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!

Thanks!

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26 comments

  1. Susie Riley

    WOW. All too many times, things like this stick with us like glue. Scrape all you want, but the residue usually remains. I believe it's all about how we move forward – not WITH it, but DESPITE it. And it's often in the telling that we get it out and learn how to move forward – – at least it's that way with me. I sure hope that's working for you as well, Barb! Hugs… S.

  2. Barbara Hammond

    Thanks Susie. I tried to write about this stuff many years ago and couldn't do it. I wasn't in a solid enough place in my life to put it out there. And, we didn't have blogs then. Being able to blog about it and get the support of readers in the process has made a huge difference. It's working!
    b

  3. Hcdootsie

    You were so brave.at times we had to protect my mom from my drunken father. We
    were lucky that she was a stable and strong lady.

  4. Jotter Girl

    I can only imagine what your neighbor was thinking. Unbelievable.

  5. Sara

    Family dynamics are tough. I don{t have anything similar in my childhood, but I was explaining to someone in the office that my brother was definitely the favorite child in my house. He got the preferential treatment at meal times, during fights, everything. Oh siblings! Don't get me wrong. I love my brother :p

  6. Barbara Hammond

    She was very kind I have to say and attentive after that. I know… I shake my own head at times and I was there.
    b

  7. Barbara Hammond

    I feel for you. I had a few drunk step-fathers too. Someday we'll explore #4… he was a head case!
    Thanks for commenting.
    b

  8. Adrienne Carrick

    Another testament to the saying, you are not defined by your circumstances….your brother was lucky to have you watching over him.

  9. Barbara Hammond

    Amen to that Adrienne… you are definitely not defined by your circumstances. He was lucky to have me, I was lucky to have my grandparents… it all comes together in the master plan.
    Thanks for commenting!
    b

  10. Denine Gorniak

    I've got too many tears in my eyes to see what I'm writing. I've been here – not with the baby brother, but I've been there in nearly the same way. Were we soul sisters from other bad mothers? I like what the person commented, some stuff really sticks to us no matter how much we try to scrape it all off, there's residual. I was left alone at early ages – too young to want to share. At age 8 or 9, I was left pretty much alone while my mother went traipsing off to Bermuda! BERMUDA! with a boyfriend. Some "friends' looked in on me and I somehow managed to get by unscathed, mostly by hanging out at friends houses and w/the woman down the street who took care of me. I'm in my mid-forties, a mom to a toddler and I still feel like that scared 8 year old kid, alone, afraid and all on my own. Girl, I feel your pain and know your strength. We move on and we move forward – it's our only choice.

  11. Barbara Hammond

    Yes Denine we are soul sisters for sure. But you know what? All the shit our mothers dumped on us made us who we are today and I think we came out pretty great. It is definitely due to kind strangers and relatives who looked out for us but it is also because we are old souls who figured out how to make our own way. And we DID IT! I am proud of who we've become because we are turning the ugly into positives. xob

  12. ElizOF

    Oh Barbara! The angels were watching over you and you sibling. It is so sad that they didn't appreciate the enormous effort you were making at age 10…
    Blessings!

  13. Annabel, Get In The Hot Spot

    This is bad. It's interesting in NZ kids have to be aged 13 plus before they can legally be left home alone. This seems old, we all leave them for a few mins to pop to a shop. But here in Australia there is no legal age for babysitters. In theory you can leave all your kids home alone no matter how old. But 10 is too young. Especially in charge of a baby. I wouldn't leave my 10 year old home alone with his six year old sister for longer than 10mins and that's probably too long. Day time too!

  14. Lee Romano Sequeira

    Shame shame shame on them for certain! That is just plain ol' crazy to leave a 10 year old with an infant! Love that house again and cherish only the good memories you have, and let those horrible ones melt away Barb.

    I know the writing helps!
    xo

  15. Michele M Tremblay

    What a different world we live in. People who are desperate to desperate things…sorry such a tiny family got caught in the crosshairs. How brave and capable you were…even at 10 years old. We so often expect from out children what we can't do ourselves. This is the perfect example. God blessed you many moons ago Barb!

  16. Barbara Hammond

    Thanks Michele. Yes I was clearly blessed many moons ago!

  17. Barbara Hammond

    Funny Annabel, because I wouldn't leave my 15 year old with his 13 year old brother many moons ago and he was really mad about that, but I knew better. I've often said if child services were the way they are now we would have been taken from my mother many times!
    Thanks for commenting!

  18. Barbara Hammond

    Thanks Elizabeth.

  19. countingducks

    I hate it when people place the blameon someone without examining their own responsibility. The pressure on you must have been very unpleasant. And its so sad that Al, who sounds such a great step-dad should be thrown out of shape by unemployment and jealousy. That happens I know but its still sad. You seem to have been a plucky young girl and I'm sure you still are in many ways

  20. KCLAnderson (Karen)

    What strikes me is that many of us come from such broken people…and that it's become a gift of sorts. I am just starting to see things from this different perspective. Thank you for helping me do that.

  21. Barbara Hammond

    So funny you say that Karen. I was actually thinking the other day I might dedicate my memoir to my mother. It's true you gain your strength from your experiences and the broken people who create many of them.
    I'm glad it's helping you too. Thanks.
    b

  22. Barbara Hammond

    I like that word Peter… plucky. I'm sure many would agree with you on that. As for taking responsibility… my mother has never taken responsibility for anything in her life.
    Al came through a few times over the years to make up for his dilemma during this new phase of their marriage.
    b

  23. style maniac

    I'm not sure someone would even write up this scenario for a movie. As they say, truth is stranger than fiction. As always, I'm amazed that you survived this kind of neglect and abuse, and turned out to be such a good person. You certainly didn't have many good examples to go by.

  24. Barbara Hammond

    I think it will make the movie. 😉 I did have some positive role models over the years Doreen, but sometimes you can learn from the bad ones.

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