As farm children, my six siblings and I played with little supervision, and escaped more than a few near-disasters. … I did nearly die—twice—when my father once ran over me. I was four years old. We were on the way home in our old truck when my dad decided to stop in at a neighboring farm to retrieve the cultipacker he had loaned them. A cultipacker is a heavy iron piece of farm equipment that is pulled behind a tractor, to crush dirt clods and smooth the fields for planting seeds. Daddy secured the machinery to the hitch on the truck and we took off.
When we reached the long driveway to the house, we kids asked if we could get off the flatbed of the truck and run behind the vehicles for the rest of the way home. Running behind anything was always great fun. The other kids had climbed down and gotten clear, but my father started to drive off while I was still down in the open space between the truck and the cultipacker, hidden from his view. Fortunately there were potholes in that country road and as the heavy iron spikes caught me up I was pulled around and crushed down into an especially large hole. The spikes punctured the back of my skull, severed my left ear, and embedded chunks of dry earth and gravel into my head and back. The other kids were screaming and yelling. Daddy stopped the truck and jumped out to see what all the commotion was about. Horrified, he pulled me out from under the blades and ran to the house, his entire front becoming drenched in blood. He yelled for my older sister, Lorraine, to get the car, and we three sped to the hospital. … I also had a brain concussion and was not expected to survive.
The first repercussion of this accident surfaced 30 years later when I was dating Jim Witowski, a Los Angeles policeman. After a series of broken dates, when he called again to say, “something has come up,” I drove 20 miles in pouring rain, talked my way into his gated apartment building, and surprised him with another woman. Furious and humiliated, I cried my way back home.
“Jim thinks he’s so hot because he’s a cop. I’ll show him—I’ll become a cop too!”
I passed the Long Beach City written test with a 98% score and, when told I could not become a policewoman with one partially deaf ear, I checked myself into Long Beach Memorial Hospital for surgery to see if my hearing could be restored. After the 4-hour operation the surgeon told me there was bone disintegration going on behind the scar tissue that had grown up around the stitches. That in less than a year, without this operation, I would be dead.
I also changed my mind when I questioned a policeman at a corner while waiting for a traffic light to change. He said, “You look like a nice lady, Patricia. Believe me, you don’t want to become a cop. Dealing with the seamy side of society every day, you’ll soon lose that pretty smile.”
(Excerpted from an upcoming memoir for grandchildren.)