It was the great Bob Dylan who groaned out the iconic, “The Times They Are A-Changin’” in 1964. I’m sure the poet and voice of my generation didn’t foresee 2020 when he penned those lyrics.
I think by now we’re all ready to chuck our 2020 calendars and start fresh with 1/1/21.
It’s safe to say we’ve lost spring and even if things loosen up for summer, it will be different.
I have to say, though, 2020 isn’t my first rodeo having lost two seasons. Just two years after Dylan’s ballad release, this young 10-year-old’s world came crashing down, so to speak.
It was the beginning of the summer of 1966 and St. Anne’s School in Fall River had just begun summer vacation — that time that every red-blooded 10-year-old American boy awaited all school year.
Just days into the summer break came my big break. I was playing in my pépère’s yard. It was a big yard that boasted the largest maple tree in the neighborhood and beyond.
It was a source of shade, of massive leaf piles in the fall, and enough branches and limbs to put the inner I-495 loop in Boston to shame.
Early that summer morning the sun was shining and the temperature was delightful — the perfect recipe for tree-climbing.
I climbed the neighbor’s fence and made a leap toward a branch about 10-feet high. I had made that flight dozens of times before. This time I lost my grip and went into Olympic mode, rotating out of control to the ground.
Safe to say, I didn’t nail the landing — the landing nailed me. I landed on my belly with my left arm beneath. When I got up my arm more resembled a tree limb than a human one. I had completely broken the radius and ulna about five inches above the wrist.
Cutting through all the drama that ensued, I ended up spending five days in Saint Anne’s Hospital. I really did a job on that arm.
So my first five days of vacation I spent hospitalized. Great. Add to that the fact that I had a cast on my arm from my fingers to my armpit.
It should be noted that back in the day there was no such thing as a removable cast. This thing was plastered to my little body and it weighed about 500 pounds.
When I was allowed to go home, I had more restrictions placed on me than a walk through a supermarket today.
I couldn’t go swimming, I couldn’t play ball, I couldn’t run around, I couldn’t sleep on my left side, and worst of all, I couldn’t scratch my arm that was in a constant state of itch from my fingers to my armpit.
I refused to go anywhere with my friends because it killed me to watch them doing everything I wanted to do, but couldn’t.
I was also told that if I whacked my arm again, it could break again. I remember sitting under the tree of doom in the shade on a folding chair. I leaned back too much and over I went — right on my arm. It ended up OK, but add sitting normally to the litany of things I couldn’t do.
The summer of 1966 morphed into the fall and I still had old faithful glued to my body. The new school year began, and with it came more restrictions. I couldn’t play in the school yard with my chums. I couldn’t jump into the massive pile of leaves left by the tree of doom. But, I did have to do homework. Somehow I couldn’t find the justice in that.
Well most of the autumn crawled forward and by then I had lost two full seasons.
The day finally came for me to shed my plaster skin. I went to the doctor’s office and he asked if I was excited to get the cast off. Luckily I hadn’t learned the fine art of sarcasm yet. “Yes sir!” I exclaimed. He left the room and came back with a pair of hand-operated plaster cutters. They looked like sheers that could easily lop off any of the tree of doom’s limbs.
I wanted out! The man with the enormous scissors assured me that they were safe and he would be careful. “Sure they are,” I thought. Hmmm. Maybe that’s when my sarcasm chord was struck.
He gently sliced his way from my fingers to my armpit. Voila! The 500-pound cast fell to the floor (or through it, I’m not sure which).
My arm immediately floated to the ceiling — at least that’s the way it felt. It was light as a feather. And not only that, it was all brown and scaly and hairy! I had one arm with hair and one without! I wanted the cast back on!
One of my uncles who was bald saw my arm and asked if the doctor could put a cast on his head. I got a chuckle out of that. Daily doses of calamine lotion got my arm looking like the other one and the hair fell out too, much to my uncle’s dismay.
Even after the cast was removed, I had many precautions to follow to ensure complete healing. I think by Christmas I was back to normal. Just in time to go ice skating at Kennedy Park! Now that I think back, I must have driven my parents nuts with worry.
It took a while, but I did return to climbing the tree of doom — without incident. And I never stopped loving that big old maple, even though it robbed me of the summer and fall of 1966.
I’m not sure how long we’re all going to have restrictions and precautions to follow; how long we’re going to have to stay at home and social distance. We may lose one season, maybe two, or maybe more. But I’m confident that just like the summer and fall of 1966, this will pass, we will shed our 500-pound casts and be able to play with our friends again. Here’s to that day! Peace and good health y’all.