The first incident of a serious health situation, although I didn’t realize it at the time, was when my little sister, Mary Haug, at about age 3, was diagnosed with rheumatic fever. I should mention that it was also my first exposure to the “primary care” concept, which is so popular today.
Marie McManus Woster was her name and her office was her kitchen. A kid need not to have been very old, 8 or 10 for example, to know when there was something seriously wrong in the family – not because you were a part of the conversation, but rather the presence of quiet, concerned discussions between the folks, normally some distance from the children. Mary Alice was my first exposure to that scenario because 70 years ago, a rheumatic fever diagnosis was very serious.
I remember more than a few trips to Chamberlain for a visit to Doctors Holland or Binder and the more time-consuming trek to visit Dr. Bill DeLaney or St. Joe’s hospital in Mitchell. In those days, the Mitchell trip to Dr. DeLaney or St. Joe’s, was an uncommon occurrence. Fact check: if my memory serves me correctly, the main medical man in Mitchell and surrounding region was, Dr. Bill. I welcome the reader’s correction, as that was, as I said, 70 years ago.
What really sticks out in the memory bank about my sister’s illness, is how incapacitated, by necessity, was that little girl. A part of the treatment and recovery involved little, if any, physical activity, with the purpose being to avoid related side affects involving the heart and liver. I can’t imagine what Mother went through in the daily attempt to hold down a 3 year old, who, for the most part, felt decent and wanted to escape from the bed and simply run around. That’s when she turned to the older kids for help, as we took turns, entertaining Mary A.
Children’s games, endless walks around the yard pushing an oversize stroller and anything else, which might take her mind off her forced inactivity. Mary A. was unable to master the word “entertain,” so it came out of her little mouth as “aintain.” As much as a young fellow would rather be doing anything but playing and pushing, when the holler came, “Jimmy, aintain me,” that’s what I did. So too did siblings Jeanne and Terry. This should have been done with a bit of brotherly love but for me personally, it was more the fear of what would happen if I didn’t take my turn.
“Hey, Jimmy, what the heck are you doing in the cattle yard?! Isn’t it your turn to entertain?! Go on! Get in the house where you belong!” When any directive or order came from Dad with that firmness, there was no thought of protest or even discussion. Period.
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I think it worth a mention that all three physicians mentioned thus far were World War II veterans. Battlefield veterans, I might add, which probably explains the fact that there was hardly a medical skill that they were unable to perform. I don’t know where they learned obstetrics, but that too was often on display.
We did not live nearly as far from healthcare as many, but in bad weather, especially when the first 7 miles were gumbo, a “quick trip” to the doctor was not easily in the cards. Thus, Mother Marie’s role as our primary care person was out of necessity, not want.
In our Woster reunion conversations at Thunderstik Lodge, it is not uncommon for the conversation to turn to an injury or illness, which she deftly guided us through. I remember being awfully sick with something akin to pneumonia during one of the bad blizzards of the early 1950s and how frightened she must have been knowing she was the only care available.
You will notice I included Mother’s family name, McManus. It fits perfectly because we recently buried Bernie McManus, who spent his adult life in Detroit (long story), yet never missed the first week of pheasant hunting. Bernie was Red’s brother. Yes, the Red McManus, about whom I have written several times and who beat Bernie to that Irish heaven by just a few years.
It was a fairly “decent” day, for Lyman County and especially considering that the week leading up to Bernie’s farewell had produced day after day of 100-plus temps. Brother Kevin told us that St. Patrick had a part in the weather, which allowed the 100 or so participants to not only attend but actively be involved. A part of the “participation” was the 29 pheasant shotgun salute to the fellow, who named himself, “the old rooster.”
I saw family from Detroit, whom I had not seen in many years, old Reliance friends such as Donny and Bonnie Schindler, and of course a plethora of local cousins. We talked about our school days in Reliance, the camaraderie we experienced each year at the McManus family reunion, a traditional part of the annual pheasant opener, and of course, the many memories associated with the family plots in that wonderfully cared for small town cemetery.
I have mentioned before how truly blessed I am to have been born where I was, when I was and with whom. July 23, 2022, at the Reliance cemetery was another prime example.
Be safe, enjoy the family, say a prayer for moisture and thanks for what you do.
Jim is associate editor of Tri-State Neighbor and also works with the SDSU Alumni Foundation.