Sophie and Daniel struggled to keep their small trucking business open just before the Great Depression. Their only son Wesley was small and sickly, and at age three his right leg started to wither. They took him to the doctor and learned he had polio for which there was no cure and no recognized course of treatment. Every trip to the doctor was a strain on their already limited finances. The only thing they could do was buy a tiny leg brace to help him walk, albeit with a pronounced limp.

A month later Wesley was afflicted with a chronic ear infection, and Sophie was forced to consult a specialist. For weeks the screaming child was subjected to a variety of treatments with no result other than more expenses. Something had to be done.

Daniel held Wesley down while Sophie poured hot oil into his ear—a folk remedy from the old country. Eventually, the infection cleared, but Wesley’s eardrum was punctured, resulting in deafness. Sophie yelled at Daniel she couldn’t care for the child anymore. She needed a break.

They packed a small bag and told the boy they were going for a drive to see the countryside. After an hour, they stopped at a large brick building—Westchester Institute for Juvenile Delinquents, where a scowling attendant escorted them to a small room with four beds and a tiny window. They told Wesley they’d be back soon but started to cry, and the boy realized something was wrong. He grabbed Sophie’s dress and wouldn’t let go. Daniel pulled him away, and Sophie ran out of the room and got the attendant who held onto him so they could leave. Then the attendant left the room and locked the door. As Daniel drove away, Sophie looked back and saw Wesley waving hysterically in front of the tiny window, begging them not to leave.

At the end of eight weeks, they signed papers to release Wesley and took him back home.


Sadly, I’ve never celebrated Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. I still wear a brace, but there’s relatively little physical pain.

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    Margarida Brei
    Margarida Brei(@margarida-brei)
    10 months ago

    Preston, an interesting emotional read which explored so many dramatic events/occurrences- the Great Depression, polio, crippling medical bills, parental dilemmas. Also, I appreciated how you moved from the third person to first person telling.

    10 months ago

    After reading your comment, Preston, I see now why the third-person section was a bit stand-offish, not bringing the reader too close to the raw pain all three members of Wesley’s family must have felt. It must have been difficult for you to recount such a horrible childhood – of your own father. Bravo to you for the courage to write this. I do hope your father had or has a happier… Read more »

    Greene M Wills
    Greene M Wills(@greene-m-wills)
    10 months ago

    Such suffering for such a young child and his parents hard choice!
    He was his own man when he chose not to forgive…
    I loved the narrative switching from third to first person. Very clever!

    Allan Neil
    Allan Neil(@allan-neil)
    9 months ago

    It struck two chords with me, Preston. Firstly, my younger sister was struck down with polio. Although the brace came off fairly soon, she walked with a noticeable limp all her life. Secondly, I remember as a 4-year-old contracting scarlet fever and being shut in a room at an isolation hospital where my parents could only look at me through a closed window. I was dying for a hug and cried my… Read more »

    Lotchie Carmelo
    Lotchie Carmelo(@lotchie-carmelo)
    9 months ago

    Lately, I have been through a great depression too with health problem of mine and my children. My children’s illnesses and mine are recurring. And just like your characters, our finances are limited. And sometimes I have come to the point where I just want to beg for financial help and treatment. So I really feel your story and it reflects my life and problems right now. But I am fighting, this… Read more »

    Lotchie Carmelo
    Lotchie Carmelo(@lotchie-carmelo)
    Reply to  Preston Randall
    9 months ago

    Thank you so much, Preston. Please pray that I am cured of my illness.

    Christer Norrlof
    Christer Norrlof(@christer-norrlof)
    9 months ago

    I read some time ago that the negative effects of war continue several generations after the actual experiences. I think the same thing could be said about personal, deep-going experiences like the one you describe. As terrible as it must have been for your grandparents, your father was marked for life and his childhood obviously affected your own life in a profound way as well. It’s a heartbreaking and very well told… Read more »

    Linda Rock
    Linda Rock(@linda-rock)
    8 months ago

    Such an emotionally charged, well written story, Preston. All the more so from reading your comments about your father. A story that is close to my heart. My daughter was born with just 5% vision and mild cerebral palsy. At the age of 8 we had no alternative but to board her at a school in the North of England because there was nowhere suitable in the South. She was able to… Read more »

    Carrie OLeary
    Carrie OLeary(@carrie-oleary)
    8 months ago

    My grandma had polio as a child and ended up with a useless and withered left arm. She was fantastic though and if someone told her she couldn’t do something, she would always go out of her way to prove them wrong. I had great admiration for her. Like with your father, her family couldn’t afford proper treatment, but they were, happily, far more supportive.

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