My Brother/ My Son
I was an only child for nine years. My brother was born in October, 1959 three months after my 9th birthday. He was two months early.
The last summer of being an only child. That’s me in the center… in the goofy glasses with my cousins from Georgia.
My mother’s third husband, Al, and I hit it off instantly. Some people are just inherently good with kids and he was one of those people. He always made me feel wanted.
My mother is one of those who are gaga over babies. I always thought that was odd because she doesn’t have a maternal bone in her body… she just loves babies. They had been trying to get pregnant for four years.
The big day came suddenly. Mom was rushed to the hospital. There were complications and it was best to deliver the baby. She had me cesarean and he would come into the world the same way.
I had never seen anyone that tiny. My grandmother bought doll clothes for him to wear. He seemed so frail I was afraid to touch him. That didn’t last long because mom insisted I learn how to change diapers.
Despite getting an early start in life my brother developed quite normally. He was sitting up at five months old and crawling at seven. My mother’s enchantment with the baby started to wane shortly after he became mobile. Now he was more of a chore and the chores were coming my way…. the household chores and caring for my brother when I wasn’t in school.
We moved to a small ranch house in a nice neighborhood in the spring. The front door opened into the living room, which had a large picture window and beige shag carpet, a small hallway to the right led to two bedrooms and a bath. The kitchen was in the back with a door that led to a huge yard.
Al built a brick barbecue back yard and a picnic table next to it. I remember many family barbecues that summer with aunts and uncles and always my grandparents. I loved that house. I loved having family around and didn’t even mind taking care of the baby.
Shortly after school started that year Al lost his job. My mother had stopped working when the baby was born but unemployment benefits weren’t going to pay the rent so she had to get a job.
The factory, where she and Al met, wasn’t hiring and she had little experience other than working on an assembly line. She was twenty seven years old, petite and cute so she learned to use her looks.
Mom and Al belonged to a bowling league and I loved hanging out there listening to the grown-ups talk. I rarely played with the kids, partly because I had to watch the baby and mostly because I preferred being with the grown-ups.
The bar in the bowling alley happened to be looking for a cocktail waitress. What luck! She got the job instantly. I couldn’t remember seeing her so happy. Al was not. He had a jealous side we’d never seen before.
After a week or two he started going to the bar after I went to bed around 9pm. He would just sit and watch her. Then they would come home and fight until the wee hours.
I knew I was alone in the house with a baby and sometimes I had trouble sleeping. One night I heard a strange noise and thought someone was in the house. I grabbed my brother and wrapped him in a blanket, jumped into my shoes, ran out the front door and over to the neighbor’s house.
Our next door neighbor happened to be my Girl Scout leader, Mrs. Baker. She was very surprised to see me standing in her doorway at 11pm on a school night with the baby in my arms. She immediately brought us in while I explained to her there was a strange sound in the house and I didn’t know where else to go.
She left us there for a moment to go take a look, see if it was safe to go home. The front door had locked and I had no key. I felt foolish because it was probably just my imagination and now we were imposing on a neighbor. I also knew it would be very late before anyone would be home.
She called the bar and they tracked Al down. Mrs. Baker was calm and polite on the phone. She assured me he would be home right away.
I didn’t expect to see my mother with him, but there she was with fire shooting from her eyes. She apologized for her stupid kid keeping the neighbors up over something so silly, grabbed the baby and marched me home.
Our little house that I loved so much became a shameful place after that. I had embarrassed them and they weren’t going to let me forget it. Never mind they left a ten year old alone with an infant and no instruction…I had shamed them by letting the neighbors in on their sordid little life.
This was the first little adventure I had with my brother. There are more to come. If you like this post, please share it and if you haven’t joined the Zero to 60 and beyond facebook page please do!