Swiss Army Knife

I looked for this knife when I came home from the March of Dimes rehabilitation center in Omaha, Nebraska in the summer of 1960. I hung it on part of the leg support assembly of the ugly green E&J wheelchair sent home with me. The knife was given to me for my birthday in 1952, which I celebrated in Verdun, France. It is one of the original Swiss Army knives, spare and solid. It was a talisman, a reminder of the places we’d lived and the places I would probably never see again, both a connection to all that had been and a reminder of how much had changed. The knife dangled from the chair as I rolled through anger, frustration, and self-pity.

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One day, after I began working at an office job, I noticed I had broken the circle clasp from which the knife hung when I ran into a file cabinet. I took it home that night and put it away in a box of keepsakes. Whenever I hold it now, I think of all it represents in my life — a gift from a parent, a reminder of visits to exotic places as an Army brat, the useless weight of carrying resentment over what cannot be changed. It is a only a knife, but I hold it, and I remember the iron lung, the rehabilitation center, the years of resentment, and now at last, all that polio took away from me. And eventually gave back.