rocking chair during that long period.  Our father, who hadn’t joined us for swimming, went off to work nearly every day, as usual.

Even the family doctor, also exhausted from the many home visits he was making in this polio epidemic, refused to come the night my fever passed 105º.  So Grammie, seventy four years old, under 5 feet and below 90 pounds, kept me in cool water in the bath tub upstairs all night.  She had to carry me upstairs first.  Her efforts saved my life.

When I made my semi-triumphant return home a year later, Donnie was still hiding behind things.  We learned quickly that much had to change in sibling relations.  Rather than me leading him around by the hand, or even carrying him, now he had to help me with things.  I think, now, that might have been a positive thing for him except for:

The advent of the gift givers.

The front door had barely closed behind me before hoards of people — mostly “ladies groups” — were pounding on it, wanting to personally deliver special gifts to the little girl who’d survived that awful disease.  Being shy, Donnie would hide behind something as they entered whatever room I was in.  True, his behavior did nothing to suggest that at least some bit of attention should be given to the cute little boy over there.  Mostly they left without even a smile for him; for that my heart hardened towards them.  Not a good word, nor a present in recognition of his efforts as a helpful little brother.

Possibly our mother was still too shocked and wrapped up in her many new responsibilities to tactfully work in a mention of Donnie to these gift bringers.  Whatever the reason, a smoldering began in my heart, though I could not verbalize reasons for this.

Mission accomplished, they’d given the little girl a nice doll, another stuffed animal, a beautiful pin.  They left feeling pleased with themselves.

My mother later told me that I met the onslaught of curious visitors “like a queen”, sitting straight up on a chair with my braced feet sticking out at right angles, rather than hanging down like regular feet, dark brown knee pads prominent below my skirts.  What I remember about it was, perversely, a growing resentment with each new beautifully wrapped box that was placed in my hands, with reams of ribbons, cards to be opened and saved for later thank you letters.  I would look at my little brother, look at my mother, anywhere but at these people who seemed determined to swamp me in saccharine comments such as “How beautiful you look!” and “What an angel!”.

These were some of the same people who had kept my hospital rooms overflowing with lovely flowers and various “girl toys” like dolls, more dolls and stuff for dolls.  Evidently no one asked what kinds of things I liked, or had been informed that this particular girl preferred matchbox vehicles and plastic action figure horses to sock monkeys and blue eyed dollies with golden ringlets, smelling of talcum powder.  Hence, while my mother thanked everyone on my behalf, I wasn’t as grateful as I might have been.

The gift I received with love and exclamations of joy was from my grandmother, and I have it still — a small Golden Guide to insects.  I would make up stories about the most fantastic looking of the creatures in that book.  Later, when I could once again get around outdoors, it was fun to figure out identities of some bugs.

I guess I was still acting out against my new condition, though what I remember is being eager to get on with life and done with the emotionalizing business.  What I wanted was to be outdoors, wandering along the earthen dam by our favorite stream, visiting the big draft horses over at my great-uncle’s barn, watching birds and squirrels in the forest … Climbing trees!

What I got was:  Time to get ready for school!  Which involved not so much getting new clothing and lunch boxes as it did hours of painful physical therapy, and my mother’s endless conversations with future teachers.  Fuzzy Wuzzy was also frequently contacted.

And Donnie…  He never really got over the need to hide when troubled.  But his is a different story.  I will say that he died in a car wreck, with a good friend, a month after he turned twenty.  As with our grandmother, a possible suicide.  Our mother felt quite sure he had decided not to care what happened to him when he, and his equally Vietnam-draft-bothered friend took Donnie’s new muscle car for a 100+ mph drive one rainy May night.  On a tiny, winding road in the forest a few miles from home there was no shoulder, only big trees to crash into when the car skidded.  It was a spectacular accident, with the engine flying over phone lines and starting a fire in the woods, rain and all.

Me, I just suspected both guys believed that they were not subject to ordinary laws of physics.

We were, of course, not foreseeing these events when it was time for me and my squeaky, pinchy new leg braces with the hideous brown lace-up shoes to make my appearance in the town’s single elementary school.

The three-and-a-half years I spent there brought on all sorts of challenges. ranging from learning to climb stairs again to parents who gave firm orders to their children not to have a thing to do with Emmie Lee — “She’ll give you polio!”

Good thing my mother had had a long career as a public health nurse from coast to coast before she married my dad.  … Wasn’t it?

Emmie in backseat of car
Here was I in my chauffeur driven vehicle, getting ready for my first day at school.  I always got to sit in back.

Enduring symbol. We Will Survive.

This past Saturday night’s activities included dealing with a busted rivet in one of my new leg braces.  Though pain free, this particular event is best explained to the normal-legged public as being rather like having the tibia and fibula removed from action in the lower leg.  You can’t walk.

So out of the closet came an old leg brace, and first thing Monday I made an appointment with the orthotist who had created these fine plastic leg braces early last summer.  He said to come this afternoon, and so there I was, rolling northward along I-25 while day-dreaming about recent changes in my life.

Small changes they may appear, but in my quiet little life tectonic plates have shifted the tiniest bit.  No earthquakes, just a little shaking here and there.

The mental shift felt to me to be well exemplified by a couple of highway signs one passes going in and out of the small city of Los Lunas, New Mexico:

Zero Visibility Possible

Strong Winds May Exist

How amusingly existential…   One wonders about the state of mind of highway engineers in creating these warnings.  Too much of New Mexico can do things to the mind.  For instance, my former neighbor, Leon Cooper, once worked with physicist Edward Teller at Los Alamos National Lab.  While the atomic bomb was in development.

One toasty summer day Leon walked into the office to discover Teller sitting his desk — with one of his legs standing beside him.    He took that as one of those things you expect from renowned  physicists without question…  In moments he understood that the … pedestrian … reason was that Teller had an artificial limb, and was more comfortable in hot weather with the thing off.

Teller is a hero of mine because back in the 1950s he was just about the first scientist on earth to make a fuss about the amount of carbon pouring into the atmosphere due to fossil fuel consumption since the Industrial Age began.  He announced that this was going to cause the planet’s atmosphere to change.

Back to the highway daydreams.

A month or two ago I came upon a autobiographical book by Dan O’Brien, Buffalo for the Broken Heart.  I like buffalo and the connection with heart breaking bemused me enough to read the book immediately.  Besides being a wildlife biologist and keen falconer — two of my own long standing interests — he was a Black Hills cattle rancher for a good long time before concluding that cattle are awfully bad for the Great Plains.  In a word, cows are exotic species and don’t belong there.  They tear things apart.

So, bit by bit, his researches into restoring a healthy ecosystem and providing food for people led him into a gradual move from cattle to buffalo.  Practically anybody who’s been within a hundred yards of a wild buffalo will be aware of how much this entails.

O’Brien the biologist understood the evils of treating buffalo like cattle, and wanted to market meat from animals that had never been near a feedlot, and who had been slaughtered in the manner of the Plains Indian tribes — right there, where they stood, without terror or much pain.  Little by little he created a system that allowed him to produce this particular product, in just the way he intended.

Back to the highway daydreamer, who has been a vegetarian for much of her life — with even a few years as a vegan.  Being aware that bison meat has very little fat in it, and liking O’Brien’s big vision of restoring health to the Great Plains through animals that had evolved there, I up and got some of his meat.

And ate it, and wanted more!  Yowzer for the vegetarian?  Not so much, because my reason for not eating meat was mainly consideration about raising beef, pork and chickens commercially.  Big Ag stuff.  This buffalo operation did away with that.

So there I am, roaring up the highway at some 80 mph in order to get rivets fixed in my own leg brace — happily just a brace, not a whole leg — and reflecting over the positive effects of the diet change when I topped a mesa and saw my favorite view of Isleta Pueblo spread out far below.  Fields and fields, neatly arranged and unfailingly well maintained against the backdrop of the blue and purple Sandia Mountains.  Black walls of a mesa surround these fields on the western side, where the highway runs.   In winter the ranchers sometimes have had cattle on the alfalfa stubble, sometimes horses, and often beehives.

But today the tiny dark shapes moving around below were odd…  Why do the cows have such humps…???  Lady, them thar critters are BUFFALO!!

And why shouldn’t they be?  Like various other tribes in New Mexico,  Isletans have been acquiring a herd of bison.  Usually one spots them close to their revenue generating casino along I-25.

So in approaching the casino turnoff I gazed over at tribal fields where I’ve often seen their buffs ….  And … amongst the huge, shaggy beasts with the prominent humps stood a genuine wonder, something holy.

A white buffalo.

This was such a deeply spiritual moment that despite the high speed whiz around a curve in company with numerous other low flying trucks and semis, tears ran down my face.

Image from SalsolaStock

A white buffalo.  On Native land.  In New Mexico.  Here, at the very easternmost edge of the Colorado Plateau, where bison did once roam, though not in the numbers on the plains further east.  Nomadic Comanches and other  tribes hunted them.

A white buffalo, the sign of the White Buffalo Calf Woman, spiritual messenger to the Lakota/Dakota people of the northern Great Plains so long ago.  The symbol of renewal.

Unless I was hallucinating, the creature was there.  And I felt so very blessed, sailing by on the highway, daydreaming about my small life and its changes, about the grander scheme of caring for the earth and its creatures, about the tribes here and elsewhere making their changes.

This during the closing days of COP21 in Paris.  Somehow I had the vision that Edward Teller, climate change, the people who understand earth systems profoundly, like Teller, O’Brien and indigenous people from everywhere, are quietly leading recalcitrant ones towards a more balanced use of our shared home planet.

The message of the white buffalo endures.

EL Capitan and me

Back in October I had a terrible dream, from which I awakened at dawn, shaking hard enough to rattle the bed.  It took much of the day to recover,

el capitan 1in fact. In it I was walking around in open desert with unseen people.  Someone was saying that “When El Capitan pops up, if you see him and he’s spinning his eyes at you, you will die!”

Wouldn’t you know it — El Capitan, in the form of a stick dressed in black, kept popping out of the ground with his face pointed straight at me, eyes like pinwheels spinning away.

I have to admit that this was the first truly frightening dream I ever remember having.

All of which makes it the more perplexing that when I took it into my head to update my iMac to Apple’s  OS X.11, known to the world as El Capitan,  I did no more than shake my head about the name.

Feckless me.

For no sooner had the final adjustments fluttered themselves into position with the new operating system than my iMac ceased to want to type.  On starting to enter a URL I was presented with the familiar beachball, spinning away.  Like a colored version of my nightmare’s pinwheel black-and-white eyes.  That started to wake me up to the true nature of my awful dream.

Then, if that wasn’t bad enough, the computer would spend long periods of time presenting me with a list of diacritical marks to be put above vowels.  Such as é and ñ.  More beachball, and after twenty seconds or so it would produce one of the letters I had earlier started to type.  Alas, by then I would have started hitting the backspace, not remembering how far I had typed. wanting to start over.  For its next trick the computer would rattle my teeth with the sound of fast firing stuck keys.  I jumped the first time, thinking Al Capone was paying a digital visit.

The only solution was to reboot.  Peace and tranquility would then reign for several hours.

Over the next six weeks I talked to seven or eight Apple techs, the last two being senior techs.  Every sweet one of them ran me through lengthy fixes, and every one of those stopped the problem in its tracks long enough for me to not only thank them in person, but also to give them high marks on the customer surveys that would follow.

Then, like magic, after several days there popped up and stuck with me that beachball, the diacritical choices, the machine gun sound…

This computer had joined me a little over a year ago, long enough to be out of warranty by a couple of months.  Who on a fixed income gets those long term warranties?  Not me!  Rarely felt the lack, either.  Except with washing machines and dryers — but that’s another tale.

Senior tech #1 sent me a replacement wireless keyboard.  For ten days the ears of my dogs were never blasted by my unrepeatable howls.  Till:  “NOT AGAIN YOU BLOODY STINKING IDIOT OF A MISBEGOTTEN COMPUTER!!!!!”  And the ever effective:  “DON’T YOU DARE, YOU BAD MACHINE!!!”  Finally, “I HAVE A SLEDGE HAMMER AND I KNOW HOW TO USE IT!!!”

Senior Tech #2 talked to some committee Apple has, that decides what to do about misbehaving out-of-warranty-but-not-by-much computers.  They determined that “We have good news, we’re going to send you a wired keyboard.  You don’t have to send anything back.”

The new, extended model arrived by FedEx yesterday morning.  Upon unboxing it I decided that it would do well as a piano keyboard — it looked and felt that large after the standard smaller model of the past few years.

But what the heck, I plugged it in, fiddled with the feng shui of computer beauty and atmosphere with this white cord snaking around my antique pine table…

And it works!

I’m giving it a full month to prove it knows how to behave itself, though.  I do love it when Things.Just.Work! …

… The good news is — and I am feeling regretful about typing this on my dear old iMac — that if somebody has to die, better the computer than me, eh?

Polio Blogs 3: She learns to walk again

The last blog in this series left my six-year-old self lying in an old hospital bed with chipped enamel railings, devouring two bowls of vanilla ice cream smothered in mustard.

That bizarre meal — following a hunger strike — marked the end of my sullen rage at what paralytic polio had done to me.  For a time at Children’s Hospital I became the picture of puzzled cooperation.

Gnomish looking men began showing up at my bedside and they had an inexplicable interest in my motionless legs.   Tape measures and calipers took measurements that were carefully noted down.  All this began to make sense on the day when a gnome appeared, bearing a set of metal leg braces.

leg brace
A leg brace similar to the ones the gnomes made for me.

Image:  https://www.pinterest.com/emilylee1919/polio/


I had never seen such things before and had no idea what they were for.  A pair of Buster Brown shoes attached to one end of each brace was a clue.  Me, who favored sandals and sneakers, was I supposed to stick my feet into those ugly things?

Evidently I was.  At first the uncomfortable braces were put around my legs as I lay in bed, but quickly I found myself being plopped into a wheelchair and rolled off down long hallways till we arrived in a large room where a few other paraplegics were clumsily maneuvering along parallel bars.

Herein began a serious re-education in the fine art of ambulation.  Somebody picked me up, ordered me to grip a set of bars, then gradually let go of me.  Splat!  My arms, not long recovered from several weeks of paralysis themselves, were no match for gravity.

There were quite a few splats accompanied by howls from me.  A set of eyes belonging to a tall, youngish man on a nearby set of parallel bars began attracting my attention.  He had a man-sized set of braces strapped on over his pants and was struggling along the bars.  As he looked at me taking my tumbles tears began to run down his cheeks.

This was despite his pleasant face, where smiles seemed to belong.  I was perplexed.  A woman, obviously his wife, hovered around him.

Back in my obnoxious bed, I thought about him and these uncomfortable “leg irons” that bound us together.  He was the first person I’d ever seen trying to get around in the awful things.  I had the idea now of what was expected of me — and also that I was not going to make him cry again.

And I didn’t.  Slowly I began to be able to stand, hands on the bars, on my own, then to lean back and forth, to move each leg in turn.  From there I moved on to wooden crutches and slow, rigid legged marches up and down hospital corridors.

I found myself the personal pet of my new doctor.  Although his name was David Grice, I called him Fuzzy Wuzzy for his head of curly hair.  He was actually well-known for his work with polio patients in those days.  Some of his work remains available online.  None of this would have mattered to me just then.

He was sort of nice, in my opinion, but also troublesome when he would come round my bedside in the mornings with a dozen or so young doctors, residents, hanging on his every word.  He used unintelligible language, such as “latissimus dorsi” in describing the nature of my paralysis on these occasions.  He also developed a nasty habit of plucking my hospital johnnies off, poking some muscle or other with a pointing finger and describing its lamentable condition to the hovering residents.

Not then or at any time since have I liked hearing that anything about me was unfortunate.

I determined that a program of doctor education by Emmy was now in order.  During my early morning washing up I spat toothpaste into my bedside water pitcher, followed up with a bar of soap and all the hair I could pull out of my hairbrush.  That wasn’t impressive enough, so I thoughtfully tossed in the brush.

When I heard the gaggle of doctors moving in my direction I got my hand near the pitcher’s handle and waited for Fuzzy Wuzzy to come close to my bed, talking in rapid fire Greek and Latin terms to his gang of doctor thugs.  Just as he began reaching for my johnny up came my hand with the pitcher — which I dumped all over his head and shoulder.

Fuzzy Wuzzy may have taken that and my scowl in good humor, but the nurses — who all seemed to worship the man — did not.  Never again was I permitted a water pitcher.

I wasn’t done with him, though.  My progress at wobbling around the hallways pleased Fuzzy Wuzzy enough that he determined I would be the ideal patient for a demonstration before an amphitheater full of doctors.  I found myself deposited up on stage with him, wearing just a johnny.  He jabbered away in the usual foreign medical language as he began fumbling with the ties on my johnny.  “Oh, no, you don’t!” was the thought rising in my mind when he turned to me and said, “Go ahead and kick me, now!  Show everybody what those legs can do!”

I got myself lined up beside him, putting all the force available into one solid kick … between the legs …

And so ended my career as a demo patient.


Look in the Polio Category for earlier blogs about paralytic polio and me.