Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Sick Beds Anyone?

There is an interesting story in my family about the day my grandfather was accidentally shot.  He lived on a farm with his parents and his 11 siblings.  One afternoon his older brother was sitting on the porch cleaning a shot gun and it went off, sending a bullet out into the yard, and ultimately into my grandfather's abdomen.

Luckily, his family owned a car so they put my grandfather in the back and some number of the worried family headed 25 miles  to the hospital in town.   One of the fascinating details of the story is that the bullet entered his body in the area of the navel.   But due to the very bumpy country roads and the early edition (bumpy) car, by the time he arrived at the hospital, the doctor could not locate the bullet.   Surgery was performed and the bullet was finally found about six inches lower, having been bumped down that distance  by the ride into town.  

My grandfather survived with a wicked scar and a most excellent story to tell the rest of his life.  

One detail of the story that captured my attention as a child was my grandfather's description of his first memory of working on the farm..   He said every morning, as his family headed out to work in the fields, his mother put the baby in a hole that had been dug in the dirt.   Because my grandfather was next to the youngest, his job was to stand by that hole all morning and push the baby back in if she tried to climb out.   To him, all the other jobs looked infinitely more interesting I'm sure!  

Just a few years ago, I found an actual news story about the shooting incident, written in the local newspaper.   It was written in that captivating style of days gone by and places gone forever where the reporter could assume everyone in the town knew each other and enjoyed hearing all sorts of endearing details about the people involved in the news.  

Even though I can't remember a time in my life when I did not know this piece of family history, once I had the chance to read the written news report, I was struck by a completely different perspective.  I found myself drawn to the character of the mother in the story.  She was my great, great grandmother and I never knew her in this life.  

I know she lived on a farm without electiricity, and she worked every day indoors and outdoors.  She lived without electricity, but she could bake amazing Black Walnut Cakes and coconut pies.   I can't imagine how she did it all without light or central heat, a dishwasher, or electric washing machine.  And she managed to give birth to 14 children, 12 of which lived to adulthood.  

As I read the news article, most of the details were familiar to me, and I was pleased that through the telling and re-telling we had managed to keep mostly honest.  But there was one part of the story no one had ever shared with me.  There was one sentence that jumped out at me and haunts me even now.

The article read, "In spite of having pneumonia, Lucy B got up out of her SICK BED when she heard that her young son had been shot in the front yard".   Wow.   I'm having trouble wrapping my mind around the idea of a sick bed.   How did a woman with 12 children manage to spend time in her "sick bed"????  

All I can come up with is that during this period in history, before antibiotics, if you became ill, you went to bed and either you got better or you didn't.   That's what my historical thinking brain tells me.   But my mother brain can't stop thinking about all the things that fall apart and don't get done if happen to take a nap.  I've been a mom for 24 years, and I've never taken to my sick bed!!!!  

I'm not saying it was a sign of weakness on her part.  Not at all!  I am sure this woman could run circles about me and my whimpy little microwave warm ups and numb back side from typing on my labtop!  She is my hero!   But how did she do it?   The logistics of it puzzle me.......

Have you ever spent time in your sick bed?   Have you ever had crazy thoughts when the doctor says you need to "go home and take it easy for a few days" or, the one I love, "stay off your feet".   It's not only not possible, but the disasters that would await me when I got back on my feet, would certainly undo any healing that took place during my rest.

So I puzzle over how it must have felt to be so sick and have none of the modern conveniences.  And I try to imagine how it was to stop everything and take to a "sick bed".   It was a different time.   I wish I could travel back into that era.  No doubt this woman could teach me many things.   She was definitely strong and smart, hardworking and creative. 

Yes, an ancestor such as this woman could teach me many things that have been lost by our modern way of life.....I'm sure I would be astonished to learn what her daily life was like.  And if it I was able to spend time with her, I bet there would be a twinkle in her almost familiar eyes as she took me by the hand and showed me how to take to a sick bed when needed.  


Anonymous said...

i love digging into family history, interesting story!

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