Memories of Joseph Bentley Abegg's childhood, Written by Isaura Abegg
Contributor: SouthPawPhilly Created : 4 years ago Updated : 4 years ago
My Dear Bentley,
I should like to jot down a few of my memories of some of the episodes of your early life before they become too dim to recall.
You were born the second child of our family and you came to us two years after Dean, your older brother. You were born on the 22nd of April, 1922 in sunny Tucson, Arizona. A happy coincident of your birth was that it came on you father Eli's 30th birthday.
We had no doctor for this occasion due to our experience when Dean came. We felt that the doctor then had left all of the work and worry to Grandma Done, who was a mid-wife, and in attendance, while he received the pay and the credit. Therefore we decided to leave everything in Grandma's capable hands this time.
You weighed 7 1/2 lbs at birth, the same as Dean had weighed, but it seemed that your bones were smaller. You remained rather small for your age until after your 16th birthday, when suddenly you shot up until you towered higher than the other boys. This fact may seem rather unconsequential to mention after all these years but it was very pertinent to your feelings at the time. You were quite sensitive about your other brothers having a physical advantage over you, and it also proved to be disadvantageous at times.
Because we had expected a girl, we had no name picked out when you arrived, but when you were two or three months old we took you and Dean with us on a trip to Colonia Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico, to visit with my father Joseph Charles Bentley whose home was there. It was then that we decided to name you for him. Thus, on our return, when you were several months old, we christened you Joseph Bentley Abegg, and decided to call you Bentley, which we felt was a little less common than Joseph. However, you seemed such a tiny fellow for the name Bentley, so when Dean called you "Bobbie", which was his version of baby, we easily followed suit, and that is the name you went by during your childhood years. Gradually you graduated to Bob, but because your high school teachers felt they should accord you with the dignity of your full name, which name they supposed to be Robert, they attempted to call you that. Thus the time had come to call you what we had inteneded in the first place-Bentley.. This lasted until you joined the military service where the practice was to use the first given name, and so it was that you were then called Joseph, although your buddies reduced it to Joe, and Joe you have been called ever since.
Because we seldom had the opportunity of visiting with my father, and because both he and you were rather quiet and retiring in your manner, I'm not sure that you realized as a child the deep love and respect I always had for him. Although he was small in stature, a fact he deeply resented, he was big in spirituality and goodness, and many other virtues. No matter what crisis ever arose in my childhood I always had full confidence that my father would be able to handle the situation. To me he was a giant of strength and wisdom. So with his name, he has left you also a legacy of an unsullied character, and a valiant faith in the gospel, which I have hoped would be a guide and becon for you to follow. Although father was a man of few words, he taught us his children the gospel principles by his living example.
You were such a good and patient child that I'm sure we sometimes took advantage and imposed on your good nature. However, you were the only one who ever had spells of collic, which necessitated being walked back and forth across the floor in the night hours. But that did not last long.
Early in life you discovered the comfort of sucking your thumb. This habit was usually accompanied by twisting a front lock of your hair, or the cat's tail at the same time, preferrably the latter if it was handy, and it usually was as we always had pet animals for you children. With the arrival of our first baby we purchased a second-hand baby carriage. It was the old-fashioned kind which was substantial and roomy enough to serve as a crib, or to have several little ones in it at a time, and it served for all seven of you children as you came along. Well, when you were established in it, with your thumb and your cat for comfort, you usually felt quite secure and satisfied and gave no trouble.
When you were a little more than a year old, about the time you should have been starting to walk, you had the unfortunate experience of falling from the seat of our car which you had climbed up into as it was parked in the shady driveway. This seemed to injure your leg to the extent that you did not walk until about the time of the arrival of another baby brother, Lothaire, when you were a year and a half old. Not having access to doctors, as we lived some distance from the city, and also because we had no money with which to pay for such service, we never did know to what extent your leg had been hurt, but it remained sensitive for some time and made your first steps very difficult.
You were always very quiet and usually preferred to follow your own inclinations rather than to enter into the active and sometimes rowdy escapades of the other children. We often wondered just what you were so intent upon as you went your own quiet way. One or two incidents gave a certain insight to such mysteries, such as the time when I observed you crawling stealthily about on your stomach among the flowers and weeds in the backyard. I finally inquired of you as to this amusing and unusual procedure, and was told that you were trying to find a little lizzard which had lost its tail, and that you and its mother had been hunting for him all morning. You had his tail, but couldn't find him to give it to.
Another incident which made quite an impression on us all was when you decided you might stealthily catch a bumblebee while it was busily engrossed in extracting nectar from a hollyhock blossom. You succeeded in clamping your hand over the blossom and folding the petals together, but the bumblebee surprized you by inserting its effective stinger right through the petal into your finger. The whole family was called upon to help assuage your misery, not only the physical pain, but the disallusionment concerning some forms of life to which you should have liked to have claimed friendships.
One of the tragedies of your young life happened when you were five years old. One Sunday afternoon, you went over to Grandma Done's place to admire a new motorcycle which your Uncle Otto had just obtained. In the process of its inspection, you, or someone else got too close and knocked the motorcycle off its stand and it fell on you. Your father and I rushed you to the hospital, but because it was a Sunday there was a scarcity of doctors on call, so it was sometime before we could get one to set your leg. As it was discovered about ten days later, to our dismay, it wasn't set then. The bones had slipped out of place, inflamation had set in, and you had developed a fever. Both we and the doctor were very emotionally upset about the situation, to the extent that we finally had to secure another surgeon who would consent to take over the case. By this time, your leg had to be operated on, the bone scraped, and a steel plate, along with a drainage tube inserted until the bone had healed and the infection had cleared. Of course, all of this meant many administrations of anesthetics, and confinement in the hospital for several monthes. It was a difficult time for us all-you so tiny and suffering in a strange place with unfamiliar faces about you. You were tense and most unhappy. We, your parents suffered too emotionally and sympathetically. It was heart rending when the time came to leave after a visit to you. Finally, we arranged for the nurse to put a cot in your room so that I could stay with you at night. Even so, you lost your appetite and what little bit you ate had to be almost forced down. The many administrations of anesthetics you had taken had made you very ill. Even so another ordeal had to be borne when the steel plate was removed and the leg was sewed up again.
It was about Christmas time when your final release from the hospital came. How exciting it was with the preparation for two such important events. When we reached home and wheeled you into see the Christmas tree all decorated, tears mingled with the laughter of us all. However, the other children hardly dared to approach you, feeling that you were almost too fragile to be touched. The other children too had gone through their ordeals of having to be left without their parents, and especially mother while I was at the hospital with Bobbie, so it was indeed a great reunion.
After the holidays it was decided to let you try entering school as you had already missed one sememster. But this proved to be another ordeal for you, as well as your parents, were so apprehensive of another mishap, that I'm afraid life was miserable for all around us with our "be carefuls", "don'ts", and "watch outs", and it was a long time before we were emotionally able to settle down to any degree of normalcy. And the effects of this ordeal may have had a lasting effect upon your activities on the playground and school sports. At least "play" was the only subject you didn't get an "A" in on your report card. Later on, in high school and elsewhere, you were very sensitive to having anyone see the unsightly, centipied-like scars on your leg, so withdrew from activities where it might have to be bared.