It was 1944. Donald was a Marine in the hospital recovering from his war wounds. He was shot through the shoulder and shot through the knee. His recovery would be long and challenging.
After his initial months and months of rebuilding his leg, he was finally able to start with braces and orthopedics to teach him to walk again. He was hospitalized for over one year.
When he was released, he went into vocational rehab to teach him a new profession. He went into orthopedics and worked mainly on artificial limbs. In those days, artificial limbs were heavy and made from wood.
While in the vocational rehab, he met Elizabeth on a blind date. She was in the nurses corps and dealt with many returning soldiers returning with injuries. They had an immediate attraction and respect for each other’s position at the time.
Donald proposed after one week. Elizabeth's family was not happy with her choice. At that time, they considered him a "crippled" and the family feared for her future. Donald's family was not happy either because of religious differences.
But Donald and Elizabeth were in love and wanted to spend their lives together. Because of family resistance, they agreed to put their marriage off for a while. Three weeks later, they wed.
Over the next eight years they had four children: Don, Sharon, Gail and Jan. Life was very busy for them raising small children.
Donald and Elizabeth were very good at teaching important lessons in life. They always concentrated on teaching kindness and compassion. The family was extraordinarily close and loving. From very early on, each child knew the importance of family, and family time was very precious.
Donald was the tender heart and Elizabeth was the structure. They made such a beautiful couple. They danced all through their marriage. The kids loved to watch them dance and laugh and enjoy each others company.
As the years went on, Elizabeth continued work in nursing and Donald remained in orthopedics. That business changed so much over the years that there were always new techniques to master and new advances possible. He no longer just worked with the artificial limbs and teaching patients to walk with them, but advanced to working mainly in the operating rooms in Los Angeles on patients with broken necks.
He would install a "halo" on the patient’s head. In the old days, if you broke your neck, you were either dead or at least confined to a bed for a very long time. The halo is a large metal cage that attaches to the skull and totally immobilizes the spine so no movement is possible, but it makes the patient able to be up and around.
Donald and Elizabeth really loved orthopedics and really loved all the time they got to work together. Elizabeth especially loved working with all the special needs children.
Donald and Elizabeth enjoyed 47 years of a beautiful, happy marriage before Donald died of a heart attack.
Now as a grown woman, I count my blessings every single day of my life for the many life lessons that Donald and Elizabeth taught. Those lessons have truly filled my life with smiles.
Today I have two thoughts:
1. That must have been some blind date!
2. Now I understand why there were always wooden legs burning in our fireplace.
Gail Earl is a member of the writing class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program. It is held off-campus at the Norwalk Senior Center.