From Embryo to Imbecile': Chapter 4
Welcome back to chapter four of my autobiography, "From Embryo to Imbecile."
When I last left you, I was wallowing in 1965 and the events surrounding the birth of my baby sister, Tammy. After a failed attempt at running away and living on my own, I returned to my home where I was no longer "the baby." It was time for me to start growing up.
With the arrival of my sister, our family was now six members strong. My family had outgrown our house, four children ago. There were six of us living in a tiny one bedroom home. My parents kept my sister in a crib in their room, while my brothers and I were all sleeping together in what was, quite literally, an oversized closet in the attic.
Our "bedroom" was quite unique in that the only items that could actually fit in the room were three tiny beds. Sleeping in such close quarters with my two brothers wouldn't have been so bad, if my oldest brother hadn't been a bed-wetter.
Invariably, we would all get tucked in and sometime during the night, my oldest brother, Michael would wet his bed. Instead of sleeping in his mess, he would climb into bed with my second oldest brother, Donny. Then he would pee in that bed.
The next morning, my mother would come in to wake us and find her three sons reeking of urine and crammed into one tiny bed. I'm happy to report that Michael overcame his bedwetting problems by the time he was ten years old.
Unfortunately, Donny still suffers from recurring nightmares in which he is drowning.
Anyway, the rest of our house consisted entirely of a kitchen and a small family room. Apparently the original builder of the home really enjoyed his own smell, because the only bathroom in the entire home was in the kitchen. This made for some very memorable meals, including one in which we butchered and ate our pet lamb, "Bambi."
("Honey, don't cry. Bambi would have wanted us to eat him. Now, do you want some mint jelly with your pet or not?")
You really couldn't blame my dad for slaughtering Bambi. He was struggling to feed a family of six on a carpenter's wages. However, what really frightens me is that I have no recollection of whatever became of our first dog, "Rocky."
By the time I was 4 years old, it became clear that we desperately needed a bigger house. My father decided to take it upon himself to build an addition to our home. This addition would include two bedrooms and a huge living room that would more than double the size of our house.
This was a massive job that my dad would do entirely on his own with the exception of a little help from three young manual laborers, ages eight, seven, and four.
My father was a scary looking man with a huge chest, Popeye forearms, and a scowl that only left his face during holidays. He had very little patience and a legendary temper, especially when it came to work.
Work related stories about my father are numerous. On one occasion, he hired one of his younger brothers to help him put a new roof on a house. Apparently my father didn't appreciate the speed in which his brother was carrying up stacks of shingles, so in his typical profanity-laced way, my father let his brother know that he better pick up the pace.
When my Uncle responded with his own profanity, my father simply walked across the roof, picked my Uncle up and tossed him over the side of the house. My Uncle was lucky. He lived, and he never had to work with my dad again. My brothers and I wouldn't be that fortunate.
My dad was famous for asking one of his sons to fetch him some obscure tool out of his toolbox and when we brought him back the wrong item he would bark at us, "You stupid #@%%#$, I said to bring me a three quarter inch masonry chisel, not a one inch wood chisel."
Amazingly, never once did he sit any of us down to actually teach us the difference between various tools. Somehow he expected that we would be born with this knowledge.
The scariest moment that occurred during the building of the addition happened soon after the foundation had been completed.
While my Dad was taking a coffee break, my brothers and I decided to play tag. Being only four years old and something of an idiot, I was backing away from whomever was "it" and backed right off the side of the foundation.
I did a back flip with a half gainer and fell into a water filled moat that had formed around the perimeter of the foundation. All I knew about this water was that there was a huge bullfrog, that resembled "the blob" living in it. I began to picture the bullfrog (which we called "Bigelow") attacking me. This caused me to panic and drown.
I don't know how long I was underwater but I was sure that I was going to die, either by drowning or from a vicious bullfrog attack. Fortunately, one of my brothers alerted my father that there was a man overboard. He grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and yanked me out of the water, just as I was heading for the white light.
My father handed me over to my mother, who put me in the kitchen sink where she washed the slime and muck off of me. I was embarrassed, but I was glad that I would live to see kindergarten.
Jim Cegielski writes weekly for The Meridian Star.