Al is my brother. I am one year and two weeks older than he is. Telling this story will hopefully help others who are struggling in their own lives to see that I am here and you are never alone.
It was May 3rd 1955 when a little baby boy was born. He did not come into the world welcomed as many children do. He came born into the world as an innocent babe by parents who had major issues of their own.
He was born with brain damage. He was the second of two children and this lead to lack of care needed to help a baby grow. As I remember back in my memories I don’t remember him that young. But the truth comes out over time and I will tell you what I was told.
When Al was old enough to sit in a high chair he was placed there and ignored. No adult supervision. Al was able to maneuver himself up and over the high chair and fell different times causing more damage to the head.
Both Al and I were abused. In those days it was not called abuse. It was a family secret that was only spoken in strange moments. Al was abused more than me. I think I was not necessarily wanted more than he. I believe it is because one baby is easier than two.
Our parents were not in control of their own lives. With their young ages there was lack of training and maybe a feeling of entrapment over being strapped with two babies and a job that could not take care of all the needs within a family.
Parents of the parents stepped in and made opinions known. Guilt became an obsession and the need to escape became utmost in the minds of our parents. Our Mother didn’t work because she was too young. She was 15 when she had me and 16 when she had Al.
Dad worked at a bowling alley and hid behind the bottle when not at work. I have heard horror stories of how loud fights and beer bottles flew over our heads as we seemed to be always in the middle of all arguments.
One day our Mom took off with us kids. She didn’t tell a soul she was leaving. When Dad found out she was gone his Mother was grateful but insisted he get us kids back. I don’t know who Mom left with. I assume a friend took her. At her age she wouldn’t have had many adult friends to turn to. Back in those days being pregnant and unmarried was taboo so I am sure the conversations were limited.
I know that while we were prisoners of my Mom’s travels she had no money. She did what ever was necessary to survive. I don’t know how she fed and clothed us kids but I do know that she sold me to different people to earn money when I was about two years old. I shudder to think what may have happened to Al also. There are parts of me that don’t want to know. It is possible that Al can remember but it is so deeply hidden in his mind we may never know.
The Welfare department did eventually find us and return us to our Dad who was by now living back with his parents. Al and I were welcomed by the fact that we were the “kids”. I am not ever going to swear that we were united because of a great love.
I can remember sitting at my Grandmother’s table and Al sitting in my Dad’s high chair. He would be crying. He seemed to cry a lot to me. Even as a young child I can remember many tears and yelling episodes.
Grandma would tell him, “Be quiet. I can’t stand that noise. I wish you would just shut up”. I know that somewhere inside this house the word caring was lingering throughout. I know that my Grandparents took Al to the biggest children’s hospital in our state to find out what was wrong with him.
I can remember them telling other family members that he couldn’t sit up properly for his age. That he should be walking now but wasn’t. The hospital confirmed that he was mentally challenged. He also suffered from Rickets and he was malnourished.
I don’t think I was near as bad as he was medically. I do remember Grandma stuffing vitamins and eye droppers filled with Iron to each of us kids. I am sure that we were both fed much better than we were before.
Al slept downstairs where my Grandparents slept. Our Dad still worked at the bowling alley and came home very late. I remember that I slept in a baby bed for probably too many years. I also remember that my Dad slept in the big bed next to my crib.
Eventually Dad met our new Stepmother. After being married they moved to the town that Al and I now reside in. Visits came from our real Mom and I can still see me hiding behind the living room chair taking peeks at my real Mom and hearing them arguing about how she was going to come back to get me when I reached the age of 16. There was never a mention of coming back to get Al too. I can remember feeling confused and not understanding why she would only ask for me when I had a brother.
Dad then got a job at the State Highway Department and I think our new Mom worked at one of the local grocery stores. I remember she took us to a baby sitter. I knew fear even at the age of four. This babysitter was mean. I could see her smack Al for crying and I had to sit on a chair.
Yet there was a familiarity to this also. Al and I were not allowed to be kids when we lived at our Grandparents either. We had to sit on chairs and be very quiet. Neither of us knew what sunshine was or running and playing outdoors felt like.
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