One of my favorite sunset photos, taken from my 16th floor window at the end of an otherwise not too spectacular day. The sun came out late in the day, and the sunset was amazing. “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight”. I remember my mom quoting this to me when I was growing up. Guess I’ve always been fascinated by sunsets, and I must have asked her why the sky looked bloody. I’m sure she gave me a scientific explanation that passed over my head, but I remember the quote.
Tony started to school a year ahead of me, which is typical, since he’s a year older. And as usual, when he came home with homework, he shared it with me. So I actually went through the first grade with him, learning to read, spell and do basic arithmetic. “See Jane. See Jane run. See Spot. See Spot run.” There was a boy involved, but I can’t remember his name. Oh, yes, I think it was Dick. We really had the difficult reading books back then. I think they are in museums now. We also learned to print that year, our A B C’s all through the Z. Copied the words in the spelling book, learned basic penmanship as far as printing went, and basic spelling. I look in awe at what kids are learning today, and just think about how I didn’t have that subject until sixth grade.
When I started school the next year I already knew how to read, print, spell, add and subtract, so I could do my homework quickly, then study second grade with Tony. We had a large, 4 room, red brick schoolhouse, that my dad went to back when it was new, so I’m sure it had a lot of history, but I was too young and having too much fun with my friends to care about history then.,I thought I had a photo of my dad’s graduation from St. Martin’s School on file, but since I don’t have it in this folder, I decided to share this one of dad, on my brother Larry’s pontoon boat, with my Grandmother, floating down the placid Ohio River in 1969. Larry loved the water and he always had a boat, so we would go out with him frequently, when he didn’t have his friends aboard headed for a party on the island in the river.
Okay, back to school. Since there were only 4 rooms, 2 classes shared a room. So Tony and I were in the same room for 4 years. The year we were in grades 5 and 6, our 3 and 4 grade teacher had followed us up to that position. She had caught on to our homework schedule, and decided to advance me to 6th grade reading and spelling, where Tony and I would compete. Not a good idea, as far as I was concerned. My classmates became hostile about my being promoted, while I knew better than to ever top Tony in anything. He has always been bigger than I am, and at that age, he had no qualms about beating me up. So, when it came to reading, I would always make one mistake, so Tony would be ahead of me. In our spelling bee, I missed the last word, so Tony would be the winner. My mama didn’t raise no dummy. Sister Leander admitted she wanted to see if I could beat Tony at anything, and I freely admitted that I would never, ever beat him because I didn’t want to get hurt.
That year of school messed me up big time though. I didn’t seem to belong to either class any more. I hated all forms of math, and still have a huge disability where numbers are concerned. I can look at numbers and develop a migraine of terrible proportions. The rest of my family are mathematical geniuses, but I proudly accept the banner of dummy, because that sets me apart.
In 7th grade I developed a sinus infection that kept me out of school for over 6 weeks. Tony brought my homework to me, explained what I was supposed to do, and then left me to it. My GPA took a huge dip, since I really didn’t care much about anything except drawing the next breath. There were daily appointments with a doctor, and huge doses of Sulfa to try to clear up the infection, so I could breathe, and I remember spending most of my time in a tent Mom made, with a vaporizer inside shooting out a hot mist flavored with Vicks salve. I slept a lot, and one day woke up from a nap to see my tent was on fire. Mom was in the kitchen, but when I screamed in a squeaky voice, I finally got her attention, and she pulled the tent away from me and stomped out the fire. To say that was a memorable day is putting it mildly.
When I finally made it back to school, it was like I was starting all over again. During my absence the class had done some pre-algebra, or pre-geometry, I don’t remember now. That class was over, and I had missed the entire part, and never caught up, making my math skills, or lack thereof even worse. My teacher discovered my eyesight was bad that year, and Mom took me to have my first eye checkup. According to the optometrist, I couldn’t see anything past the end of my nose. I just thought everyone saw that way. I do remember that after getting my first pair of glasses it was such a difference to see things clearly for the first time in such a long time. My vision had been fading slowly over the years, so I really didn’t realize I was losing it.
Eighth grade brought more responsibility. Tony had decided to go to the seminary, so we didn’t study together any longer. There was a hole in my heart big enough to drive a truck through. My best friend and worst enemy was gone, and somehow I knew he would be back physically, but the separation was forever. We would each move on in different directions now. I made it through the year, graduating 8th grade with my cousins and playmates, Carol, Barbara, Diane, and Dan. Five of us, first cousins, living within a mile of each other, playmates since birth, and sharing our first milestone in May of 1956,
That summer we rode our bikes up and down the road to visit, played Spin The Bottle under the Panther Creek bridge with some of the boys we grew up with, and started getting interested in people outside the family circle. But still, we were bound to each other inside that circle of love and family. Today Carol is missing from the circle, Barbara lives in Houston, but Dan, Diane and I are still here in Daviess County, and most of our visits these days are at the funeral home, when we gather to say goodbye to another member of the clan.