BABIES, BABIES, AND MORE BABIES
Life became a procession of children with a total of 6. My parents either did not believe in birth control or did not know how to practice it. The doctor was not happy when my mother came to him pregnant over and over. He told her she was not healthy enough to bare children. But that did not change her eating habits or her smoking and drinking, so my next two brothers were born premature; with impaired vision. Both boys were also colicky. My father hated to hear a baby cry so insisted my mother was not to pick them up when they did. He was a disciplinarian and did not believe in mollycoddling. There was little peace or happiness for my mother during this time. Little did she know that “Peace and Happiness” had moved out permanently from her home.
Note: Those early years were my parent’s happiest years, according to my oldest brother. He has fond memories of my mother in the kitchen preparing meals. He also remembers meeting my father as he would come home from work and taking bites out of the sandwiches my mother prepared for our father’s lunch. Unfortunately, I have very few memories like that to draw upon.
Bill was the first-born son. He was slight of build and favored my mother in complexion. He was the studious child who read and explored the world around him and the stars above. I always thought my father was jealous of him because my mother loved him so much. And for this reason, I felt he was harder on him then his transgression deserved. Father thought any man of worth, worked with his hands, not with his mind, so he criticized Bill’s speed at which he completed a task. I do not remember Bill smiling much as a child. But then, the best way to coexist with my father was to keep your head down and stay out of his way.
Terry was born two years later. “W” was his middle name because no one liked the name Wilbert, including my father. My dad preferred to be called “Bill”. Terry was the spitting image of my father, with his German build and blond curly hair. I remember that he was the baby with the biggest smile in the pictures my mother had professionally taken. I had always thought that secretly he was my father’s favorite. Terry was treated poorly by my mother and abused by my father Terry was hard working and able to work with his hands, but it didn’t matter. Nothing did.
Terry was always in trouble. He ate food from the pantry that wasn’t served to him and my mother called that stealing. I can still remember standing at the kitchen table while my mother mixed a combination of foods my brother had “stolen” and force fed them to him until he vomited. Then she proceeded to feed him from the bowl containing his vomit I was horrified. My heart was broken for my brother Terry.
One day Terry was placed outside in the trash naked. He had wet his pants and also apparently “stole” something so my father held his hands over the flame of the stove, took his clothes off and put him out with the trash for the garbage men to pick up. Terry was often beaten with a belt.
Terry was sent to school one day and came home with a note pinned to his shirt that read: “We noticed the bruising on Terry. If he comes to school bruised like this again, we will contact the authorities.” OH, HOW I HAD WISHED THEY HAD!
Terry spent a lot of time up in the attic. Winter, Summer, Spring or Fall, his punishment was the same. Terry and I would play from his attic window. I remember sitting below and talking to him. One day he made the ultimate sacrifice and demonstration of love; He threw down his Magic Twangier gun for me to play with. He had received it for his birthday just a few days before. That single act of kindness cemented my love and determination to find SOME way to help him from being punished.
I loved Terry so much because he was going to get me out of that house! We would escape! Terry and I would go in the back yard where he would find wood, nails and a hammer, apparently taken from my father’s barn. He was going to build us a house and we would then move out. All our plans were foiled when my father came home from work. Terry was ordered to put all that stuff back where he found it.
I was born two years after Terry was born. Because I was a girl, my birth was welcomed by both mother and father after losing their only girl, Judy. My brother Bill said I could do no wrong! I was the favorite child! It became increasing evident to me that this was true as I could do basically anything and not be punished. I was reprimanded from time to time, but the belt was only used to threaten me into submission. I can’t remember being hit with it.
Growing up, I do remember feeling like a spectator instead of a participant when my father was in a rage. I only remember being slapped one time when my father was drunk. He was trying to light the gas space heater in the middle of the living room. He had gone to the bathroom to get toilet paper to light it, but instead of tearing off a sheet, he took hold of the end and proceeded to unwind the whole roll from the bathroom to the heater. I laughed. He slapped me for doing so. The next morning, father called me to the side of the bed to apologize. He said he thought I was laughing at him. Of course I was, but I didn’t say a word.
I was a participant in the group spankings, however. Whenever something grievous took place in our home and the guilty party did not confess, we were all taken outside and sat on the fence. Each child was spanked starting from the oldest to the youngest. But my father either ran out of steam by the time he got to me or my screaming and crying gave him pause. I was let go with just a stiff warning.
My brother Normie was produced next from the baby factory 18 months after me. He had dark hair and eyes. He was small and had a difficult time speaking because he stuttered. Normmie was very shy but had a big toothy grin when he smiled.
When Normie was 7 years old he began having difficulty walking. There was a small concrete step in front of our house, and he would avoid using it. He didn’t seem to have the strength in his legs to navigate the step. The doctor diagnosed him with Muscular Dystrophy. It was a very sad time and everyone around me cried. All my aunts and uncles were tested in my mother’s family but no one else carried the gene for this disease. As far as I know, only Normie ever developed this disease.
Normie’s ability to walk or get around quickly vanished and he was then confined to a wheel chair. A few years later he became bedridden. The MDA gave us a hospital bed and a hoyer lift for him. Normie laid in bed all day, every day until his death at the age of 18. . His only real entertainment came from the TV that my father watched in the room outside of Normie’s room. He could see just a crack of it if he laid his head close to the railing of his bed next to the wall.
The children became his primary caretakers. Especially my brother Terry. We would have to lift him when he needed the toilet or the occasional bath. I have muscles today in my arms that I attribute to carrying Normie around. We were charged with bringing his food and drink. We would go into his room to entertain him from time to time. It was heartbreaking to see him lose what little strength he had left. I remember trying to find a toy for him to play with. We settled on a string because he had difficulty holding the toys.
What or who was Normie’s favorite and closest source of joy? The next born child, Peaches. She was a REAL surprise. It was she who became his closest friend. They played together and even fought like most siblings. Normie loved Peaches and Peaches loved him. Peaches was not only an unplanned, unexpected pregnancy, she was a miracle baby. I remember my mother telling me she was going to the hospital for a D&C only to find out she was pregnant. Peaches was the last child born in our house.
My mother’s appendix burst close to the end of that pregnancy, so my father was faced with a choice; save the life of my mother or the life of Peaches if it came to that. God stepped in and made the decision for them both. A month later my baby sister was born.
Peaches was really a present for ME. I can still remember at 8 years of age, being handed a baby. What little girl wouldn’t want to hold a baby? I had no way of knowing just how much she would become MY baby over the years. Now obviously my mother played a part in taking care of her but in my eyes, I was her mini mom. I fed her, change her, had to play with her and worst of all go to bed with her. I would be outside, running and playing with my friend Christine, and I would hear my mother’s voice, “lanadee, lanadee it is time for bed!”. What?? It was 6:30 pm. I was then made to leave everything and everyone else and lay down, sweaty and heart pumping, to put Peaches to sleep. My mother would tell me as I complained that I needed the sleep. I would lay there. Every time I would try and put a foot on the floor, Peaches would raise her head from the pillow. There was no escape
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