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When I was four, all my brothers except the married one, was drafted into WWII. Basil, Byron, Bonnie and Buford. I really don’t remember much about my “childhood” that I never had. Because of the Sullivan Brothers all being killed at the same time, the Armed Forces had declared never to put a whole family together. Basil went somewhere in European Theatre, Bonnie to the Pacific; Phillipines; Byron to France and Buford to Germany.

It seemed like only a short time later that the first telegram came. I couldn’t understand why my Mama was crying. My brother Byron had been hit by exploding schrapnel several times. He was hit in the head, shoulder and hip. All could be removed except the head. It was too close to the brain stem. Although he suffered severe headaches all his life, he worked on a tug boat for thirty days at a time; home for twenty. Those twenty days were spent drinking or drunk and fighting with his wife. He had two sons and a young daughter. When I graduated, I went to stay with them and get a job.

On my first week there, after working an evening shift at a type of ice cream joint, I went home exhausted. I was sleeping on a cot in a hallway, with a curtain in front. I awoke with him attempting to get in my bed.. I caught a bus the following day and came to Montgomery where my now married sister lived. I never told anyone. Even though I was still 16, I found a job immediately. But Mama and Daddy had to approve and sign because of my age.

I must stop here to say that because Daddy would not let me cut my hair, when I arrived at my sisters the first thing I did was find a barber shop. Daddy also would not let me even wear shorts in PE, they were banned. Mama bought me a bathing suit to go on my Senior trip to Ft. Walton. When I returned, she washed it and hung it to dry at the Preacher’s House. Daddy did not approve of his son either.

Mama and Daddy had already picked out a ‘boyfriend’ or future husband for me. They sent him to Montgomery to watch over me. He got a job and stayed on my sister’s enclosed back porch, with the door locked every night. My sister’s husband was a mechanic and gave me a car to drive to work. They had a six year old son.

I grew up being told how smart and beautiful I was. I don’t remember ever doing anything except comb my hair and dress for school. Because I hated my long hair, that’s all there was to do with it. But I had somehow developed the knack for flirting, without commitment it would be called today. My boyfriend Daddy had sent to watch me worked all day, as well as my brother-in-law.

One late afternoon, I was sitting in my sister’s porch swing, reading a Photoplay. I had on my shortest of short-shorts and a blouse. I was 5’5″, 115, black hair, brown eyes and dark olive skin. Along comes this young boy, walking slow from work, counting his paycheck in cash. He did not speak. I noticed he went in two doors down. I had already met a young blonde boy who lived there, my age, but still in high school. His name was Richard.

One day that young man, name Jimmy, stopped to talk. Daddy’s boyfriend, Bill, came out and asked him to leave. Not good for a West End boy. They talked ‘loudly’ for awhile and I asked him to go home. He did. But the next day I was at the coffee shop down on Mildred Street. I saw him across the street at a paint store. As I started walking back home, he came out of the paint store. He asked if I would answer a question for him. He had just bought a 1948 Mercury and he wanted to paint it. What color would you paint it? I said “Battleship Grey”. The following weekend, I saw this hideous Battleship Grey car sitting at his mother’s house.

After a few fights with Bill, I gave his ring back and sent him back to Greenville. I started dating and became engaged to Jimmy. My parents did not like that at all. They wrote that they would be up the following weekend to take me back home, where I could then enter college.

My father and mother decided to make the trip from Brushey Creek to Montgomery in order to convince me to give my ring back. Become unengaged. Stop work and go to college. When they arrived, my brother in law, Mack, had slipped a disk. He was in traction in the hospital. My fiancé, Jimmy, had done the same at his job. He was also in the hospital. That left my handicapped sister, Bernice, mother and 17 year old me.

That fateful weekend of October 16, 1954 was the beginning of a long string of PTSD, anxieties and depression. All of these have followed me for the next sixty five years.

THE REASON FOR BETTY BOOP

Betty Boop was a moniker hung on me in the summer of 1978, when I went to work for a local judge. I had just had it cut into my preferred “pixie cut”. It took me sometime to figure out they were making fun of my choice of hairstyle, as well as dress.

To understand my obsession with this, it must go back to what was called a ‘simpler time’. Born in 1937 in the midst of the depression, and on the 4th of July, I was already blessed. Old country doctors had told Mama that she, at 41 years old, could not bring an eighth child into her world. He warned Daddy of the same, (I have been told) and that he was to be very careful and use a condom. This was provided to Daddy by the doctor at the delivery of my 6 year old sister.

Daddy used the condom, it appears very often. Mama would wash and sterilize in hot water after each use. But apparently the condom got wore out, as Mama was, and sometime in December 1936, I was conceived.

My oldest brother was 25, married and lived with us. As there was no work after the harvest, Daddy worked at the Company paper mill for $.50 per day. This brother, and the other three adult ones mostly drank moonshine. However, his wife was pregnant also.

Came the morning of July 4, 1937, Daddy, 4 older brothers left for “The Pond”. This was a local fishing hole and baptismal for the Hardshell Baptist Church preacher. From there, they started a wash pot full of camp stew, ribs from the smoke house barbecuing on an old oil drum.

Shortly after leaving, Mama began labor pains. All of this has been recounted to me by Mama, who was living with my oldest sister; who was eight at the time.. My sister-in-law called my eleven year old brother, who then ran to the pond to get Daddy. But it was about 6 miles, and Daddy was in a horse and buggy.

Mama began to bleed heavily and Mae became frightened. Mama told her I was coming, and, having no other choice,  Mae delivered me. She had to stop the bleeding, and handed me off to my eight year old sister, Bernice. Mae packed all the towels and bedsheets she had into Mama’s vaginal cavity as the placenta had not passed. She was bleeding to death.

After Mama had passed out from loss of blood, the doctor finally arrived in his horse and buggy. They revived her enough that I could nurse. But she was too weak to get out of bed for nearly a month. Mae and Bernice took care of me except for nursing.

However, on August 3, 1937, Mae went into labor. Again, no doctor, no men. Mama got out of bed and delivered my nephew, who they named Hollis. When my brother finally found a job painting, he and my sister-in-law moved into their own residence. However, Hollis remained with us; as he did until I graduated from high school. Since he had been expelled, Daddy made him enlist in the Army for disciple. (That didn’t work out, more later)

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THE BEGINNING

I am not very good at this, actually, it’s my first real blog. I have written poetry most of my life, making metaphors for the pain.

My childhood was so ‘something’, that I remember nothing until I was 11, the year my youngest brother died. I was born the youngest of eight children my mother bore during the depression era. First there was five boys, then three girls. The oldest brother was married and he and his wife lived with us. His wife was also pregnant at the same time as Mama was pregnant with me. My eight year old sister had a stroke at birth (meconium poisoning), and had seizures. So my six year old sister was always with her if no adult was available.

We lived far out in the country in an Alabama community named Brushey Creek. There were a lot of creeks that had unusual names. There were very few automobiles in 1937 when I made my appearance. Plus, it was on July 4 and my Daddy and all the older men were at a local fishing pond preparing camp stew for the barbecue.

Mama had been told by the doctor that she should not get pregnant again after her seventh child was born. From the age of 15 to 34, she had seven children. Since the oldest were boys or men, they were required to held Daddy with the crops and pigs and hogs. This was our only source of food. For those that did not live during this, certain things were ‘rationed’ by the government. Anything that our troops needed for the war effort, the home front gave up. A family was given “stamps” which represented how much sugar one could get for the month.

But I digress, as I often do, because there is just so much in my mind. When Mama went into labor, they sent my 11 year old brother to run to the barbecue to get Daddy. We only had a horse and buggy, so by he time the doctor arrived, my sister-in-law had delivered me. But my Mama was bleeding to death, and I was handed off to my 8 year old sister. Mae had used all the towels and sheets trying to pack into the uterus. But Mama had lost consciousness when the doctor finally arrived. No one knows how he stopped the bleeding, but she recovered enough to hold me, I’m told. However, she was too weak to get out of bed until I was a month old. Then it was only because she had to get up and deliver my nephew on August 3.

 

Daily Prompt: Together

via Daily Prompt: Together

What is Together? Sounds like To Gather, and maybe that is what it means. If I were to gather all my sons around me for comfort, we would be together. I was sent to gather wood for my parents for long winter nights. When the kindling was lit and the stories began, we were together.

The sound of the word as I try to gather my thoughts together, makes me move my fingers faster. Why? Just to gather make the printer flow fluidly together for this small piece of writings.

Bettyboop

The Conversation

The telephone rang at midnight. He called to ask

“baby, will twenty kill me? I’ve had that many now and still am dropping

Why?

I’ve had these blasted shakes for too long now. You say they won’t, I’ll be alright. What? Unless I mix alcohol. Don’t mix ethanol, that’s sure to do it?

Alright, baby, I’m listening: No, I won’t take anymore. I’ll be sure not to get my usual fifth….”Sure I’ll sleep it off”.

….The telephone rang at daybreak. “no, no one has notified me. He was found with two bottles, one small, one fifth, one empty, one almost—Sure I’ll do it now.”*

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*”Yes, this is my brother, This time you’re really sleeping it off”.

Threw The Bars

A STAY AT KILBY
Dark grey walls imprison you
while your soul tries to heal
your fantasy of hopes and dreams
and capacity to feel
your world inside these walls
the security it brings to a
life no longer meaningful
and no hope eternal spring
your mind dead to life and love
grows more eternal here
stone walls that keep out
everything…but fear.