Saturday, December 03, 2005

Lydia -- 1933

A faded, yellowed clipping is the only testament to your life—
an article recounting the tragedy that befell a Westside family
as they prepared for Thanksgiving, the first feast they would
have in a year. Those were lean years…the Depression still on,
and jobs scarce—but that week, grandpa had brought home
his first check in a year’s time—cause to celebrate indeed!

But there was to be no feast that year, no happy family gathering.
Worried parents instead paced sterile hospital floors,
waiting, hoping, as their precious child was placed in the “iron lung.”
Dad rarely spoke of you—what could he say, having so few memories,
being so much younger as he was? They wouldn’t allow him near you
after you’d fallen ill. They didn’t understand how polio was contracted then,
this disease that robbed children of their lives,
and left many more crippled for life—
but he snuck in to see you anyway. I wonder, did you know he was there?

How scared the other families must have been, afraid that their child
would be next. “They were playing together when she fell in the street,”
they would think, clutching their child close. “Please don’t let it be my child
next!” You can imagine the fear, the whispering back and forth, even as they
offered their prayers and support to a family in need.

They took up a collection for your burial, the local paper pleading on behalf
of a family in need, even as they relished in reporting the tragedy. Such news
sells papers, you know. I wonder what they felt—those who donated, and the grieving
parents longing to hold their little girl. There are no pictures of you, no mementos of
any kind—nothing save a faded, yellowed news clipping to honor so brief a life.

Lydia was one of my father's older sisters, who died of polio on December 3, 1933; she was nine years old.

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