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.