Friday, June 26, 2015

The Confluence of the Playground Slide, the Oak Tree, and the New Mother





Ron and I had had our children about a month when we packed a picnic lunch to spend Sunday afternoon at the park/playground.   The merging of new parents and children tightly bonded to each other wasn't going too badly, but everyone was trying so hard, that a few hours at the park sounded restful.

(If you've been with this blog for a while, you know what happened to me on the slide, so skip over this to the next paragraph.)

I looked up at the long, high slide, then at my not-very-big children and decided I should try it first for safety sake.  (Ha!) So I climbed up, sat at the top, surveyed the situation, and whooshed down in my polyester pants, which doubled my speed.  (It couldn't have been the weight behind the missile.)  Half way down, I noticed a tree at the bottom, slightly to the left of center.  It occurred to me that if I put my feet down at the bottom, I'd probably tip headfirst into the trunk.  So my split-second decision was to fly off at the bottom, feet up, and sail past the tree.  Which would have worked if I hadn't landed on a root of said tree and broken my first and second lumbar vertebrae.

At the hospital, I explained to the doctor that we'd just adopted three children and I had to go home!  He explained in no uncertain terms that I could not, but there was a new treatment in place now that put people with such injuries on their feet in record time.  It involved a special back brace personally tailored to the patient.

My mother and father took over the household while Ron went to work.  (He was editor of a small newspaper in McMinnville.)  At 4'10", and after a tough childhood and a lot of her young life spent in a woolen mill, my mother was a cross between Stalin and General Patton when something had to be done.  My father looked like Perry Como and was just as sweet.

Mom's first heinous sin was to patch the knees of the boys' jeans using the fabric from their pockets, then sewing the pockets closed.  Mike and Pat are 52 and 51 today and my mother is long gone, but they have yet to forgive her.  I wasn't there, of course, but Ron reported a big scene.  My father found Kathy (then four years old) crying in her bedroom.  When he asked her what was wrong, she sobbed that she wanted her mother back.  Understanding that at that point, the poor child had a natural mother, a foster mother, and an adopted mother, he asked, to clarify, "Which one?"  She answered, "The one with the broken bones!"  (That's my favorite part of this story.)

Meanwhile, back at the hospital, I'd been there almost a week, and I knew my husband had a call in to the UN to send peacekeepers.  I had to get well and return in a hurry.

The doctor told me a specialist would arrive that night with the makings of my brace, which had to be constructed on me.  The man was making several other stops along the way, so wouldn't be arriving until late.

I was awakened shortly after midnight.  A nurse remained with me while the man took several flat, narrow metal pieces out of a briefcase, along with several strips of leather  and a baggie of  findings.
He climbed onto the bed and knelt astride my waist (honestly!), fitted the strips in place to form a sort of harness, then with a screwdriver (again, honestly!) secured them in place.  I can usually find equanimity in strange situations, but there's something  about having a man working over you in a hospital bed with building tools that's very unsettling.

Hoping to relieve the discomfort, I asked if he ever felt like Dr. Frankenstein, creating the monster.  His eyes met mine briefly, but he did not respond, simply continued to work.  In his defense, it had probably been a very long day for him, it was now after one a.m., and this patient for whom he'd driven all the way from Portland was making jokes about Victorian horror fiction.

Turned out, the brace was perfectly made, I was walked up and down the hospital corridors for the next few days, then went home.  My parents and the kids ran out to meet me as Ron helped me up the steps.  My mother was crying, and so was my daughter, who had wept for me while I was gone and now held me tightly, conking her head on my brace.

Bonding accomplished!   And all it took was a broken back, a UN peacekeeping mission, and Dr. Frankenstein.

Piece  o'  cake.

Please share anything about your family you think we'd like to know.

29 comments:

  1. Muriel, I found so much of interest in your blog, not the least of which your husband ran the newspaper in McMinnville. I worked on a paper there and went to McMinnville high school my freshman year. I grew up in Carlton and had worked on their weekly paper. My sophomore year our town consolidated with Yamhill and so part of our students didn't want to leave Mac High, but the rest of us went like sheep to become Yamhill-Carlton H.S. Also, I wondered if your mom worked at Thomas Kay Woolen Mills in Salem? If so, Denny's mother and his aunt worked there for many years. I recall a tour of the recently closed mill when Denny and I got married. So that's it for questions. Now I commiserate with your back injury even if it now evokes some interesting visuals.

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  2. Good morning Roz! The mill where my mom worked was in New Bedford, Mass. Wamsutta, I think. Ron reported on the sports at YCHS all the time. I have a bobbin from a mill that I found in a second hand store. I use it to hold a candle. My mom would be amazed that the bobbins she used to change are now collectible! Happy weekend.

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  3. I don't have anything to share about my family that's as interesting as your story. Only an entertainer and a couple of actors in my family, but other than that, nothing of note that I can think of. I hope you made a full recovery from your back injury. So you adopted three children? Did you ever write a book about that experience? Did you develop a fear of playground slides? Sorry about the questions, they just automatically came to mind. ( :

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    1. Hi, Laurie! An entertainer and a couple of actors?! Knowing more about them would be very interesting to me. About my back - if you're going to have something happen to your back, it should be a break because that heals where those strains and sprains haunt you for ages..I healed with only 2% of movement compromised. Helps that I was 28 at the time. I have not gone down a slide since. Thanks for checking in all the time. We love having you with us. Have a great weekend.

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  4. What a lovely, uplifting story, Muriel! Those of us who admired you before, admire you MORE after reading this blog post! God bless you for opening your home to those children, and for the sense of humor displayed even in times of great challenge! Big hug and lots of prayers coming your way. And I agree with Laurie Iglesias: Write a book about your adoption experience! :-) Have a wonderful weekend, dear lady!

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    1. Thank you, Loree! No admiration due - if I'd know what I was getting into, I might not have done it. And there were many times along the way when I'd have run away if it wasn't for good old Catholic guilt. But all's well that ends well. Thank you for the kind words. Happy weekend to you.

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  5. What a lovely, uplifting story, Muriel! Those of us who admired you before, admire you MORE after reading this blog post! God bless you for opening your home to those children, and for the sense of humor displayed even in times of great challenge! Big hug and lots of prayers coming your way. And I agree with Laurie Iglesias: Write a book about your adoption experience! :-) Have a wonderful weekend, dear lady!

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    1. Ditto! Now your post doubled. Wonder what it is about our site that's doing that? We need Pamela and Amy and Kate!

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  6. I love this story, but I always do like the ones you tell (and write). I've always felt as though we do get little pieces of your adoption stories in your books, from way back to Winter's Bounty, because you always made such wonderful whole families from pieces of fractured ones.

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    1. Hi, Liz! I love stories where people you wouldn't expect to get along somehow come together to form a tribe - The Ourlaw Josie Wales for one. I think God made one big family when he put us here, and it's up to us to make the connections until everything is love - quarreling, and disagreeing, and pouting, but in the end, love. (Why not dream big? Look at what the Supreme Court did today!) Happy weekend, Liz. Wish you could stop by for tea on my porch.

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  7. Great story! Did you ever try the slide again? :-) And I doubt you're the first parent who thought about running away. And my stories couldn't compare with yours...unless it's the snake story.

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  8. Hi, Patricia. I did not try the slide again. All the while the kids were at home I thought our problems were because we didn't have a common past, traits and qualities in common, but, from what I hear from everyone, it's pretty much the same for all of us - you think you won't survive them, and then they grow up. Happy Weekend!

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  9. Muriel, you are such a strong woman and a hero to me. Opening your heart to three souls who might never had a home or know that tea on the porch is a thrilling thing. You and Ron deserve special klieg lights and a red carpet wherever you go. I'm all gushy and so humbled reading your story. Take care of each other. What a fabulous life you've had! You must wake up everyday excited and wide eyed. I'm sending you a big hug. I hope it doesn't hurt your back!
    Fondly, Catherine

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    1. Catherine! What generous thoughts! Thank you. It was at least as hard for the kids as it was for us, but now we're like a fortress - that welcomes people in instead of keeping them out.. I am excited every day because, all in all, life is so good. Even better today because I was sitting on the porch reading Kristan Higgins when friends who've been away all winter stopped by - and I happened to have a bottle of Moscato! Have a great weekend. It's in the mid-seventies here and so gorgeous!

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  10. Oh, Muriel, how terrible for you to have broken your vertebrae, but thank you for sharing this touching story. I echo much of what Catherine wrote above. You are a truly exceptional lady!

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  11. Oh, Muriel, how terrible for you to have broken your vertebrae, but thank you for sharing this touching story. I echo much of what Catherine wrote above. You are a truly exceptional lady!

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    1. Thank you, Kate. I assure you there really wasn't a lot of nobility involved. We selfishly wanted children, so went to find some. Then, when it was a lot of harder dealing with hurt children than we'd imagined, sometimes the only thing that kept us steady was an unwillingness to subject them to a second rejection. Then, mercifully, it all came together and now we have what we went after in the first place. Hope you have a wonderful weekend!

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  12. Muriel, seriously--the way you manage to make me laugh and cry in a few paragraphs is astounding. You are truly a gifted storyteller. You should consider writing some books *wink* (I adore your books by the way.) Thanks for making my day.

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    1. Thank you, Carol. Such nice words make MY day. It's so beautiful these days, I can hardly stand it. Must be even nicer where you are? Have a wonderful weekend!

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  13. Muriel, that's an amazing story and told in a way that I'll never forget. I'd love to read your memoires. I'm pretty sure I'd be glued to the pages, laughing and crying all the way! You are amazing!

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  14. Thanks, Rula. By the time you're all my age, you'll have the stuff to write memoirs, too. It's all a matter of years. It's so cool that what was just life is interesting to other people. Happy Weekend. And watch out for those ticks!

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  15. Thanks, Rula. By the time you're all my age, you'll have the stuff to write memoirs, too. It's all a matter of years. It's so cool that what was just life is interesting to other people. Happy Weekend. And watch out for those ticks!

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  16. Thanks, Rula. By the time you're all my age, you'll have the stuff to write memoirs, too. It's all a matter of years. It's so cool that what was just life is interesting to other people. Happy Weekend. And watch out for those ticks!

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    1. Okay, this doubling up was my fault. Sorry!

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  17. Wow! What a story! Reminds me of sweet Uncle Dave who helped us remodel the house and put a nail through his hand. The orthopedic surgeon took one look and called for a pair of pliers!

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    1. Aagghh! Did Uncle Dave survive with a usable hand? Happy weekend, Dana.

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  18. You manage to make some real tragedies seem hilarious. That wonderful sense of humor gets you through an awful lot of things that would devastate most people. My next blog – The Buzzing Bees – goes into detail about some of my experiences.

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    1. Hi, Marion! Anxious to read about your buzzing bees. Nice part about being older is that we have lots to talk about - and this group is such a generous audience. Have a great week.

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  19. Wonderful post, Muriel! I really loved this one. :)

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