Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Final Sibling

My mother was pregnant again. I was furious. Not for the Freudian reasons many might think. I was jealous for my sister. She was supposed to be the baby.

At the same time a new baby was always an exciting event. Once I realized that my sister was looking forward to having a baby in the family I relaxed and began to be excited myself.

My oldest sister and I were hoping for a girl. Not since I was the only child in the family had the girls outnumbered the boys. We wanted some of the inequality on our side for a change.

I was a few days shy of my sixteenth birthday when Mom went to the hospital. She never had an easy delivery. For many of us she was put to sleep It was standard practice in many places.

My father was the first to see a baby each time because Mom was asleep or otherwise busy. Mom thought that was unfair. Because she was finally able to have a natural childbirth she gave strict orders to the doctor that she was to be the first to see the baby. "I don't care if I go into a coma for 20 years, no one is to see that baby before me!"

She saw her final son immediately after he was born. Then Daddy got to see him before he came home to tell us the good news. It was the day after she went to the hospital and we were so anxious.

Now everyone in the whole neighborhood knew of my plans to have another sister. I was vocal about it. When Daddy told us we had a new brother everyone in the neighborhood knew the baby was a boy when I yelled, "OH NOOOOO!" at the top of my lungs. They teased me about it for a long time.

One baby picture could have been used for all of us. We looked that much alike when we were born. But not this brother. Actually he looked like my second brother did at that time. Had to be different.

I was old enough to visit the hospital so I got to see him before the other kids did too. He was a pretty baby. And he already had a personality. Not all babies do. Of course that was still when you could only view the babies through the window of the nursery.

The baby came home. My sister was 11 years old. Remember that I believe this is the age where the nurturing begins to manifest itself in girls. So she took him much the same way that I took my youngest sister.

I do not think he liked me much. Mom said it was because I so obviously favored my sister. But he was such a cutie and I took care of him a lot when my parents had things to do.

The first time he laughed out loud I was babysitting. My boyfriend was there and we were sort of wrestling the way teenagers do. I think my baby brother thought I was being beat up and he was happy.

My parents also decided to have another baby right away. They felt that my sister was kind of left out by age differences. She was 5 years older than the baby and 5 years younger than her next older brother. Unfortunately it was not to be. It was the last baby my mother lost. She came close to dying and decided it was time to stop.

Daddy came in and woke me up in the middle of the night because he was taking Mom to the hospital. He wanted me to sleep in their bed and listen for my brother in case he needed something.

I took him to be with me (a common practice). As I was trying to sleep the baby stopped breathing. And did not start again. I lay there and listened and held my breath. He was so still. Just as I was reaching out to touch him he took a deep deep breath and began to breathe normally again. i was afraid to sleep the rest of the night. Mom told me later that he did that all the time. All I know is that it terrified me.

As I said before he had a personality. It was sometimes a little devilish but always cute. All of us adored him. Especially the boys.

The boys would take him with them when they were teenagers and he was 4 or 5. He could roll his stomach. Whenever one of the boys told him to roll his stomach he would lift his shirt and rool away. At the store it would get free candy bars for all of them. The boys nicknamed him Fritz. I do not know why.

I had married by then and was living in another state. I wrote home often to my family and my husband's family. They wrote back. One day i received a letter from my 4 year old brother.

He wanted to send me a letter but of course did not know how to write. He dictated it to Mom who wrote, word for word, what he wanted to say.

Part of it went something like "I'm busy helping Mommy clean the whole house. Not the kitchen. Not the bedrooms. Not the bathroom. Not the living room. Just the couch."

When I found out I was going to have a baby of my own he was so excited. He wrote that when I had my baby he would bring his baby over to my house so they could play together while he went to work. He was terribly disappointed when my son was born and he was not automatically grown with a family of his own. He was not 5 years old yet.

When my family moved to the same place I lived my brother was happy. He loved being an uncle. And he was devoted to his nephew when it did not inconvenience him too much. The boys became quite close.

Now boys that are close tend to have their squabbles and these two were no different from the rest. They would fight and tattle just like all boys. There were times when my brother wanted nothing to do with that little kid following around. And times my son would be aggravated by his uncle telling him what to do.

One day when they were about 3 and 8 they had an argument of some kind. My son came into the room I was in and sat on my lap. Suddenly here came my brother screaming bloody murder. His arm was bleeding.

My brother said my son had cut him. I said he had been sitting on my lap. It seems my son had found the very top of a glass soda pop bottle and put it on his finger like a ring. While the boys were scuffling the jagged edge of glass cut my brother's arm. He still has a scar.

My son told me only a few years ago that he did it on purpose. Rotten kid!

My brother loves sports just like most of the family. He liked to play baseball with the older boys. He became a really fast pitcher.

The only problem was that he threw so hard. A lot of the boys did not want to catch while he pitched. When he joined a little league team the catcher for his team wore a work glove with foam padding inside his catcher's mitt. He said it still hurt (and his hand would be all red) but it helped a lot.

My brother was also very accurate with his pitches... until a batter stepped into place. My brother was so afraid of hitting the batter and hurting him. His pitching then would be so erratic. He just could not pitch well with a batter in the box.

My brother was a picky eater. I do not mean that he did not like certain vegetables. He would eat lettuce sandwiches for lunch. One leaf of lettuce between two slices of bread. No condiments of any kind. He liked chicken noodle soup I think. I cannot think of anything else. He liked hot dogs- to wrap tightly in aluminum foil and placed in the barbecue until the whole thing exploded. He did not eat them.

But he loved candy. He ate a lot of candy. As a matter of fact that was pretty much his diet.

My brother and my son would sit on the front steps waiting for my father and brother to get home from work. My brother would reach into his pockets and divide his change between them. My brother would take off to the store for a candy fix. Usually my son just sat on the steps and dropped the coins into a crack in the steps.

Then my brother began to pass out when he would get up in the morning. He would get out of bed and pass out at about the same time he got to his bedroom door.

The doctor did tests and discovered that my brother suffers from hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. Candy is not good for him.

At least the doctor was a realist. He understood that a child is going to eat sweets. He explained to my parents and my brother that he would have to learn how to manage his sugar. If he had a piece of candy he would need to eat something with protein at close to the same time. A piece of cheese or bologna or a peanut butter sandwich. He learned to eat a few foods that were healthier for him. Today he has a normal appetite.

When he was a teenager he and his friends loved to go Trick-or-Treating on Halloween. They had been together since they were beginning school. ( Lucky him. He is still in close touch with most of them.) When KISS became so popular four of them decided to be KISS. Mom helped if they asked but they pretty much made their costumes including fastening blocks of wood to their shoes to make those high boots worn by KISS. It has become a family tradition now that some of the kids dress that way for Halloween.

My brother was in high school when he went to my parents and told them that his girlfriend was pregnant. Her father called and was understandably upset. He wanted them married right away. Mom told him that a baby was not a reason to marry. In time her father agreed. His health insurance would cover her and the baby because she was a minor.

My brother went to work after school to have money for diapers and formula and such. After his daughter was born he would go to their house every night after work. He would play with her, read to her, and tuck her in every night.

Two years later he and my niece's mother decided to marry. But before that was accomplished they had another little girl.

The girls grew up beautifully. When they were teenagers my sister-in-law discovered she was pregnant. Even though she is strongly Catholic she did not want to care for another baby. My brother convinced her to have the baby.

He arranged with his boss to work hours that would allow him to care for the baby. The girls babysat when they got home from school while he worked. And he finally had a little boy.

His son is ready to graduate from high school and be off to college. My brother has helped coach little league, football, and wrestling. Of course he was as involved with his girls as he could be too. He is a good father.

He and his wife divorced and he has custody of his son. The girls are both married and have children of their own who adore their grandfather.

Because our father died of a heart attack and so did the oldest of our brothers my brother is pretty good about watching his health. The doctor discovered some blockage a few years ago and he had a procedure to fix that. All good.

Last summer he, his son, and one of the girls' husband were doing some yard work to pick up a few extra dollars. It was extremely hot and he told the boys he was going to sit in the car to cool off in the air conditioning.

My niece's husband was alert enough to check on him quickly. They drove my brother to the hospital. He was having a heart attack.

Another surgery cleared the blockage on that side. He is doing very well now. My niece and her husband finally convinced him and my nephew to move in with them and their children. They are doing quite well now.


  1. Again, Emma, you have presented such a vivid portrait of your family. Sometimes, in reading these posts, I think that photos of your family members would enhance the narrative, but then can also understand that imagination is also a part of story telling and so I try to picture each family member.

    1. I purposely decided not to use pictures or real names to protect the privacy of my family. Nobody wants to be associated with some of the embarrassing things I write about. It gives me the freedom to be honest without hurting anyone's feelings.