1951. A good year to be born. My parents had much experience with babies, they had 10 of them before me (and a few still borns) and one more after. I was the only one in 1951.
I was tiny. Not as tiny as my brother Bobby, who was brought home in a cigar box! I wasn’t much over five pounds, and a Frank’s Breach Birth, which, my mother informed me, is not how you want to come into this world- ass backwards. Yep, I put my tush out first, and then my head. No wonder my journey through life has been a bit less than ordinary. I learned to talk early, walked about on time, and – legend has it- clobbered my brother in law with a glass milk bottle , after climbing out of a crib that was supposedly escape proof. He was a tad drunk, and sleeping on the couch, only to be awakened by repeated blows to the head from a tiny red headed baby, who could barely crawl, yelling at him: “Mill …mill…mill…” THAT is the earliest story in my family mythology. I was told that story so often, and the family recounted it so often, that I thought it was a memory. It is one now. LOL
I spent the next four years, like most little people, learning not to poop in my own pants, nor pee in them. To ask for things without simply pointing at them. To share. Then right around four years of age, I had three big things happen all in the same year:
I got a concussion, I got the croup, and almost died, and …I set the house on fire. Yes, it was a busy year. They didn’t happen exactly in that order…so let’s start with the concussion, because that may explain a lot about me then, and now. LOL
I was running in the backyard, when I tripped on a baseball bat. That should have been no big deal, but, someone had left a rake, one of those with the thick metal tines for stripping weeds , laying face up. Four of the prongs managed to pierce my skull. My forehead swelled up like Frankenstein’s, and for about six weeks, that is what folks called me. It was hideous. I think it rewired my brain, in fact, I am sure of it. My parents were truly worried, and took me back to the Hospital several times, but the Doc’s back then told them to give it some time for the swelling to go away. Nobody wanted to do brain surgery on me. It was wise advise. I did, eventually, heal. At least outwardly. But the concussion may explain the next bit- setting the house on fire.
When I was four, I loved Army Men, not real Army men, plastic, and metal Army men. Play Army men. I turned five that September, so I was almost five when this happened. I played with them like the little autistic kid I was (didn’t know it back then- but who else plays Army at four, by taking the battle plans from a book, and arranging the soldiers according to actual battlefield deployment? lol). I had two huge armies set up on the back porch. Little tanks, cannons, and jeeps were everywhere. I had two forts, and wanted realism. So, I went and got my Dad’s Ronco Lighter fluid can ( six ounces of liquid volatile fuel) and some paper to make it look more realistic. Well, our back porch was old, dry, and had paint on it. Once it was soaked with lighter fluid, well, when the first wooden match hit the fluid, a flame started that was so big, I couldn’t put it out. I went around the back of the house to get the garden hose. When I came back around the corner , with said hose in hand, well … the flames were above the window and hitting the roof. I put the hose down, walked across the street to a neighbor’s house, and she gave me a donut and chocolate milk. A few minutes later, she came running from her living room: “Kevin, your house is on fire, is your Mom home?” “Yes, Ma’am.” She ran out and yelled at my Mom to get out of the house. We lost most of the back porch. Once they figured out I started it, completely by accident…the adults all laughed. No harm, no foul. However, since I left my Mom in a burning house, stole my Dad’s lighter fluid, and set the porch on fire…it seemed like every adult male related to me was allowed to spank me on principal alone. I still remember the donut. Glazed.
Then, on my fifth birthday, I got the Croup, or Whooping Cough. It sometimes was fatal for us little tykes. It nearly did me in. The hospital was full, and there wasn’t anything they could do for me, so, they sent me home in an oxygen tent. They told my parents:
“Have somebody watch him all the time. He is so little, and he has to fight for every breath. He may get to tired to breathe. It is up to how much fight he has in him… if he makes it through the next 48 hours or so, you can take him out of the oxygen tent and bring him back for a check up.” My parents set me up in the living room, with the tent covering me. I only remember the little zipper, and how the plastic would fog up if I sat up to close to it. There was always someone watching me. Then, I got better. I got the croup – for some reason, almost every year-from age four to age ten- but never as bad as that time. My Dad and Mom were so happy I made it, they bought me a toy boat. Toys were rare in our house, and to get one- for no apparent reason- was a big deal. How big? I have a picture of that toy, and me- to this day. Here I am , so tiny, so proud, and such a big head! I had made it to Five years of age.