Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Pretty Little Brother Who Died in San Francisco

Max was my paternal grandmother's younger brother, the subject of her poem when she was 11.
My little brother is very bad
He bothers me all day
The only time that I have peace
Is when he is away

My little brother is full of tricks
As full as he can be
I am quite sure you could not think
Of the tricks he plays on me.

My little brother has blue eyes
As merry as can be
If you would hunt a year you would not find
A prettier boy than he

And yet although you'll think it strange
And though he is a bother
I really would not like to change
My pretty little brother.
I have the envelope that Max sent to his mother (my great-grandmother) from San Francisco postmarked October 9, 1901. It proves my grandmother was right about her little brother - he was full of tricks and merry.
Please, Mr. Postman put this in your bag,
Make straight for South Avenue, and do not lag;
Deliver it into Mrs. Bennett's own hands,
At Medina, N.Y., near the old baseball stands.
Today, 100 years after the San Francisco earthquake, I remember my great uncle, who died of diphtheria, probably a result of the crowded conditions in the aftermath of the quake. His physician wrote this to Max's mother.

Mrs. Katherine Hilliard Young

My Dear Madam:-
I have just returned from a month's vacation in Mexico and find your letter of Jan. 10 at hand.

It pleases me greatly to hear from you and gives me great pleasure to be able to write you about Max.

I had known Max for about four years and his death was a very hard blow to me. I had always admired him for his moral character while he was living out here so far away from home influences. It shows what a good mother he must have had to have built such a fine life for himself at such a great distance. I know of no bad habits that he had contracted and he was always a light hearted boy with a very frank manner which had won him a host of friends.

When he was taken sick and during his last illness it was hard work to keep him in bed; he would insist that he was not sick enough to be in bed and that he needed exercise and so would get up and walk around the hall during the night while the rest were asleep. I do not believe that this had any influence whatever upon his death but I only speak of it so you can recall how little he considered himself while sick. He did not want to make trouble for anybody and felt as if he had been babied when his food was brought to him in his room.

That he died goes to show me more clearly than ever how much medical science falls short of actual results, he being the only case of diphtheria that I remember of ever having lost. Apparently he was doing well up to the time he was taken with paralysis of the heart. His nurse, Miss Kent, did do all that could be done for him at that time. She gave him stimulants hypodermic but he was already beyond medical aid. I could not have done any more if I had been right there. As much as I feel that Max should have lived I do not see even now what more could have been done for him. His system was so charged with toxines that his weak heart was unable to stand it.

I would be very glad to hear from you at any time and if I can be of any service to you in any way do not fail to write me.

Yours very truly,

Dr. William Tappan Lum


Peggy said...

Do you remember the photos Aunt K. gave us of Uncle Max. He truly was a handsome young man!

Jennifer said...

What interesting family history. That's pretty neat to have some things like that.