Oh, my aching back!

Nov 19, 2019 | 0 comments

Dale in a P-38 – at Lockheed on a PR Tour for General Engineering Shipyards, 1944

Anna Nagel (or was it Nagle?) came into our lives in 1942.  I was six years old and in the first grade at Edison School in Alameda.  My dad was the Catalog Order Manager for “Monkey Wards”  in Oakland, just across the Alameda Estuary — a mile from our house on Versailles Avenue; my mom had gone to work as a pipefitter’s helper for General Engineering Shipyards.  We were about three months into World War Two.

Nagel (we never called her “Mrs.” Nagel – I don’t know why) was hired to look after me after school.  She also did “light housekeeping” and sometimes got dinner started for Mama — and so much more.  I remember staying overnight at her house when my folks were out of town and going with her and her grandchildren to Russian River for a week to her daughter’s cabin in Guerneville.  She was an extended member of our family (or we of hers) until 1947 — the year we moved away.

Sydney at Russian River, 1942

Nagel and her husband were Scandenavian immigrants — Norwegian I’ve always thought.  Mr. Nagel was a merchant seaman and  both spoke with rather heavy accents though they could read and write fluently in English.  It was Nagel who taught me to embroider and to crochet, and the lovely table cloths and doilies and bedspreads in our house were pieces my mother had commissioned her to do.

“Oh, my aching back!” is an expression I associate with Nagel.  She said it frequently but I don’t think it had anything to do with the condition of her own back.  If it did, I never knew about it.  In fact, until now, the only people I’ve known with back trouble were my dad and Nyel.

Oh, my aching back!

In 1958 my dad sneezed and landed “smack dab on the kitchen floor” and then in traction in a San Francisco hospital.  Ever afterwards he did back exercises every morning and, except for a few twinges, never again had a bad siege.  I’m not sure what initiated Nyel’s back trouble — he’ll never say.  It used to come and go and, though he periodically would do the same sorts of exercises my dad did,  he didn’t think they did much good.

Now, as of Sunday, it’s my turn.  My trouble was precipitated by the weekly sheet-changing duty.  Damn those fitted sheets and our spiffy new mattress, anyway.  Oh, my aching back!


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