A day that I will never forget. I was not quite five years old, and my mother and I and my baby brother had taken a bus from Cuba, Mo. to Sullivan, Mo.( Mom was going to do some Easter shopping or something.) My Grandpa Brake had picked us up at the bus stop and taken us to my Grandma Fortner’s. That was way cool because Grandpa was a policeman!
We hadn’t been at Grandma’s very long, when Grandpa came back. He came in the door and he was crying. (That in itself was freaky, because I had never seen him cry.) “Spike has been hit by a car.” He said. At first I thought he meant his old dog Spike, and I remember wondering why he was so upset about his dog. Then it hit me that they were talking about my brother Phil, who was sometimes called “Spike.” Phil had been hit by a car as he was walking to school. There were no ambulances in that town in those days, so Phil was treated at the accident site by Dr. Elder and then taken by hearse (from Horner’s funeral home) to St. Louis. (Or maybe there was an ambulance and Mr. Horner drove it, I can’t quite remember, but Mr. Horner also had a funeral home and that was stuck in my head.) They stopped in Sullivan to pick up Mom and she went with them to St. Louis, leaving my baby brother and I at Grandma’s.
Phil was in bad shape. A compound fracture of his right leg. A compound fracture of his right arm. His skull was crushed in on the right side and his nose was almost ripped from his face. And in a coma. For the first 72 hours they didn’t know if he would live or die. I am amazed by the quality of care that he received. (remember its 1959?) He lived. No brain damage, but some physical scars. His recovery took months and several operations, but he made it through.
I was not without my own emotional scars from this period. My baby brother and I spent weeks on end at my Grandmothers. Mom stayed in St. Louis with Phil and Dad had to work and then he would go to St. Louis at night to the hospital. I missed my mom and dad, and grandma and grandpa had their hands full with my baby brother. So….that was the beginning of my “aloneness.”
I tell you all of this, not for sympathy, but as background information. April 7 never comes along that I don’t think about “the accident.” It occurs to me this morning that I have made my peace (finally) with the changes that event brought to my life. For so many years, I grieved over things that I had no control over.
For the first time this year….I want to think of this “anniversary” as a celebration. A celebration honoring the brother that is still with me. A celebration honoring the healing of very old wounds. A celebration of my own strength. And lastly…a celebration of thanks for all of the good things that have come about as a result!