February 24, 2020

Running For My Life For Mr. Winston

Bubby. Bless His Heart …

Because my mother was bedridden, I had no choice but to go live with my dear [late] brother for a while. He was barely an adult himself, having recently gotten married at the threat of a shotgun at the tender age of 18. As such, he had not developed proper child rearing skills—or any common sense for that matter.

This was ‘back in the day’—back in the 60’s when it was still ‘cool’ to smoke. There were no prohibitions against cigarette advertising yet, so Joe Camel was still winking at everyone from every telephone pole, TV commercial, magazine advertisement, and media outlet. One dark summer night my brother discovered that he was out of cigarettes. So, to remedy the situation, he decided that I should go to a nearby beer and wine carry-out with a hand-written permission slip and buy them for him.

Future Olympian?

We lived on a cul-de-sac located at the furthest point back in a large apartment complex in Dayton, Ohio. My trip to the carry out involved either walking on the sidewalk through the entire length of the dark complex [prolonging my terror] or opting for a short-cut through several parking lots and dimly-lit back alleys [equally terrifying].

I was absolutely scared to death [!] but found myself, as they say, ‘between a rock and a hard place’. I figured it was best to do what I was was told without protesting, lest I provoke another encounter with his wife ‘Miss Manners’ and her friend the designer spatula. [See my separate essay on this.]

My dear bother—‘Bubby’—could see my fear. He found it amusing and—ever the wise guy–he laughed, calling to me as I was running Mach 1 with my hair on fire:  “Run fast. You don’t want the Boogie Man to get you! ”

Who does this to a 7 year old who’s afraid of the dark?! Well, apparently my immature teenage brother … bless his heart.

I never ran so fast in all my life. I switched on afterburners that, to that point, I didn’t even know I had! Breathlessly, I burst through the door of the smoke filled carryout in Oakwood and slammed the note down on the counter. The creepy old codger who worked read the note and laughed as I stood there bent over—huffing and puffing—trying to get my breath. This scene repeated itself when I got back home and slammed the prized package of cigarettes down on the coffee table.

Speaking In Tongues Of A Different Kind

There were other fun stories like this I could relate. For example, my emotional state [being so homesick, crying for my mother, and wanting to go home] caused me to walk in my sleep. My brother and his wife lived in a one bedroom apartment, so I did not have my own room, or my own bed.

I would begin my night by going to sleep in their bed. When it was time for them to go to bed, they would wake me and move me out to the living room to sllp the rest of the night on the Duofold couch. Often, when they were waking me and telling me to go to the couch, my brother found humor in  intentionally inverting his words, talking gibberish and/or conversing to me in Pig Latin. They said that I sat there in a daze, trying to figure out what he was saying.

A favorite story he loved to tell through the years was how one night I got up, set the dinner table [complete with placemats, napkins, silverware, cups, etc.]  then sat down and went through the motions of eating. I then got up, cleared the table, washed and put away the dishes, and went to bed on the couch—all without waking.

No Carpool 

While living there with him in the second grade, I learned early the valuable skill of taking a deep breath and just doing what needs to be done. For example, when I needed dental work done, I would present my signed permission slip to the principle, leave school early, walk by myself to the dentist, check in, get my fillings, [facing my mortal fear of Novacaine shots!], and then walk myself back home—arriving to an empty house.

Obviously, I made it through my time living with Bubby, no worse for the wear. LOL. And since that time, I’ve had many more ‘take the bull by the horns’ moments. I’ve also had my share of moments where I was scared to death as well.

The good news, is that I have yet to meet up with that infamous Boogie Man that my brother warned me about—outside of the one lurking in my own mind.

So, at the end of the day—it may be true that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, eh? Alls well that ends well.

Oh by the way … I’ll end with a bit of trivia … Cigarettes were 50 cents a pack back then. That tells you how old I am, huh?

Signed, Grandma Moses


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