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#2179: Willa Cather to Roscoe Cather, March 2, 1941

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My dear Roscoe1:

I am so sad to hear of your illness. I would have sent out inquiries, but all the time you were sick with the flu, I was in a particularly low and discouraged state about my hand4. I am not writing any of this to Elsie5 because she is generally so communicative, and there are some people in Lincoln6 (people like the Pounds7) who would be delighted to hear that my right hand was permanently out of commission. For the weeks while you were ill, it did seem as though I were not to have any right hand at all in the future, and the number of things you can do with your left hand are trivial and base. My surgeon here earnestly tried to persuade me to learn to compose by dictation - a thing absolutely impossible to me and against all my taste and habits. The Knopf office became as much alarmed about the situation as I. They entered into correspondence with Dr. Frank Ober8 of Boston9, who mended up so many of the English officers disabled in the World War. His New York2 patients generally fly to Boston for treatment, but he comes to New York once a month to see those who are not well enough to make the trip. He saw me just three weeks ago today. In his Boston shop he had constructed for me a metal glove reaching to the elbow, shaped metal underneath held on by leather straps across the top of my hand, wrist and arm. My own physician here thinks it a wonderful contrivance. I have worn it only one week, and while I cannot see any great improvement, I am not suffering from jars and little hurts all the time, as I was when I wore a wooden splint. Also, my wrist is absolutely immobile in metal, whereas in a wooden splint it would move about a little.

I have not written you very seriously about this before, because I am afraid that I have a rather bad reputation in my family – a reputation for howling about my ills. But somebody in the family ought to know the facts. Of course when a hand gets in this shape, a painful arthritis sets in, and the question is whether I can ever use it again to write books or even letters. The surgeons in the New York Orthopedic Hospital thought my only way out was dictation. Dr. Ober thinks I have a chance to write again, if I am very careful and never use my hand for anything but work on a manuscript – never write letters, or even sign them when I can avoid it.

You are perfectly right. I want to give the bank stock to Charles Edwin10, but you can see that just now, with no preparation yet made for the income tax, I haven’t the time to attend to it. I cannot describe this situation to you, but if you will tie your hand up in a handkerchief when you get out of bed and keep it tied until you get ready to go to the office, you will understand something of the laboriousness of caring for your body with one hand. Even then, you won’t have to put up your hair! You know, with my metal glove, I feel just like Otto of the Silver Hand11!

With love, Willie over P.S. Dear Roscoe:

Since I dictated this letter, a letter has come from Elsie charging me with inconsiderateness toward her and my friends in Red Cloud12 for not telling them on what date I will arrive there. I thought it best to let Miss Bloom13 write her how impossible it would be for me to travel under the circumstances. Miss Bloom wrote her on Friday.

Dictated by Miss Cather

S. J. Bloom

The garden of spi spring flowers came last night! You are too good to me, dear boy1.

Flower Shop
Irene Hayes
Mr. R. C. Cather,1 First Savings Bank of Colusa, Colusa,3 California. NEW YORK, N. Y.2 MAR 9 1941 2:30 PM