Posted by: Elizabeth Anne Mitchell | July 30, 2014

WIPpet Wednesday, Memoir

WIPpet Wednesday is a blog hop of excerpts, hosted by the lovely K L Schwengel.  The only rule is that the excerpt have something to do with the date. If you want to join, the link is here.  Feel free to add your link, and please go visit and encourage the participants.  I am continuing to post from my memoir here,  and it is 3 paragraphs in lovely math of 3+0=3.

I will return to other wips, or at least cheerier parts of my memoir next Wednesday, I promise!

In the spring of fourth grade, I started feeling ill and having trouble hearing, so Mrs. B, my wonderful, kind, homeroom teacher moved me to the front row of the class.  She spoke to my parents, who were unconcerned. Every Easter, my father unveiled the camera for ceremonial pictures among the dogwood trees in our front yard.  In my picture, a stick-thin little girl valiantly tries to summon a smile for the lens, not quite hiding the pain in her eyes.  Less than a week later, I reluctantly told my mother I thought something might be wrong with me, since my urine was the color of Coca-Cola.  She thought I was faking, a bid for attention, but I took an old cough medicine bottle andbrought her the proof. After much railing about the expense and bother, my parents took me to the pediatrician, whom I’d seen the previous summer when my eardrums ruptured.  Once the pediatrician verified that I had not contaminated the sample with any foreign substance, she tested it.  When she came back into the room, she was very angry, and I was so afraid I had done something wrong. Her voice was very tight, but she spoke gently, telling me I was very sick and had to go to the hospital.  Palpable frost entered her voice when she turned to my parents. “She has the strain of strep that causes rheumatic fever,  but it has attacked her kidneys instead.” She stopped, shook her head minutely, and continued.  “She has been ill for weeks, if not months. You will take her to the hospital now, and I will meet you there.”

I was in the hospital for over a week, and confined to bed for four months.  My mother stayed in the hospital with me, but seemed angry and distant as always.  My father showed the first crack in his immobile exterior that first day, turning pale and anxious as the doctors explained my illness. I knew I was very ill, perhaps dying, when my parents allowed me to have as many soft drinks and popsicles as I wanted. I found out years later that my father’s best friend had died of the same disease when they were ten years old. I turned ten the week before I entered the hospital.

I took penicillin for a year after being released from the hospital.  My parents had no medical insurance, and were drowning under the expense of my hospital stay, so the veterinarian who lived next door gave us the canine version at cost. I became the invisible invalid, ensconced on a couch moved into the corner of the dining room.  Everyone walked by me, but never stopped to talk or visit. I lived entirely in my head that summer. I planned my life, daydreamed, read books, and decided I was not going to die.




  1. Once again you’ve kicked in my protective gene. I want to travel back in time and fix this. But what a powerful last line! And so much for such a young girl to have to bear. Your strength is obvious.

    • Thanks, Kathi. It’s strange to look back, realizing how normal it all seemed to me at the time. I think feeling it was normal was the only way to get through it, really.

  2. […] with increasing my word count, so I am pleased with myself. 🙂 I put up my WIPpet Wednesday post here.  I feel as though the memoir so far is quite the downer, but I don’t know whether to pull […]

  3. Good for you for taking that difficult experience and turning it into a decision not to be defeated. *hugs*

    • Thanks for the hugs, Ruth. When I’m not feeling very strong, I think back to that little girl.

  4. Wow. Yeah, that puts my mom-senses on high alert, too. I can’t imagine not noticing for that long that my kid was sick, nor can I fathom acting like the illness is a pain in MY butt. I would be devastated if that happened to one of my little beans.

    • I know, Amy. Once I had kids, it mystified me, too. At the time, I had no idea it wasn’t the norm, which is probably good.

  5. Thank heaven you lived thru it and that no one else got ill. That’s rough that you were there but no one wanted to talk to you. I mean, doctors and hospitals are expensive, but even so, what price do you put on the life of your child?

    As horrible as the story was, it was good to read.

    • I’m glad it was good to read, John. I think, honestly, that I was the “extra” kid, so it was unacceptable to cause any problems. I was still apologizing for myself well into my thirties.

  6. Isn’t it amazing how things from your past as a child come back to bite you as an adult with your own children? My mother had a similar experience as your father.

    • Oh wow, Adrian. I cannot imagine having that experience. When I had kids myself, I thought about having one of them that sick, and the thought is horrible.

  7. Powerful excerpt. I feel for that poor, sick little girl. I also feel admiration for the grown-up woman.

    • Thank you for the sympathy, and also for the admiration, although I don’t feel I did anything to deserve it. Even when I didn’t think it was completely normal, I thought it was my fault.

  8. That last line is very powerful. I don’t have kids, but it still baffles me that some parents could be that ignorant to their child’s plight.

    • Emily, I really look back in amazement at how invisible I was. A few months before I went to the hospital, I visited a friend’s home for a sleepover, so I was starting to see the dissonance.

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