I was born in the era when polio had not quite been eradicated, but being I was just about knee high to a grasshopper, I did not understand the seriousness of the disease.
I went to school with a girl who wore a most uncomfortable and unforgiving black brace on her leg.
Once again, I did not understand why she wore that thing.
And I didn’t ask.
But then I learned she had contacted polio and because she had fallen prey to a disease that attacked children mercilessly and with a vengeance, she couldn’t run and play with the rest of us.
And when I linger in the shadowy halls of my mind where memories live, I remember.
I remember we had to take this little sugar cube.
It was easy. In fact, it did not taste bad at all.
And so, we took the sugar cube without question and then we went out for recess and laughed and ran and jumped like kids do until the bell rang bringing us all back inside to sit in neat little rows and learn our ABCs.
We had no idea that little sugar cube had saved us from contacting a horrific disease that caused paralysis and even death.
Lingering in the past with my memories for a while longer I catch a glimpse of my dad’s face when I told him about the sugar cube.
He looked worried, his icy blue eyes grave and questioning.
After all, he was a single dad, raising a tiny girl who had just reached the tender age of six on his own. I am sure he had no idea how to do it. He was, after all, a fisherman and a hunter who loved to watch Foster Hewitt’s hockey night in Canada on Saturday nights on our little black and white TV.
He did not know much about little girls who needed their hair brushed before school and were expected to wear cute little dresses and smell nice.
My sisters and brothers were teenagers or in their early 20s by that time so there was only me, a motherless waif, just starting out in the process of growing up.
Looking back with 20/20 hindsight I realize he did not know much about vaccines either and he was afraid for me every time I was poked with a needle or swallowed a sugar cube, but he did what any loving parent would do.
He protected me.
And so, I grew up fully vaccinated.
And for that I am grateful.
My husband and I received our second COVID-19 vaccine last week. A slight pinch and it was all done. And so, we went home and celebrated with a coffee and a cinnamon bun and a smile.
Three of my grandchildren, those who are old enough, have received their first COVID shot.
I am proud of them. And I am grateful.
And I think about my dad. The fisherman and the hunter who raised me the best way he could and made sure I got all my shots even though he was more than a little afraid and unsure of what he was doing.
I am proud of him, too!
Treena Mielke is a central Alberta writer. She lives in Sylvan Lake with her family.