I remember Christmas the following year. Al got a train set. It had a soft whistle. I think Mom and Dad were hoping to calm his fear of trains. The track went around the Christmas tree and I can still see Al laying on the floor watching the train go round and round. When Dad made the whistle blow Al did not cry.
Mom and Dad were very smart in this idea. It worked and in time Al became less and less afraid of trains. Our entire extended family spent Christmas together. I still have photos of my two cousins in their new striped bib overhauls. The silver tinsel tree is standing in the background.
The next year Dad received an inheritance from a family member who passed a way. He and Mom decided it was time to move our family out to the country. I didn’t realize exactly what that entailed. I was excited because I was going to get my own bedroom.
Al and I had slept for a year or two in the same bedroom in bunk beds. Now he and I would be separated by a hallway. When the house was finished, it seemed that Al and I parted a little bit.
He stayed in his room a lot and I rode my bike in the summer and went sledding in the winter . Al did eventually learn to ride a bicycle. He was so proud and he would ride up and down the country road. He would have freedom to choose to stop in at Grandma’s house or ride back home.
I should add that our Grandparents sold their city home and bought 80 acres and a home. It was shortly after our parents built a house a quarter of a mile down the road. Another neighbor that happened to live in the same city block that we all did also bought a house on the same road.
I always laugh when I think back to how four neighbors living in the same block and not all related ended up buying or building all within walking distance and remained for years to come.
Al was now 11 and I was 12. This is the year that started the big change for my brother. Our Granddaddy was in seventh heaven having the dream of farming come true. I can remember watching baby calves and piggies being born.
Granddaddy had the patience of a saint. He took Al with him everywhere he went on the farm. He taught him about life. He was silent while Al worked at becoming more vocal. Dad was already showing that he was uncomfortable around Al. I always believed that Dad carried guilt from our birth years and also shame that his one son was not like other sons.
Carrying these feelings caused great stress in our family. Then Granddaddy would come along and swoop Al up and take him to a calmer environment. While he taught Al and me how to pick up baby chicks, he also taught us how the circle of life works with farm animals.
We bottle fed new calves, we gave water to baby chicks. Al even laughed out loud as the baby lamb drank milk from the bottle Al was holding. We were shown how chickens laid eggs and then how chickens ended up on our kitchen tables. We were taught that calves were grown to feed us and to also purchase more farm animals.
Granddaddy taught us that living off the land was the only way to go. I will always treasure these times and Al still talks about Grandma’s big, soft, chewy sugar cookies. They were as round as grapefruit. If we were real good we could have two at one time. Sometimes Al got three but I understood what Grandma was saying. Al was skinny and needed to eat.
She made the best ever potato salad too. Lots of big pieces of boiled eggs in it. She used mayonnaise in hers and Mom used a vinegar sauce in hers. I preferred the sweeter one and still love my sweets today.
I remember one time when Granddaddy was cleaning out the barn where the cows lived. He was cleaning the manure with his pitch fork. Al wanted to try it and so Granddaddy handed him the pitch fork. Al wasn’t too strong at this point yet and he got a fork full and then fell right in it. He started to cry and Granddaddy laughed him right out of his tears. All three of us got a good laugh over this and Grandma got stuck cleaning Al up.
These farm loving Grandparents were not our blood relation, but I can tell you that they were the best ever, and when you talk about them to Al today, his eyes always light up, and for his memories that he still has of them I will be forever grateful.
Since three families lived on one big property there was a great big garden. All summer long canning and freezing was done. Al got the jobs of taking garbage cans of corn cobs to the pigs. He had sort of the gopher job, but yet it was one of the most important jobs. While everyone had their hands in food, Al would go get things that everyone needed.
Sometimes when we worked real hard our Grandparents would take us to the Dairy Queen. We would get great big ice-cream cones. I will share with you something that will tell you a difference between our parents and our Grandparents.
Grandma worked at home, taking care of family and gardens. Our mom worked full-time. Granddaddy was laid back and enjoyed every minute of breathing. Dad was always afraid Al and I would make mistakes so he was always on edge. When Dad was dating our new mom-to-be it was in the fall and early winter. Dad would bring us two kids along but made us stay in the car. He truly did believe that we would make noise. Grandma would yell at him every single time and tell him to go get those kids out of that cold car.
When our Grandparents took us to the Dairy Queen. We all went in and we made messes because by then Al and I were both big gabby mouths. They would laugh at us and talk to us and with us. When we were finished, we all cleaned up and went home laughing.
When Mom and Dad took us to the Flagpole to get ice-cream Mom was antsy because Dad was always on the edge of yelling. She became embarrassed for Al and me as Dad made us stand outside and eat our ice-cream. He didn’t want any accidents.
I always felt bad for Mom. Although it took me many years to bond with her she was an excellent Mom and she cared about us kids. She did the best she could with what she had considering Dad was always a grouch, but she loved him for a long time.
- My Brother’s Life Journey Chapter 3 (terry1954.wordpress.com)
- My Brother’s LIfe Journey Chapter 2 (terry1954.wordpress.com)
- My Brother’s LIfe Journey, Chapter 1 (terry1954.wordpress.com)
- Chapter 1, Parkinson’s Disease Journey (terry1954.wordpress.com)