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  • Shortly after I was born, my father declared that my eyelashes were too long, "like a girl's", and he was going to pull them out. Instead, he packed his things and headed for New York City leaving me and my Mother behind to live with her parents. My grandmother and grandfather were fantastic and life on their small country farm was the best. Unfortunately, in the summer of 1956, when I was six, my family doctor told my mother that I had rheumatic fever which, at the time, was a leading cause of death in children my age. I was lucky to have lived near one of the best hospitals for children and was hospitalized for several months, after which, I was sent home to have very restricted bed rest; absolutely minimal exercise and rare time out of bed. My teachers came to my house to give me my lessons and I made very good grades (not too surprising since there was little I could do in bed all day other than study and do homework).

    On Sunday, June 8, 1958, I was allowed to go on my first trip out of the house with my mother and my grandparents. We visited my Aunt Hessie who lived about an hour away. Wearing socks and shoes was a real treat; my feet felt huge and heavy, and snug. My grandmother had combed a "wave" into my hair at the front that was held stiffly in place with a liberal application of Vitalis hair tonic. I sat in Aunt Hessie's sunroom enjoying my shoes and stiff hair until it was time for us to go home. Aunt Hessie picked a handkerchief full of ripe cherries for me to take home with me. They were tied into a small bundle and my mother placed them on the narrow shelf below the rear window of our car.

    The sun was low on the horizon when my mother pulled her brand new sandstone grey Ford onto the road home. My grandfather, grandmother, and I were in the back seat while my mother was driving and my mother's sister, Aunt Selma, were in the front seat listening to music on the radio and chatting. I was reading an Uncle Scrooge comic book in the back seat between my Grandaddy and Grandmother. The fading sunlight flickered between the pine trees as we drove past them. My mother and Aunt Selma were talking, singing, and laughing. The air outside was beginning to get cool as the sun sank lower and lower. The bundle of juicy, ripe cherries was nestled in the space between the rear window and the shallow shelf below it.

    My aunt and mother's singing and conversations were getting louder and livelier as we cruised down the country road. My grandparents were beginning to snooze as the daylight faded. I was reading my comic book and listening to my mother and Aunt Selma singing and talking. Their voices suddenly got much louder until their voices sounded shrill like one long scream. I heard an enormous, ear-splitting boom and my comic book page and everything around me turned jet black.

    When I woke up, I was on top of the hump in the floor where the transmission tunnel ran from the rear of the car to the front. Everything around me sparkled, the air was hazy, and I heard the tick-tick-tick of hot metal cooling. I could smell hot metal and gasoline.

    My comic book was covered with red cherry juice and my pants were covered with red spots from where I thought the bundle of cherries had been crushed. I stood up and saw that my Mother and my Aunt Selma were resting their heads against the back of the front seat. Everything sparkled in the late afternoon sunlight.

    I shook my mother's shoulder and called her name, but she started crying and making choking sounds. I was scared and looked back to my grandparents for help, but they were slumped down on the rear seat and covered with the red "juice" from the cherries. I heard voices outside the car, "There's a child in the car!" one man's voice was just outside of the rear window. I heard breaking glass and suddenly I was being lifted over my grandmother and out of the car through the broken rear window. Two men had pulled me from the car. I saw a woman lying on the edge of the road, covered with handkerchiefs and towels stained bright red. It was my Aunt Selma. Her face was badly torn and bleeding. I finally began to cry and a woman came and put her arms around me and led me away from the car. A little boy wearing a Boy Scout uniform brought me a towel to rub the "cherry juice" from my arms and legs. The woman and her husband took me to their car and lifted me into the back seat. As I was being carried to their car, I looked back at the two mangled cars and lying on the side of the road on the driver's side of my mother's car was a blood-stained white sheet, covering a body.

    One of the doctors in the emergency room took me home with him that night since no one knew what to do with me. He and his wife gave me some clean clothes to replace my torn and bloody clothes. I slept in their house that night.

    The following morning, the doctor took me to his mother's house where I would stay until someone could find relatives that could take care of me.I had scratches on my arms and legs and a sore, loose front tooth, but otherwise I was okay, physically. I didn't know that my mother was dead, and that my aunt and grandparents were in the hospital recovering from near-fatal injuries.

    Many days later, I found out that my mother had been killed and that the teenager who hit us head-on at an estimated seventy miles-per-hour had been drunk and was speeding after having an argument with his girlfriend. My aunt and grandparents survived, but I had to live with my aunt and uncle after the wreck (and that was the beginning of my second life) because my grandparents were in no condition to take care of an eight-year-old boy. My grandfather died (of a broken heart?) a couple of months after the wreck.
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