My dad contacted polio several months before my fifth birthday. I only have two distinct memories of him standing and walking before he became a quadriplegic.
My grandparents were building a house along the Hudson River using bricks from an abandoned icehouse. The property was over six acres, partially wooded, with a large garden, garage, outhouse (ooo!), boats and remnants of piers. My brother and my dad would go fishing when we visited, and I remember them coming up from the riverbank with their fishing poles and big grins, and Dad standing there with an eel wrapped around his shoulder. I’m sure that’s where my fear of snakes came from!
I also remember Dad teaching me how to ride a two-wheeler with my brother’s bike. He taught me how to get started using the bottom step by our front door and off I went, across the street and right into the neighbor’s hedge. I was furious that the hedge got in the way. And I remember falling and not being able to get back on the bike without a step to help get my leg over the bar without losing my balance.
My mom recently asked me if I remembered the cowboys and Indians at an amusement park. I absolutely do remember them, but I don’t remember my dad being there which surprises me. There were two amusement parks north of Glens Falls where my other grandparents lived, one was called Storytown and the other was called Frontiertown. Storytown had nursery rhyme characters, rides and buildings like the Gingerbread House from the Hansel and Gretel fairy tale. Frontiertown had a pillory, jail, dunking pond, buildings made of logs, and a stagecoach ride that went through the town and into the woods. Indians on horses and on foot attacked the stagecoach as it went through the woods, and one Indian grabbed my ankle. I was petrified that I would be scalped and screamed! I guess that’s why I was never big on westerns, either TV shows or movies, and I was undoubtedly traumatized by the Indians which is why I don’t remember my dad being there.
These are my only memories of my dad before he was stricken with polio that aren’t triggered by photographs.