It was the summer of 1967. I was 5 years old. A time when a kid should be able to be a kid. But for my older sister Jeanie and me, our summer was anything but fun.
Jeanie is 4 years older, and as a kid, I adored my big sister. I was her shadow. When she was home from school, we were inseparable. Our entire day would be spent together. From the moment we woke up in the morning, until we went to sleep in the same bed every night.
This particular summer, our sisterly routine, was painfully broken. Jeanie was sick with what started out as an infection. But that infection turned into a severe case of Scarlet Fever. Anyone who lived in the 60s or earlier, knows how frightening Scarlet Fever could be. Doctors didn't have the medicines or knowledge to fight it like they do today.
The scariness of this fact was quickly apparent, even at 5 years old. I could see the worry & concern on the faces of every adult. I was most frightened of the unknown. At only 5, I was very confused by everything going on around me. Scarlet Fever is very contagious, so I was quickly taken away from my sister. Having my sister taken to the hospital, along with my parents, was devastating.
I went to stay with my favorite aunt and her 2 teenage daughters. My aunt Rena always made me feel loved, special, and wanted. And I adored my 2 cousins. So there was no place better for me to be at this time. I ended up staying there for over 2 weeks. Which as you could imagine, felt like an eternity to a child.
My daddy came to visit me at breakfast time, every couple of days. The look of worry, sadness, and exhaustion in his eyes scared me. He tried to hide it by bringing me a treat, but I knew his crystal blue eyes too well. Yet, I still chose to believe him when he assured me everything was going to be okay.
My aunt Rena did everything possible to keep me entertained and comfortable. But one day, about 10 days in, I couldn't take another minute. I was painfully homesick. I wanted my mama, my house, my toys, and my sister to play with. I decided that I would go home. I asked my aunt and cousins repeatedly if they would take me home. Every time, the answer was no. Well, I thought, if they won't take me, I will go by myself.
I went outside and sat on the front stoop to make up my plan. Before long, my aunt came out to check on me. I once again asked her to take me home. She again said no. So, I told her I was going to run away and go home by myself. She laughed and sweetly said, "But you don't know how to get there." I confidently replied, "Yes I do!" Still smiling, Aunt Rena asked to me to explain to her how I would get home by myself. I then replied, without one hesitation, and in great detail, every single step I would need to make, every landmark and business I would pass, and every bend in the road, for the entire 9 miles to my house. My aunt's eyes got as big as silver dollars, and her smile was gone. She sharply said, "Get in the house!". I was not allowed to play outside again, for the remainder of my visit.
I am happy to say that my sister Jeanie did get better. After a lot of suffering and recovery time, she was a healthy little girl again. It was a long summer for all of us, but a blessed one in the end. Certainly, one I will never forget. I love you Jeanie.