When I was five years old, I got to spend part of my summer with my grandparents on their farm. I loved being on the farm. There were always so many things to see and learn. Besides, I got to do things there that I didn’t get to do at home.
I suppose I made as much of a nuisance of myself as most little kids do, constantly asking: why? whatcha doin’? how does that happen? can I help next time? See, not much different. I was a questioner even then.
That was the summer that took my life out of focus for much of my life. That was the summer that I nearly lost an eye, and when I learned just how much of a hero my grandpa could be.
I followed grandpa around like any pet. That day–I can’t remember whether it was early morning or late afternoon—I went to the barn, which was at least a football field length away from the house, to watch Grandpa milk the cows. He was in a stall with a cow when I got there, and the stall gate was closed and secured.
I climbed the gate to release the wire latch. Hanging there, one arm over the top, feet braced on a cross board below; I discovered what “impaled” meant. I didn’t know the word, but I’d learned the definition.
A rusty wire, hanging loose, ran into my left eye socket and around the eyeball itself to stop short in that position. I screamed, in pain and terror.
I didn’t dare move. Instinctively, I knew no remain as still as possible.
Grandpa jumped up to see what had happened. He knew I was at the stall gate, but hadn’t seen what happened.
When he began to open the gate, I screamed for him not to. The jostling wasn’t good for me. It took him a moment to realize what had happened. My saving grace was that he didn’t panic.
Instead, he climbed over the other open stall wall, found a pair of wire cutters and clipped the wire from the gate that I clung to with limpid quality strength. He coaxed me down into his arms and told me to hang on to him. That’s when he began running back to the house.
During his run, one of the smoothest trips I’ll ever remember, he gently worked that wire from around my eye; no small feat, if you ask me.
You have to understand that this was back during the early 50’s. Getting an ambulance out to the hinterlands was nigh on to impossible. Grandpa drove me to the nearest hospital. One of my aunts laid me across her lap in the front seat of Grandpa’s old coupe and kept a cold washcloth over my eyes.
Tears? You betcha, there were tears. Fear and pain made sure of that. All I wanted was my folks and I just knew that I’d never see them again. And I meant that in several ways.
I can still envision that hospital exam room. It was kept dark. The only light I recall came from the reflector band on the doctor’s forehead. There could have been others, but that was the one I remember. Grandpa and my aunt were there with me.
There is a gap at that point in the memory. How Grandpa got hold of my parents, I still don’t know. We had no telephone back then.
But, as if my magic, my folks found me in that hospital room hours later. I was an emotional wreck by then.
My eyes had been covered to protect them from infection and the light. The left eye had been lavaged several times to keep infection down. I’d been given a tetanus shot. They were able to take me home.
What we learned was that my vision was so poor before the accident that the doctors had trouble understanding how I hadn’t had a major injury before this one. From what they could tell, I was almost blind then. They felt that they might have caught the severity before it became untreatable with corrective lens.
Regardless of reasons or prognosis, the truth was that my grandpa was my hero. He saved me from certain blindness. He saved me from more pain. He was there to carry me to safety.
It’s too bad that he’s also the same grandpa who received the kick in the shin because he admitted that he didn’t know where my parents were or when they’d return. That’s no way to treat a hero.