My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

Text Size: Small Text Normal Text Large Text Larger Text

HYDE PARK, Tuesday—I had an interesting experience yesterday afternoon. A woman in Poughkeepsie was interested in a case of infantile paralysis, a girl who is now about twenty-nine has been ill for a good many years. Her family have a little grocery store on the corner of a downtown street and they wanted me to visit her. We stopped before the door, a Scotch terrier was tied to a long strong outside, and while I was being told some of the details of the case, I watched his maneuvers with amusement. Every time a customer went through the door, it was left on a crack and he would insert his nose and make his way inside. Two minutes later he would be shoved outside again with a resounding whack which he took most philosophically, quietly watched the children at play in the street or ran around as far as his hope would let him and waited for the next customer. Then with true Scotch persistence he would work his way in again, and the little drama would go on repeating itself over and over!

I had some books in the car and asked if I could pick out one to take in to the patient, but was told she much preferred magazines which were primarily photographs. The whole object of my visit was to try to help in deciding what would be the best treatment during the next few months. The city infirmary will take her for a short time at least, but naturally she does not want to leave home, and yet she seems to do little at home. No exercises, no work, that brings in any income and apparently there is very little in her life of interest though they say she always greets a visitor with a smile.

Finally we went in through the little shop, entered her room which opened directly out of it, and from where you could look into the family kitchen. Everything was clean and neat and her bed was right in front of the window and the door into the kitchen was open in an effort to get a cross current of air. On the whole it was not uncomfortable, and it was certainly not squalid.

After we had talked to her a few minutes, I could see why the case seemed difficult. There was no ambition to try to do anything. Complete resignation may be a good thing, and to keep up your courage and fight for each little additional inch of independence may be something that requires not only much character but a high grade of mentality. We asked her what she had been doing and she sent for a crocheted blanket which she said was going to the County Fair. It was beautifully done and anyone with that skill and the ability to sit up, which she has, could I am sure be earning some money, but the ambition is lacking. When you suggest that she try it, she acquiesces, but I think you would have to do more than bring her the material, for the whole personality seems to me to be pliant. She will acquiesce in any suggestion but she will do nothing more.

I was sorry for her and sorry for her parents, and yet perhaps she is happier than many a person who fights to regain and to retain a normal place in life. I thought of a young man whom I know in the middle west with a wife and child who has fought and fought. Though he is tied to a wheelchair he finds some means of earning their daily bread—he could not bear to have it all in his wife's hands. Time after time I heard from him, and at last a paean of victory—he had a job, not what he wanted, but at least something to do which would bring in part of the family income! I take off my hat to his courage, and I only hope that in the end he will find a greater recompense that the spirit of resigned acceptance which seemed to be the final achievement of the girl I visited yesterday.

E.R.
TMsd 10 August 1937, AERP, FDRL