Tale of a Thrice Broken Arm

broken-armby Anniel11/14/16
This is a true confession, a story of getting even. I’m not even sure I have ever been that sorry for what I did. We’ll see.

My big brother, Hank, has just been visiting Alaska for a short time. He moved here a year after I did, although he pretends he got here a year before so he can say he was here before Statehood. I guess he thinks that puts more hair on his chest, or something. He left here about four years ago and travels back every few years to see his kids and grandkids.

So he came over last week and I began teasing him about his left arm and how many times it got broken. It’s a story he doesn’t like, but I love to hit him with.

He was going on 9 and I was almost 6 when he went out with some friends and “borrowed” a neighbor’s horse to ride bareback. With his usual luck, he got bucked off and landed on and broke his left elbow. To set a broken elbow the doctor has to bend the arm and place the hand up on the shoulder of the same arm, then put on a cast and sling for the necessary six weeks of healing.

After the GP in our little town had done that, he removed Hank’s cast, only to discover that he had reversed the radius and ulna when he first set them. The radius doesn’t work at all that way, so off Hank went to the hospital to have his arm re-broken, the bones reversed, and then placed in a new bent-elbow cast for another six weeks.

We’re now up to two broken elbows. Hank was undergoing therapy to strengthen and straighten his arm. His birthday came and relatives and friends gave him money. Even our parents may have kicked in a few dollars.

I don’t believe I’ve told you, but my brother was often a mean kid, especially to me. One of the things he liked to do was get me someplace alone and toss insults at me. Tell me how ugly I was, and of course he said I was stupid. He would only strike when Mom and Dad were not around to hear. Then when he would finally made me cry, he would put out his arms and hit me on the forehead and laugh at me when he knocked me down. And he had all kinds of rude noises going while he was bruising me. I hated and was afraid of him then.

So he did that to me over and over again that day. Unfortunately for him it was his left elbow that had been broken, and I am right-handed. When he started throwing dirt at my face I finally picked up a stray piece of 2 by 4, swung it upwards and gave him a good whack on his left elbow. Break number three. It must have hurt like hell.

When I realized what I had done, I ran and hid in the chicken coop. I knew I was dead meat and my dad would use the razor strap on me.

Nothing happened after Hank stopped crying enough to go in and tell our parents his arm was broken again. They just loaded him into the truck to go get his arm reset, Dad swearing like a sailor all the while. Hank never squealed on me, even when Daddy made him use all of his birthday money to help pay the new doctor bills. He just told my parents he had gotten hit by a stick.

Ever after that Hank was very careful not to get within striking distance of me. He spent the next six weeks in a cast again and had a long period of intense physical therapy. He had such a hard time straightening his arm.

I kind of had a guilty conscience, but I was so happy to be mostly left alone. The years went by and Hank spent two years in the Army in Germany. When he finished his enlistment and came home, he finally told my parents that I had been the one who re-broke his arm. My parents were absolutely stunned. I assured them he had deserved it. What else could I say?

One evening I was in Fairbanks and Hank came in from the North Slope. He invited me to go out for dinner with him, which also meant we went to all of his favorite bars (me hitting the 7-Up pretty hard). One bartender said something about my being Hank’s new girlfriend. He laughed and said, “Nah, she’s my little sister.”

The bartender looked me over and said, “How did a sweet thing like you survive with a big galoot like him for a brother?”

I thought for a minute and said, “I broke his arm when we were kids, and never worried again. I was tiny but tough.”

The bartender started to laugh when Hank spewed his drink out and turned red with anger. He warned me later never to tell anyone about it again. I just looked at him smugly.

Come to think of it, maybe I was being prepared for when our youngest daughter, Cate, called from Boston where she was attending Northeastern University, and said, “Mom, don’t be mad, but I just fell, and I think both of my arms are broken.” Indeed they were.

She, at least, got a two-for-one on only one try. It took Hank three times to get an OUT!

I’m still not certain how guilty I should feel, but I plead self defense. • (509 views)

This entry was posted in Essays. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Tale of a Thrice Broken Arm

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    Guilty about doing it — or guilty about your later gloating? If he learned his lesson, I would say let him be. (I think the only actual broken bone as a child was a broken arm from falling out of a tree, but this is family lore — I have no memory of it. I think I was about 2 at the time.)

  2. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    This is another case of why they say,”You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family.”

  3. Rosalys says:

    Well, he stopped his bullying of you, didn’t he? I’d say it was well applied self defense.

    I am the youngest of three kids – even when I grew up, and had children of my own, I was still introduced as the baby of the family!) My brother would tease me relentlessly, and unmercifully, and I, having quite a temper, would scream, cry and generally have a fit, trying to make him stop. My mother always told me that I must stop reacting, that he teased me because I made it fun for him. (I must add here that my brother never hit me, or pulled my hair or anything physical. All the abuse was verbal.) Of course I never followed my mother’s (what I now see as very wise) advice. Generally I was verbal in my reaction, but I remember hitting him in the solar plexus once. Another time I picked up one of the dining room chairs and threw it at him. This I do not remember so I couldn’t have been much more than three years old – and thankfully, I missed. Eventually we grew up and the teasing stopped. Today we are very close. I can’t imagine my life without my big brother.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      A lot of this sounds all too familiar. As the youngest of 3, I faced similar hazing from my brother, and reacted similarly. I don’t remember the details (which is no doubt merciful), though I do recall complaining in public once about “six years in a torture chamber”. Eventually hating my brother became the dominant emotion of my life, though in the decades since this has finally mellowed somewhat. But we make no attempt to stay in contact with each other.

      When I was reading a book by Mercedes Lackey nearly 30 years ago that involved an emotionally abused child, it took me about twice as long as usual to read it because of bitter childhood memories that flooded back. This had an effect a couple of months later when my mother came up to stay with my grandmother a couple of hours away for a month — and when she called, those memories came back. I never did get around to visiting her.

  4. Lucia says:

    Don’t feel guilty for defending yourself. You didn’t do anything wrong, he forced you into stopping him the only way you had at hand. The fact that you are friends today is testament to your loving nature. In my book it wasn’t revenge at all, but maybe reminding him of it in front of his friends could be. That’s for you to know, though.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *