My Brother’s LIfe Journey Chapter 4

2007–present, notice that the curved lines are...

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

A woman from Tajikistan with a baby stroller i...

A woman from Tajikistan with a baby stroller in 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Al and I were lucky for a few years while our Grandparents lived in the big white house. We had cousins who lived very near. Parents would take us trick or treating. Al would never wear a mask. He would scream bloody murder. I never knew what he remembered in his mind but something had made him deathly afraid of so many things.

Mom would dress him up with old clothes from home and would leave his head and face untouched and we would go out and trick or treat. Al didn’t want to go up to the doors so I would always get a couple of extra pieces and put some in his sack too.

I can remember Al and I used to sit for what seemed hours staring at the silver tinsel Christmas Tree. It had one of those moving lights under it and the tree changed colors. All the ornaments would sparkle and I can see Al still smiling so much with those big blue eyes.

When school started we went to the same school. But by the end of Kindergarten Mom and Dad knew that the school we attended could not help Al. He was switched in first grade to a school about three blocks from my school. I walked to school and a special bus came and picked up Al.

He went to the Special Education classes all through elementary grades. These years seem blank to me. He and I were separated for the first time. Different teachers and different programs. I do remember Al going with Mom and Dad to my school activities and me doing the same at Al’s school.

One thing that comes back in my memory is the big fan. In Grandma’s house my Granddaddy hung a big motor fan over  the screen door. I used to love to sleep on the couch in the summers and I was lulled to sleep by the noise of the fan. I still use a fan today and so does Al.

One night although it was a school night Al and I got to stay all night at our Grandparents. We were woke up early in the morning while it was still dark. Granddaddy told me that we had a new baby sister.

I don’t remember being thrilled over this. By now I was ten years old and it had always been Al and me. Now we had a sister. I knew that everyone was excited but Al and me. Of course he didn’t understand what that meant that we had another sister. He already had one, me. I felt a little bad inside because I wasn’t sharing in the excitement.

Changes happened then with our family. We moved a way from the happy block. We moved a few miles a way. I wasn’t able to see my Grandparents near as much, which made me sad. Al played more and more on the floor being very quiet and lining up all his hot wheel cars.

I turned to my baby dolls and pretended I was the mommy. I didn’t realize it then but somehow now reading back what I am writing I see that something bad had happened and I needed to be told I love you. I in turn told my baby dolls I loved them. I fed them and changed their diapers and clothes. I pushed them in the baby stroller. I couldn’t fit Al in the baby stroller so I pulled him in the wagon and continued letting him to ride on the back of the big red trike.

An old lady  started  watching our new baby sister, and eventually we slipped into that group also. Al became more into himself and I started to change too. I would cause problems. I would eat so much junk and then blame it on others. I went so far that I raced in from the garage when we got home and I would open drawers and flip over chairs and then when Mom saw it, I stood back and snickered as she questioned the neighborhood Moms about where had there kids been while we were gone.

I must have been really messed up over the baby sister. It seemed that this is when I began to look at Al as my brother and Dad as my hero and the baby sister as the unwanted.

Al and I were never really involved with the new sister. Al started doing worse at school and he started stuttering. Mom used to have to go into the school that he went to for meetings. She always yelled at Al on how she worked full-time and he needed to straighten up so she didn’t have to be a way from home so much.

I doubt that Al and I knew what really was happening back then , but I do know that Al and I stuck together more and more. It was us against the others. Al didn’t only start his stuttering. He had started getting something called impetigo. It would start on his lip and sometimes it would grow all over his chin.

I can remember Mom picking at the scabs and me yelling at her in my 10-year-old voice to quit hurting him. He was crying and I would run into the bathroom to see why he was crying. She made him cry. She was always picking at his face. I am sure she thought she was helping to get those ugly scabs off. But what about his tears? Didn’t it matter that he was crying? Please leave him alone Mom. Don’t make him cry.


My Brother’s LIfe Journey Chapter 2

Trains and tracks HDR

Al and I were introduced to our step-grandparents and these were very good times of our lives. Our Granddaddy as we called them lived in town in a big white cement brick house. It seemed like it took up the whole block.

It had a wrap a round porch and I can remember sitting out there with Granddad many afternoons when he was home. He was a furnace man. He installed new furnaces for customers and many nights during the winter he had to go out late at nigh to fix some person’s heat.

Granddaddy had floppy ears and big brown droopy eyes. Al and I would crawl on his lap and he would always let us without hesitation. He talked to us and played with us. It brings me smiles now just thinking about him.

I remember seeing Al happy too. Grandma and Granddaddy took great care of us and spoiled us with lots of good food. I remember one time I waited on a white rickety square stool and watched my Grandma making a Black Raspberry pie. She took the left over crust and rolled cinnamon and sugar in it and baked them right along with the pie.

I couldn’t wait to eat a slice of that pie. Even when it came out of the oven I could barely sit still waiting for my own piece. I remember Al was four and I was five now. Waiting for a piece of pie with ice-cream on top was pretty hard to do.

When I finally bit into the first piece I can still remember starting to cry as I told Grandma that there were bones in it. You should have seen her. Her belly shook as she laughed so hard. She told me those were seeds and not bones. That pie still remains my favorite today.

We lived within the same block that they did. We lived in an even bigger house than Grandma and Granddaddy. I remember being scared every night when I went to bed. There were four bedrooms upstairs. I was the only one who slept up there. Al slept downstairs as he needed more watching over than I did, and yet I was the biggest baby of the two of us.

I laid up there many nights afraid of the trees casting shadows on the walls. I dreamed of people being in my room. I seemed to always be afraid of the night and darkness. The only thing that I really recall that was funny about that house is watching Dad use one of those old push style mowers. They were hard to work and he sweated a lot when he sat beside me on the porch steps to rest. One particular day when he and I were talking after he mowed a big old nasty bird pooped on my dad’s bare back.

I know that I laughed and laughed so hard. Dad said some kind of cuss word that I didn’t recognize but I didn’t care. I was sitting with my Daddy, just him and me. I idolized my Daddy. He was God to me and never did anything wrong.

The other thing I recall is sitting in that small back bathroom that was behind the kitchen. Mom always thought sturdy. She had bought me black and white saddle shoes. I hated them with a passion. So when I was using the potty I would swing my feet back and forth. As soon as my shoes came into target range, I would spit on them. I told my step-mom about it when I grew up and she laughed with me.

Al always struggled walking. He had skinny little legs. He didn’t run and play too much. He liked laying on the floor and lining up those little hot wheel cars. For a few years Al wore Buster Brown shoes for toddlers. Mom always told me they helped his balance. I thought they were silly because he wasn’t a baby anymore. He needed red Keds like I had on.

I tried to teach Al how to use the hoola hoop but he never did get the hang of it. Al and I played a lot together. There was always some type of bond that I didn’t have a name for but it was like we understood each other.

I began to realize at a young age that I didn’t need as much help as Al. I could do more on my own, so I became his big sister and pulled him in our big red wagon. I pedaled our big trike and Al stood on the back so he could ride too.

Al cried every time he had to have a hair cut. In fact cried isn’t an accurate word. Scream is more like it. I don’t know today what the connection was but when he saw and heard the clippers he screamed bloody murder. I was always along and I bribed him with one cent bubble gum pieces but Mom always said no. I guess he always swallowed the gum.

He also screamed bloody high pitches when we were sitting waiting at the train tracks for the train to pass by. I can remember Dad always yelling at him to knock it off. It’s only a train. I can still see remember trying  to figure out why Dad would yell at Al when he was scared. I would wrap my arm around Al and tell him, it will be alright baby brother. It is almost gone. Al sucked on one of those pacifiers and he used to offer me a suck off
of it when I made him feel better. Some how even back in those days Al
knew I was there for him.