Anyone who has ever moved from here to there understands the challenges of upending a life or otherwise turning it upside down for a defined and usually unpleasant period of time. The longer you are in one place, the greater the likelihood that your stuff outplays, outweighs and overwhelms. Paring down and packing it up is not for the faint of heart. Reinforcements are often required.
My move from a house of 20+ years was months in the making. More trips to Goodwill than I cared to count, dusty disposals in droves. And yet there always seemed to be another room to prune or box to plunder. That’s when I called Gloria, the undisputed master of the discard. I had reached my limit. To her credit, she knew this. “Gallagher, I got you,” she’d say before shoo-ing me from my home and, like a modern-day samurai, then ruthlessly used her weapons to jettison the clutter.
When she was ready, she would call me back to the house allowing me to see with wonder how she had magically eliminated whole rooms of stuff. I didn’t ask what she did or where it went. She’d then instruct me to review the contents of certain places or boxes and I always did as instructed. “Those boxes over there Gallagher,” she said as she pointed to an area in the basement. “Those you need to go through before we throw them out.”
It was a tedious chore, sorting through pictures or clothes that no longer fit or papers you’d just “hold-on-to-because” or reminders of life-gone-by. Gloria had the unique ability to only present me with the pertinent things; which along the way eased the emotions of letting go of things and taking only the necessary parts for a new life.
And, then, there it was. A yellowed paper in a nondescript folder among mismatched things. “Attending Physician’s Statement,” it read in simple typeface, dated 3-9-1965. My hand shook ever so slightly. This was impossible. I had searched for documents related to my burns for years. St. Vincent Hospital told me they had destroyed the original records related from 1964-1965. Dr. Lynn and Dr. von Heimburg’s offices had long since closed and disposed of the old records. It was only from the office of Dr. Hoops, who took over my care around 1966 after Dr. Lynn’s death, that I received any sort medical records. But never, never anything from the original incident.
I was looking at a document that shouldn’t have existed. One that in all these years, and throughout this search, I had never seen much less known was in my possession. Could it be that when my brothers and sisters and I cleaned out my parents’ home in 1997 after their deaths that this document was simply put in a box assigned to me?
I was dumbfounded and spellbound at the same time.
“Third degree burn of the right leg and buttock, involving 12% of the body surface area,” it read and then listed nine various procedures from December 2, 1964 through January 12, 1965, and six more office visits through March 9, 1965, conveniently offered at “no charge”.
“Patient is still under Dr.’s care,” it concluded.
This was Dr. von Heimburg’s invoice to the insurance company, Sun life Assurance Company of Canada.
Sometimes when you are not looking, you find the very thing you need.
This yellowed document confirmed the stories I’d heard and the memories I’d had. It’s one thing to believe something is true because you are told that, even when you can touch your own scars. It’s another to see and touch the documentation of it.
A blurry baby’s memory is true.
“Gloria,” I called out. “You are not going to believe what you found for me…….”.
Imagine if my modern-day samurai of disposal had thrown it out? Instead, she saved something-I-didn’t-know-I-had for me. God bless Gloria.
Next up: Dr. Lehman tells me my pediatric burn survival rate.