The weird life

My life is so weird. It's always been weird. That's probably because I was born in 1949, the 3rd child of a family that wanted to stop at two. I was constantly told that I was worthless and was always costing my family money. In those days, children had no social security numbers and if somebody had the right connections they could sell an unwanted child in a black market adoption or even worse, sexual slavery. I think I was three at the time but my parents left me with the baby-sitter on Christmas. The baby-sitter, I found out later from my older sister was also the contact for back-street abortions and black-market adoptions. The babysitter who was an older woman, left me alone with a book filled with Christmas stickers. In those days, there was no self-stick stickers. You had to lick them glued back to make them work. This was the first time I was away from my parents and I was scared. My anxiety increased as I stuck stickers everywhere, hoping my parents would return soon and be proud of my handiwork. Instead a young couple arrived. I remember the woman had long blonde hair and a red dress under her fur coat. My babysitter picked me up so she could hold me when all that anxiety and glue backed up on me and I threw up all over her red dress. She yelled something like "How dare you give me a sick baby!" and pushed me back into the babysitter's arms. I was put into a crib in a dark room after a lot of angry talk and I stayed there until my parents picked me up. I don't remember much of what happened next, but I was very sick because the next thing I knew was that I was in a hospital, being stuck with needles by angry nurses. The story I heard later in life was that my parents left me with the baby-sitter so they could attend my sister's Christmas pagent and was sick with something that was called "glandular fever." My mother said I spent eight days in the hospital. The first seven days I was given sulfa drugs that had little effect on my sickness. The end of that week, the doctor told my parents that he could give me a new drug that was still largely experimental, but my father would have to sign a permission slip because the new drug could cure me or kill me. My father signed the paper and they gave me another giant needle of the new drug. That night I flew. I flew around the hospital. I saw what looked like a woman having an operation. I saw lines of cars and trucks on the roads outside. Finally, I was back in my crib I was coloring in a coloring book and throwing crayons back and forth over the tops of our cribs which lay head to head with a kid named Mikey. The next day, I stood up in my crib and tried to see over the huge wooden top, but I was too short. When the nurses came in, I asked where Mikey was. The younger nurse burst into tears and said "Mikey's dead!" I went home that day. When my mother told that part of the story to my sister and me, she asked "Guess what that medicine was?" We shook our heads. "Penicillin." Our life was rough after that. My father had a successful machine shop but he drank all his profits. My mother took in ironing. Later, I found out she was also turning tricks. When she wanted to insult me, she'd tell me I was "just like my father." For a long time I wondered what she meant by that because weren't we supposed to be like our parents? It wasn't until much later that I found out about the visiting "insurance men." We had dogs but the one assigned to me suddenly disappeared. My mother said it was all my fault because I didn't take care of her and she ran away. Years later my sister told me that she wasn't going to keep a female dog that wasn't spayed. The male dog was never the same. He always kept to himself and never wanted to play. My mother did some darker things to try to "turn me out" but I was too defensive and would say I'd jump out into traffic before I'd go along with that scheme. And I said it while in a moving car going down the Long Island Expressway. My parents bad habits were backing up on them. I got into constant fights at school. Nobody wanted to be my friend. My mother kept trying to get into the local social scene by joining a church but the gossip got about and she was shunned. I was shunned too. Finally, my father lost his temper one last time and decided to move from New York to Florida. In Florida, he bought a bar and had my mother help him run it. I had always wondered why they stayed together for so long. She said it was because he was the only man who offered to marry her. I always wondered why a man would stay with a woman who fooled around. I found out later, he fooled around, too--with other men. The whole marriage thing was one big made-for-social-acceptance sham. My mother liked playing the diva at the bar and my father spent a lot of his spare time fishing. My brother only stayed for the first month when he turned 21 and flew back to New York to stay with friends until he got a place of his own.

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Mike Lyles

Author of “The Drive-Thru is Not Always Faste...

Staresville, United States