Lessons Learned: I broke my sister’s leg

In this edition of My So-Scarred Life, I tell the story of how the 4 year old me broke my sister’s leg. She was 9 months old.

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Kristin is the second from the left. She healed just fine.


William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania said, “The jealous are troublesome to others, but a torment to themselves.”

“That’s Penny!” My twin brother, Patrick, screamed at the television. As this was a typical Sunday morning, the 5 kids in my family were fighting over the remote control and the incessant channel surfing had commenced. He was pointing at a short, brown haired young woman in the crowd on the local church worship program. Penny, with her hands held high, and her eyes closed tightly in prayer, was absorbing every bit of the spirit that Pastor Rod Parsley could send her way. My father, hearing this exchange, looked up from his Columbus Dispatch and commented, “See, you kids drove her to evangelical Christianity!” He quickly turned back to The Far Side he was enjoying in the Sunday funnies.

Penny was one of many baby sitters we had growing up: Well-meaning teenagers, ladies from church, grandma and my mother’s 4 sisters – they all had their shot taking care of us. With three boys and two girls all under 7 years old there was never a quiet moment in our house. We didn’t know any different. We acted on impulse and used sad faces, crying, and manipulation to get out of serious punishments. “Mom, can I come down now? I’ve learned my lesson. I’ll never do it again,” was an oft lamented whine from behind the bedroom door.

The one situation that may have driven Penny to the Evangelicals occurred when my sister was about 9 months old and using what was then called a “walker.” Basically, you stood the baby in the middle of a plastic donut that connected to wheels on the floor. The child’s feet touched the floor to guide the contraption. This made my sister Kristin infinitely more mobile. She usually just puttered around the room.

Penny gave Kristin special care and attention. In my 4.5 year-old eyes, she basically ignored the rest of us after she served us the obligatory hot dog dinner.

Our house was perfect for our family at the time. We had three bedrooms: boys, girls, and mom & dad. You walked in the slate foyer with the living room to your right, stairs to the bedrooms on your left and the kitchen straight ahead. The tile on the kitchen floor was an odd red brick style linoleum. Just to the left as you entered the kitchen were the three stairs to the family room where we spent most of our time.

Feeling dismissed by Penny and jealous of the attention my baby sister was getting, I took it out on her walker. When Penny wasn’t looking I would bump my sister one direction or another. The linoleum created a great sliding surface for my sister. The wheels glided easily into the table and cabinets. Of course, my sister did not seem to mind. Her plastic donut protected her from any violent jostling. It almost seemed like a game.

Watching Penny briefly leave the room to manage one of my other siblings, I eyed the fridge as a perfect target for the walker. As soon as I nudged her, I knew it was a miscalculation. My sister floated to the edge of the stairs and when the inertia lifted the back edge of the walker the rest occurred in slow-motion. I saw my sister’s eyes grow wide and frightened. Her expression matched my own. Realizing I had no control, I ran to my room and hid under the bed – this was the safest place in my world. From this far corner of the house, I could hear the cries from my sister and then Penny’s voice of fear and empathy consoling her, “What happened? Where’s Danny?” Knowing my sister could not answer her, she had my older brother, Joel, find me. He knew where I was already. He always found me.

Penny put me in the corner of the kitchen facing the wall. Her mother arrived to help her because they were worried about Kristin. I don’t remember much beyond studying the pattern on the wallpaper. After Kristin had calmed down and my parents arrived, it seemed like I was in the clear.

A couple days later, my mother noticed Kristin wasn’t putting her leg on the changing table when she was trying to stand her up. A quick trip to Dr. Heiny, our pediatrician, and she came back with a cast on her leg.

In the end, my sister became a responsible and talented woman who inspires me in many ways. Although, throughout our childhood she found ways to get me back. Her cunning was a well-deserved lesson.


Talk to you later.



3 Replies to “Lessons Learned: I broke my sister’s leg”

  1. Love this story Daniel, My older brother was jealous of me as I took my parents attention from him. He hit me over the head with a half gallon glass milk bottle when I was less than 2 years old. Split my head wide open. Luckily my aunt, who was a nurse was over at the time. She tied my hair together and as far as I know it stayed that way until the gash healed. Never got stitches. So you aren’t the only big brother who hurt his sister.

    1. Many of these stories should carry a footnote that my mother is trained as a nurse and spent much of my childhood bandaging me.

  2. I also broke my sister’s leg. We were on the swing set sailing along on the glider ( no longer part of modern swing sets) when she panicked, put her foot down to stop and earned a hip to toes cast. She was 4 years old, I was 6. She has since forgiven me and we are quite close. I never rode the glider again but many years later am still rushing head long through life…

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