West Side Stories | Essay | Chicago Reader

West Side Stories 

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My father was hurt in an accident. This was 1922. He worked in a marble shop somewhere south. They had this machine they used to polish marble. When we went to visit him when we were little kids he would put us on it and make it go around like a merry-go-round.

One day while he was polishing marble, something fell and hit him. He fell into the machine, and the machine threw him around and out on the floor. They found him there and brought him home.

My mother was just getting dressed to take us on a picnic in Garfield Park, which she did many Thursdays. I always remember her with white blouses and long, black skirts. This day she'd put her skirt on, and it was inside out. She said, "Oh bad luck--I put my skirt on inside out."

That's how kids get these dumb ideas. So she turned the skirt around, and the doorbell rang. She went to the door, and there was my father, with two men carrying him. His head was crushed.

They said he had to go for X rays, so my mother sent me running over to get Aunt Maggie, who lived at Van Buren and Kedzie. She came over to watch the kids, and my mother went with my father and these men to the hospital.

He had a brain concussion and a fractured skull. He was 49 at the time. Before that he had red hair, but it all fell out. I don't remember if it happened in the hospital or when he got home. But he was almost completely bald for a while. When his hair did grow back, it came in gray. After that he was always gray.

And for the rest of his life he had a ringing in his ears.

He used to ask us to please be quiet. He couldn't stand the ringing.

He didn't get any money--not that I know of. He was out of work for a while. I couldn't say how long. I know he was lying on the couch for a long, long time.

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