Monday, September 19, 2011

Walker

I walked to and from school almost every day. The school lay across the street and over the hill. We had to travel to the cross walk where the police ladies stopped traffic. No crossing anywhere else. When I started at the Oakview building, we tried to go over in front of our house on the crest of the hill, but the cop lady blew her whistle at us or if we got away with it, they always asked us the next day if we had done that.
Sometimes on rainy days a car showed up to gather all the kids. Maybe it was my dad's car, or Mr. Clarke,  Wencil's or Puhl's. I'm sure the parents had a network of a schedule. Mr. Clarke attended college, so he was free in mornings, sometimes. Mothers drove, too, but not mine. We scurried to the car and climbed in where we could. No seat belts then. And we always had a ride home in rainy weather, too.
My favorite time to walk home was in the late summer, early fall hot afternoons. I wandered through the back yards, sweater or jacket wrapped around my waist. Our neighbors, Jane and Bill Thompson, had a grape arbor. They were also my dad's cousins, so I never felt guilty, in fact, I think I had permission, to steal away some of those Concord grapes, warm and fleshy from the afternoon sun. That bright light filtering through the lumpy grape leaves, shadows flickering as I sucked the sweet purple skin to look at the clear green inside.
Being a privileged sixth grader, staying to help Mrs. M., I often started home after the police ladies left for the day. Sometimes I crossed Main Street, on the flat near the east entrance to town. That saved a few minutes and many yards out of the walk home.  
In the fall, after I got home, if Dad had worked day turn, he'd gather up whatever kids wanted to go for a ride and we venture over to Hartford apple orchard. He took some back way, probably up Yankee Run Road, past my Aunt Jim's house. The Hartford apple orchard was farther south on OH RT. 7 then, almost into Yankee Lake. I think sometimes we came out the Thompson-Sharpsville Rd. A quiet man, but always listening to the kids chatter, didn't say much unless needed. The evenings evolved quickly into a crisp cool night.
One day in late September I walked home and Dad came in shortly after me. An odd occurrence as we had breakfast together. On his way to work around 230 that afternoon, as he waited to turn onto Swamp Road to Farrell, an old man, talking to the three ladies in his car, rear ended my dad. Dad got out to make sure they were all OK and then went on to work his afternoon shift. His head throbbed like never before and he left work, highly unusual for him.
He quickly told my mother and me this story. It was a shock, but we felt he would get over it and continue to work. Just shook up this day.
A week later Dad had an appointment with the mill doctor, "stark naked" before the doctor, who gave the OK to go back to work.
This day, I crossed at the cross walk because I was walking past the church and manse. My mom called out to me from the side door of the manse. Rev. Hatch's car stood, the motor running. I ran up the little hill to them. Mom said,"Your dad had to go to the emergency room from work. Rev. Hatch will take me to the hospital." I was to stay with  Gail at the manse.    
I think from the sketchy, non medical method my parents had and plus being only 11, I can't be certain, but my father had a big blood clot("the size of a grape cluster") in his leg, that the mill doctor missed and I believe it was a mini stroke or some kind of blood clot that caused my dad to leave work for the emergency room that October day in 1972.   
The first of the major outside changes sixth grade was to bring.                                       
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