For eight years, six months and seventeen days. I was an only child. As the first grandchild on both sides, I expect I was pretty spoiled. I was able to amuse myself without a lot of playmates and always had a vivid imagination to make up games for myself that were ‘stories’ in many ways. By 1951, a miserable first grade in a larger town school had seen my introduction to other kids in the rough and tumble of grammar school playground. Second grade, as the only girl in a tiny one room eight student school was more fun. By then I realized that many families had several kids and had begun to wish for a sibling, especially a sister since my seven classmates were all boys.
By the middle of that summer, I was aware there would soon be another child in the family. However, that was the summer Mom and Dad ran a forest fire lookout tower in the
on the north side of the Grand Canyon. The
novelty of this adventure held most of my attention. Fall came and we went back
to for my third grade year but soon
Mom was remaining home in Jerome awaiting the new arrival. The expected baby
made his appearance early in the morning of November 14. Had he been a girl, he
was to be named Priscilla Ruth but as a boy, he got the family name of Charles but
a new added middle name of Michael which was not found in either family. Mom
and Dad did not like “Juniors” though the initials were the same. Camp Wood
Through that winter and spring I stayed home and was home schooled for several months to assist
|Jerome, spring 1952|
This younger brother and I came to share the ever greater chores and stand by each other through some complex and difficult times. Oh, we fought as siblings will and I often was bossy and not always gentle since as the senior partner in the chores I was nominally in charge, but by the time I finished high school and
|On the corral rail, c:1959|
By this time, there was a third child for whom we became the Big Sister and Big Brother. I was just past sixteen and Charlie was not quite eight when Robert Alexander was born. Mom was thirty nine and the pregnancy was a bit hard for her. She also breast fed the baby for most of the first year, so I took on a good part of the household work as well as continuing the livestock and ranch chores for several months. This made Charlie’s help even more necessary and I found one caught more flies with sugar than vinegar! An attitude adjustment was definitely required! I think that was when our relationship began to mature and solidify to the strong bond it has been for the rest of our lives.
|Alex and me, Jul 4, 1962|
Young Alex was still just a small kid when I left home a few years later so I never worked with him and built the same connection with him that Charlie and I had. However, we had fun and I did take care of him quite often for the first few years. Actually it was much later after first Dad and then Mom had died as well as my husband when Alex and I became close friends and shared the task of cleaning up our parent’s mess in the home where they’d lived their last twenty years or so. I became a kind of surrogate mom as Alex completed law school and went on this first job and then settled into the career in a law office in
where he was employed at the time of his untimely death.
At nineteen, he was found to have a heart defect, a constricted aorta which caused very low blood pressure below the midline and high above it. He had open heart surgery to place a stint to bypass this narrow passage. He did well and survived for twenty seven years after that surgery but in the fall of 2005, developed an aneurysm near the site of the original surgery and bled to death internally before they were able to find what the problem was and attempt to repair it. His passage left a hollow spot in the hearts of both his big sister and his big brother but we soon found ourselves both single in our later years and combined forces to keep from either of us having to struggle alone as we get older and probably of decreasing health and capabilities.
|Gaye and Charlie, 1974 in Colo|
I may be the eldest still but being “the big sister’ no longer figures very much in my habits or my thoughts. Those eight years that were so significant when we were 8 and 16 or 12 and 20 have very little significance these days. We seek each other’s advice at times, share the joy and frustration of being creative –Charlie is a musician and song writer while I am a fiction writer and poet. I have no way to know which one of us will go first to join our parents and brother in the next realm since we both expected Alex to outlive us, but for now it is good to have a brother at my back as I try to be there for him.