An Angel – Armed with a Butterfly and Pliers – Saved My Life

Aunt Pat.  Not blood relations… though she might as well have been, as I spent much of my childhood bleeding in her kitchen.  

Faided Rock Garden Memory

The fence between our yards.

Let me preface this tale with a bit of information.   Aunt Pat was not only an angel, she was a nurse.  Many people, in their moments of dire need, ended up on her doorstep requesting her expertise… especially me…. (In my defense, I was usually brought there via a frantic adult.) {mine}

About 45 years ago, my parents decided to build a dormer on the upper half of our tiny 2 bedroom house.  An attic, based on their growing family, was to be transformed into a master bedroom – an adult sanctuary away from the chaos of their little darlings.  This would also give those little darlings some necessary legroom, as we were piled into an overflowing space.

The attic stairs were raw wood, as was the attic itself.  The floor, unfinished plywood, and the ceiling an exposed frame, revealing the ‘private’ skeletal infrastructure of this place we called home.  

Dad – never one to pay anyone to do work he felt he could – started his new project.  I – being the ‘official’ side-kick – watched him work.  Amidst the stored household items – the old infant swing set, the bassinet, the toys, the boxes of who-knows-what – was a toolbox, a ladder, a sawzall, and Dad… measuring, cutting, and hammering away… and then there was me, chitter-chatting his ear off.  It was hot and sweaty, dusty and smelly – but I didn’t care.  It was a wonderland for me to explore – filled with a plethora of ‘forgotten’ toys, stowed in their boxes, just waiting for my baby sister to be old enough to enjoy.  

It was important that I kept busy, if I wanted my ‘side-kick’ status to continue.  So, I handed tools when asked, played and entertained myself, and most importantly, stayed out of Dad’s way.  Everything was going great, until it happened...  

Dad was steadying himself at the top of a ladder, fighting with a beam above his head.  His face winced as he tried to muster strength and gain the height he needed to maneuver.  He palm thumped his hand on the end of the uncooperative beam….. and the complete opposite end of the plank broke free, right over where I was standing. 🙁

Time seemed to slow down.  I saw my father yell, but I don’t remember hearing him… I saw his terrified eyes, as he pushed with all his might to shift the beam into another direction… but it was too long, as though he was on the other end of a virtual see-saw.  He was scrambling, clearly anxious, but I was too young to put the pieces together to realize the kind of danger I was in.  The beam crashed down, directly on top of my head. This is where my memories lapse (I’m glad I didn’t see it coming! Yeesh.) 

The next thing I remember was being cradled in my father’s arms, at the bottom of the attic stairs.  I opened my eyes, and although I wondered why he was carrying me the way he was, I was unable to move.  My body felt heavy and limp.  His shirt was no longer yellow, now soaked in my blood.  His face no longer held color, as fright drained his skin pale.  He and my Mom exchanged relieved glances at my momentary rouse… and my memories fade again... The next time I opened my eyes, as if by time travel, I was laying on Aunt Pat’s kitchen table.  

{I dare say her nursing skills were sorely tested in our neighborhood – she might as well have had a shingle hung on her front door.} 

Mom was nervously trying to calm my screams – yup, I was fully conscious – as Aunt Pat surveyed the damage.  I saw Dad standing there, not really knowing what to do.  No doubt his heart was racing, and I am sure he ran, carrying me the entire way.  I can just imagine how happy he must have been, to be able to hand me off to our very own, medically educated, guardian angel!

Aunt Pat ‘set me up’ with some fancy butterfly stitches. (Said in a manner to make it sound pretty;) 

It was a lucky, lucky day!  Remember that infant swing I spoke of?  The one with the old crank handle?  The one with that good ‘ol hefty construction of years ago?!  Well, that hefty beam crashed on THAT before it crashed on me!  The swing that lay in wait for my little sister to enjoy, claimed the weight of my crashing world.  (I am thankful that I didn’t see it coming, as the brunt of the impact was on my thick skull 😉 and not my freckled – looking-upwards – face!)  (Hey… count blessings where you can!)

The next life-saving episode, does not involve blood, but rather a special sweet

I was about 7 years old, wandering around the kitchen, sucking on my new round Tootsie Pop.  {Remember the Tootsie Pop commercials? Click here for a ‘sweet’ reminder}   A novel event, as the lollipops I was familiar with were the typical flat type, along with the fact that – thanks to sugar highs – my sisters and I were rarely allowed candy.  Hence, the specialness of my treat – though this is not the only reason I remember this particular pop. 

As I meandered around the kitchen table, Dad was blowing up a new beach ball.  It was considerably larger than a basketball and quite colorful.  Hovering over him, I waited to see the end result… it was exciting to see how big it actually got.  Dad finished, pushing the rubbery tab stopper in place, and we began playing a game of catch.  Back and forth, back and forth.  With each throw I gained confidence and skill, and threw it harder and harder… so, too, did Dad.  

Only, Dad had exacting cannonball skills.  We giggled and laughed as I ran to retrieve each escaped ball.  (He threw them so they would bounce off my belly – I thought this was hysterical – he thought my giggles were hysterical)  He sat in the hunky, wooden dining-room chair as we played… until I laughed so heartedly, bending my body and my cackling face – and lollipop stick – right into the line of fire.  The next thing I remember, is my fathers surprised face… as that lollipop stick disappeared down my throat.  

With the back of my head held in one hand, and the big fat fingers of his other hand stuffed into my mouth, he tried to grab the stick.  He could not reach it, and boy he did try… I remember him trying as I choked. I remember his eyes getting bigger and the ashen color his face turned as he realized he couldn’t grab it… Breathing was now my issue.  There I was, cradled in Dad’s arms, as he ran around the corner.  {My memories fade…}  Time travel ‘magically’ landed me on Aunt Pat’s kitchen table ~ again.  When I opened my eyes, I saw a pair of pliers holding the stick of my cherished Toostie Pop.  {Yup… pliers. Thank God the pop stayed firmly attached to the end of the stick!} 


A beautiful smile I can’t forget… and one she graced her children with.
(Aunt Pat with her dear friend, Katie)

{FYI – I enjoyed every minute of my time with Dad and I would not change a thing.  Of course, I am glad these nerve-racking happenstances were not often. 🙂  The saying, ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ comes to mind, as I remember my childhood neighborhood.  I share this story as a tribute to a key figure of my ‘Village.’  I wish Aunt Pat was here today, for this time it would be me hugging her ~ saying the Thank You’s I – no doubt – did not say enough as a young child.}

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

Me and Dad… I was ‘helping’ him build that model sailboat 😉
(One of my favorite photos)

If you’d like to ‘meet another of my ‘Village’ people – you might enjoy the story about Mrs. Capotosto. 🙂

4 comments on “An Angel – Armed with a Butterfly and Pliers – Saved My Life

  1. Colleen Bennett

    Great post, Nancy. Your descriptions placed me right in the attic with you. And the lollipop scenario … I had no idea. However, your love and appreciation of Aunt Pat shined the brightest. I, too, feel so blessed to have had her in my life while she was here and now, as she watches over us. 🙂

    1. Nancy

      Yes, indeed. Thankfully, I survived. Though I sure could have used her smile a bit longer… (understatement) Great memories!

  2. Debbie B

    Nancy, I love seeing your rock garden with our old house in the back. Your story was a great tribute to Aunt Pat.

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