Wednesday, February 2, 2011

... they'd turn my head and hold it facing away ...

The Willie Lee and Eddie Briggs families had fun together!  There were 14 of us kids all together and shortly after this, another cousin was born, Karen.  A couple years after that, our brother Stanley was born. We were double first cousins; Mother's brother Eddie married Daddy's sister, Bertie.  Uncle Eddie and Aunt Bertie lived in Texas. 
The Lee and Briggs kids, minus the three oldest Lee kids
Karen Briggs was born the year after and Stanley Lee was born the year after that

The following year I started school in the first grade. I didn't cry when Mother left me in the classroom with my teacher, Mrs. Jones, and my new friend, Vicki Grimes.  I was content in school.  In September of '61, hurricane Carla took all of Aunt Bertie and Uncle Eddie's belongings. Karen was just born the previous month.  All they had was what was in their car and they headed to Florida with 6 children, the youngest only one month old.  

{From Aunt Bertie:  We are so glad your mother kept up with pictures and  shared some with us ... as we lost all baby pictures of the first five children and even had some Bell Howell home made movies of them that we lost.  We had an 8X10 of each in a frame that is lost forever.  Uncle Eddie did find his dad and mom's double frame 8X10 caught in a fence after the storm.  So happy it was found!}
Our big house could hold more and we kids were delighted to have more cousins around.  I'm sure the squabbling of kids wasn't always fun and I'm sure we had our share of differences.

George and Edith when Edith was in first grade

One day we kids started becoming sick with the flu. Imagine - a whole slew of us kids getting the flu!  Each time we became sick, Mother would take one of us to the doctor and Dr. Harrell would tell Mother what medicine and treatment to use for all of us.  Dr. Harrell understood farm finances.  

After a while, I was no longer able to walk.  I laid there, not moving.  When Jimmy came in from the school bus one day, Mother had him carry me out to the car and they took me to Dr. Harrell's.  He looked in my mouth and under my fingernails and sent me to the hospital.  Although normally accompanied with a visible rash, my scarlet fever rash was only in my mouth and under my fingernails.

My first memory of the hospital was of nurses trying to put in an IV.  My arm was strapped to a board and they failed, one by one, to get it in.  Mother said that Dr. Harrell had to put in the IV.  I was so sick that I never objected to any of it.  I remember them telling me not to watch and they'd turn my head and hold it facing away from my arm.

The Lee clan (without the Briggs) when I was in first grade

What I didn't realize (but my cousins made sure I knew later) was that they had to all get shots because I had scarlet fever.  When I had visitors, they had to put on a mask and gown to enter my room.  I was the only patient in my room.  I was in isolation.  Mother didn't have to wear the mask and gown and was there all the time at first that I remember.

Tomatoes were not my favorite food.  I ate them only in the form of ketchup.  Although we had fresh tomatoes from Daddy's gardens sometimes and from other farmers, I never ate one.  But when a nurse entered my room one day, she asked me what I wanted to drink.  She gave me choices.  Coca-cola, juices, and tomato juice were three choices that I remember. They desperately wanted me to drink a lot of fluids.  I always considered it a sign of how sick I was when I responded with "tomato juice".  I fell in love with the taste and to this day it's one of my favorite drinks. 

I received shots often.  In those days, shots were put into our bodies, not into an IV line.  Mother said that the first two days that I was in the hospital they gave me shots given again and again, I would never cry or even object.  I just laid there.  On the third day, I cried when the nurse came in to give me a shot.  Dr. Harrell told Mother that it was then that he believed that I would live and come out of the hospital again.  

I couldn't sit up at all for days.  Mother would lift me every day, helping me to sit upright, but I'd just flop against her without any strength.  Mother or one of the nurses would lift me enough to drink through a paper straw that had a crook in the end.  Those straws fascinated me.  The straws at school were straight.  These were wonderful!

Mother, Daddy, and Edith - first grade

I remember the day that I finally had enough strength to sit upright.  Mother hovered beside me, arms on each side to catch me, and proudly showed each visitor that I could sit up again.  I was proud that Mother was proud.  I was too sick to realize that I was really sick.

After coming home, I slept in a lawn chair in the living room, right outside Mother and Daddy's bedroom door.  When I needed to go to the bathroom, at first someone would take me.  As I gained strength, Mother would walk beside me as I used my hands to support myself as I walked down the hall.

Finally it was time to go back to school!  Mother left me and I cried.  Later I went into the school bathroom several times a day to cry. Mrs. Jones would open the door to find me sitting down, crying.  When I went in, I wouldn't come out until she brought me out.  Finally, she reached the point where she would ask another student to go tell me it was time to come back to class. She was always kind and gentle. It was weeks before I was content in school again.  I suppose all that attention left me spoiled and I became a spoiled brat.

{Aunt Bertie: When we were with you all after Carla, I had blood poison in my foot from the storm. Your mother took care of all while uncle Eddie took me into the doctor in Ocala. He wanted me put in the hospital. I cried and said no, had to be with Karen and rest of family and we needed to get settled so the kids could get back in school..... so he said he would give me a shot each day ... after the third day I went in all swollen and broke out in a rash... The doctor told me " no more penicillin for you"!!!   I had to keep my foot elevated, so your mother had all the work to do of feeding Karen (five weeks old) plus everything else for the entire family.  Your mother and dad were really special !!! (For some reason, after the storm  I mostly hung on to my new baby! I think Karen kept me sane at that bad time.  But you know, seems always something good came out of that time. We learned ' it isn't what you have, it is what you do with what you have... and memories and family and friends are more important than ever. We learned to appreciate our blessings.}

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