Chapter 1: the 1970’s (part 2)…

My Brother, the Jerk

My brother and I dressed sharp in our pink psychedelic Easter suits.

As I said before, my brother is five years older than me. His chosen method of being a jerk was more psychological than physical. Although, there were times when he would tickle me to the point of pain/laughing out of breath and would only stop if i was able to say “I’m gonna tell the teacher on you”, because he was so relentless in his action I could never get all of those words out. The only way he would stop is if either of my parents yelled at him.

Mostly his modus operandi was how best he could scare me. And many things managed to scare me (some to this day, I fear spiders no matter how big or small), he usually focused on ad’s that played on T.V. like Brigantine Castle or the super creepy trailer for the Horror film Suspiria. Both seen below.

When we had our only trip to the Jersey shore in 1977, Wildwood had their own haunted house called Dracula’s Castle, we did not do that.

He also made up things like Just by saying “Gorilla Frankenstein & Monkey Man” my young imaginative mind conjured up what I thought they were. He sometimes went to playing elaborate gags. He bought some ghost on a wire he rigged to fly down the steps at me while I was playing at the foot of the steps with my hot wheels or he found a Styrofoam head that held out Mom’s wig and then set it to look out the back porch window and told me we had a ghost in the house. He also would wave his fingers in front of my face and say “Magic Fire Dust in your eyes” and then I would cry or scream or yell for my Mom and he would then get in trouble.

One time when we were at Sunday School and Mom & Dad’s class was both in a different location & running late, my brother told me that our parents abandoned us. I remember totally freaking out and running around the church trying to find my parents and ended up in the gym wailing that they left us. Someone recognized me and found my parents and brought them to me, when asked I of course said “Donnie said you left and were never coming back” of course my brother got in trouble.

That was life growing up in the 70’s with my brother for about 90% of the time. The other 10% he was a decent brother and I too found ways to get back at him. Even as a wee little kid, I was always eating with my fingers. Well one birthday I ruined my cake, my Mom laughed it off because after all it was my birthday cake.

I also remember at times getting my revenge every single time Mom made spaghetti (with meat sauce, which I will add I always thought was gross, I usually pushed the meat to the side separated from the sauce) I would slurp them in and say “Yum Worms !!” Ha ! Got him all the time.

Despite it all I envied my brother. He was book smart, he also had the knack to be creative at times. With our next door neighbor Cathy, they wrote an original play called “The Runaways”. I was meant to star with Wendy in this play. They wrote, we rehearsed but never performed it anywhere. It was pretty cool, even after seeing Grease in the movies my brother had hoped to do a Grease play with me playing Danny. He would direct me recreating scenes from the film and I would sing along to the soundtrack we had on record.

We played a lot of board games together like Mouse Trap, Haunted Mansion and Sorry to name a few. We also liked to build forts with the couch cushions sometimes seeing who could make the tallest tower. And at times we rode the cushions down the 3rd floor, 2nd floor and basements steps. Who needed an amusement park when you could make your own.

When I turned 7, my brother planned a surprise party for me. But instead of just inviting my friends he invited every kid from the neighborhood. Again, that would be kids ranging in age from 6-15. Those teenagers had an unfair advantage over every game that was devised. I was a socially awkward kid, I had friends but I didn’t pal around with a large group, it was always one or two at time. Looking back it was a grand gesture on his part to do this for me but I hated every second of it.

Illness and other fun things

As a kid I spent a lot of time, essentially being home schooled before it became a thing. My Mom became my substitute teacher. I had a knack to always come down with Bronchitis. Being sick a lot also meant not going to church (which I am pretty sure made my Dad happier. He wasn’t a church goer. He believed in God just not organized religion, a trait I would take on myself) My brother got sick a lot as well. I also had allergies. I took allergy shots in the arm for about 18 years. I grew to accept that prick of pain (perhaps my masochist side blossomed in the 1970’s) but always had a problem swallowing pills, Mom always had to hide them in applesauce for me.

For my entire childhood in the 1970’s both my hands and fingers had warts. I was always fascinated by my warts. I never took them as unsightly, I considered it a blessing to be different from other’s.I always thought they were cool. I remember being jealous of my best friend Mike K. who wore glasses. I always wished I could wear glasses. (Looking back on those two memories, made me an exceptionally strange kid that took pleasure over grief in what most would probably have major issues with). Perhaps, my parents fed into the fascination I had with my warts, I don’t know I never got to ask them that. My brother never seemed to use them as ammunition against me either.

When I was in the 2nd Grade, I came down with Pneumonia and had to be hospitalized. My biggest memory was seeing butterfly pins adorn my IV and just enjoying my time away from home.

After seeing Grease in 1978, I decided to recreate the Hand Jive dance scene on our wooden living room floor, I slid across the floor on my knees and somehow got a 8 inch splinter embedded in my knee. I remember being in pain but again being in awe when Dr. Moyer tweezered out this loooooong splinter.

to be continued next week…

Chapter 1: 1970’s…

< authors note: This story contains language and situations that might be uneasy for some readers. Please read with an open mind>

Little Shirl

Fuck you Dad ! I would love to start this on a positive but for what it’s worth unlike my Mom, my Dad was an asshole. Apparently my parents marriage must’ve really sucked even when I was a kid because something he took pride in saying to my young self, was not just saying I was so much like my Mom, but he would call me “Little Shirl” as if I was my Mom in kid form.

Me, with of all things, a giant pink teddy bear

Maybe it was his creative way of calling me a sissy ? My Dad must’ve been disappointed in both his sons. My brother threw like a girl and had zero interest in sports, whereas I didn’t shy away from sports, I just sucked at them. Although I will say typical guy/girl games in the 1970’s were marbles & hopscotch. In my elementary school we had tournaments for both. Marbles bored me and hopscotch was at least physically active yet it was deemed the “girls” game, I longed to be in those tournaments because I actively played hopscotch with the neighborhood girls I was friends with. It was something I was really good at.

So it’s noted by some that you are born with your sexuality defined. I’d like to say that mine was tucked away with no actual hints of attraction of the same sex, that would happen much later, but I definitely wasn’t a typical little boy.

The future Gay-Bisexual Brothers circa early 70’s.

I preferred to use my imagination over actual toys. Not that I didn’t have toys growing up, because I did, but getting together with the neighborhood girls and playing house, I weirdly thought was a lot more fun than playing the board game, The game of life. Perhaps, it was a chance to be someone I wasn’t.

I did have boys dolls like GI Joe & Action Figures like Micronauts & Star Wars, but there were, at times, an element of romance in my story lines, it wasn’t all action and destruction. My Grandmother had Hawaiian Hula dolls I liked to play with whenever I stayed over at her house, I also found a nude Barbie Doll that I took home with me. She was the naked girlfriend/nag of my GI Joe Doll she also hung around with Spider-Man & Gene Simmons. But when she wasn’t, I used to pamper that doll with countless acts of hair brushing.

Mom

I spent a great deal of time being at my Mom’s side. My Mom & I grew so close I considered her my best friend. I had multiple friends I considered “best” growing up but Mom was the best.

She was artsy & crafty and she taught me everything I needed to know about how not to cook (My Grandmother on the other hand taught me how to make Syrian Food).

Here I am with my Mom , looking quite upset perhaps I had really wanted to see the turkey or my brother/dad were picking on me, I don’t know, but Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Early 1970’s. My Uncle Dan on the far left would die in 1975, I really liked him from what I remember, My Grampop, My Dad and Me looking so happy ,a trend in almost every photo looking back proving my anxiety & depression started at a very young age. My Uncle Joe to the right of me, my brother and my Gram. Mom most likely took the photo.

was my all time favorite holiday. It was the best meal of the year (especially Mom’s stuffing), the second being Dad’s Good Friday Fish Fry.

Aside from these two meals, My parents couldn’t cook to save their lives.

My brother and I grew up eating broiled shoe leather aka chicken, pork chops, steak & lamb chops, boiled no flavor potatoes, blackened burnt grilled BBQ Chicken & most awfully overdressed soupy salad. All an acquired taste for sure and even though nothing was made correctly, my brother and I still lapped it up because we thought this was normal.

Mom was a Tomboy growing up. She had two older brothers & one younger brother. She was very active in sports especially swimming, ideally she wanted to be a gym teacher but she was forced to study nursing. My Mom had the title of RN but growing up she was more homemaker-best friend-Mom than professional. She would often talk about not being interested in typical girl things, she liked being rough and getting dirty, although perhaps that’s normal when all your siblings are boys.

My Mom had fuzzy blue slippers that I used to like to wear, and yes I was one of those kids that tried my Mom’s heels, wig & lipstick. Not because I thought I was a girl, but I envied my Mom so much I just wanted to be like her as much as I could.

Mom even once helped me create my own Halloween costume to parade around the local neighborhood. I was to become a decapitated head on a plate for dinner. We took a cardboard box cut a hole in the top with a paper plate rim for my head to stick through, then glued a napkin and some plastic ware and a cup and painted dripping blood around my neck and down the box, morbid yes and funny too. I’m pretty sure my teacher was horrified. But Mom was a huge horror fan and that was just the beginning.

I didn’t exactly have a sheltered movie going experience growing up, our parents took my brother and I to every kind of film G, PG & R. Mom was really big into to horror (Dad was a scaredy cat), my first foray into that genre was both Jaws & Halloween. Jaws is most likely the reason we only went to the Jersey shore only once as a family.

Halloween became fodder for my brother to use to scare the hell out of me. My brother is 5 years older, so at 8 I was scared, but he was already 13 and yeah it scared him too but not as much as me.

Dicks

The first time I saw a man up close naked, was when I saw my Dad step out of the shower. I think it was one of those times when he had a phone call and I had to get him. Weird to think back on a memory on seeing a penis. There was nothing sexual or anything but I know I caught him off guard.

The other two times were when my friend Mike K. and I found some porn mags in the bathroom at his grandparents house where he was living at the time or when we found a tattered used hustler lying in the alley in the back of my house. I vividly recall seeing the ejaculating close ups, at that time I thought it was quite gross. Before puberty hits, stuff like this is just weird ya know.

I remember once flashing some motorists my dick & ass, when I was at my Grandmother’s house, then ran thru her side hallway to the back of the house. I remember the motorist knocking on her door and my Gram defending my honor that they had the wrong kid. I sometimes wonder if my Gram knew and was just covering up for me to save face on the family name. LOL

Wendy

Wendy was my first “girlfriend”, I was always her husband when we played house, we even had a fake wedding one summer. She was a year older than me, and yes I really liked her as a friend, but I think prior to puberty I was genuinely smitten. Then we had our first kiss. I wish I could say it was all fireworks, but it was forced upon us both by some bullies of both sexes from the 3rd grade. I was 5 & Wendy was 6. They threatened to beat us up if we didn’t kiss. So we did, then both ran home crying.

Kids can be cruel.

Bullies

It’s bad enough I went through life as a depressed anxious chubby dork that had to deal with bullies outside the family but I had my own personal bullies in the form of my Dad & my Brother, eventually molding me into a someone who exhibited a bit of passive aggressive behavior as an adult.

My Dad had this knack to knock me down a peg then tell me to suck it up and take it like a man. How can I take it like a man if your biggest insult to me as a kid was calling me “Little Shirl ” ? My Dad had this cruel game he liked to play with me when we took walks in the park. The Lehigh river ran thru the park and my Dad would jokingly tell me he was going to throw me in the river, sometimes picking me up as if he were and laughing about it. I would manage to break away and ran crying to my Mom.

Dad also liked to grab my ankles at the Achilles tendon. This act always made me incredibly uncomfortable, it gave me a complex in regards to my feet. Perhaps I feared other people would do the same, but if we ever had company over and I was barefoot, my feet would disappear under whatever piece of furniture I could find. At school whenever we played crab soccer in gym class and had to take our shoes off, it was incredibly traumatizing for me. I am pretty sure I gave teachers a hassle about refusing to take my shoes off. This torture lasted the entire decade by 10 I finally had enough and screamed at my Dad to stop grabbing my feet. He stopped after that incident.

I often think that my brother, who is 5 years older, endured this kind of shit as well and took it all out on me. My brother and my Dad were two peas in a pod, and that shit lasted decades. Although as much as my brother tries to get my goat these days, it slides off more easily since our Dad died.

I don’t recall a lot of bullying as a kid outside of the family except for two instances. The first was a “friend” named Rich who really wanted to ride my bike and I kept refusing, until he pushed me off of my bike, rode it around for the block and gave it back. Rich’s bullshit eventually resurfaced when I was in High School, but we’ll talk about that in a later chapter.

The most infamous memory of group bullying came in the form of a neighborhood game we played called Stilly. The game was a bizarre dodge ball hybrid. Someone through a ball up the air and everyone ran. When that person caught it they yelled Stilly and everyone had to stand still. Then you tried to hit someone with the ball. If you missed after three tries you had to face the paddy wacks line. The ages of the kids that played were between 6-13. The 11-13 yr olds were the assholes that took glee in hitting us little kids quite hard. The one and only time I played this stupid game in 1976, I ran into the house crying and told my Mom. My Mom saw that I had raised welts on my behind and she went ballistic. She ran into the back ally screaming at the neighborhood kids, my brother got in trouble big time for this incident.

To be Continued in 2 weeks…

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