Tennis Shoe Roller Skating

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“Women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea.” Robert Heinlein

The good times we had when I was a kid were always the day after our family fights, which were usually on the days before a holiday. Christmas Day was always fun because it was after the big Christmas Eve scrape.

The fights always happened before or on the holiday, not afterwards. On Easter, the 4th of July, and Thanksgiving we always had a knockdown. My mom, or my dad, or both of them, would start the fight. Then the family pulled it together for the holiday, to look good for the big day. We had to look better for the neighbors and in-laws and our pets.

One Christmas all my cousins from Pennsylvania, my mom and dad’s sisters and all their kids, were at our house. Our house was warm and cozy and there weren’t any fights.

It was Christmas Eve morning and Eric from Philadelphia passed gas.

“Oh, that’s a wet one,” somebody said, and that started the whole thing, which turned out to be the flu. It went from Eric to Curtis on down to Kim and Skip and the rest of us. We barfed and barfed for days.

My mom was pissed. She was beside herself. She wanted to go to a hotel. She would have jumped ship if she could have, but dad made her stay.

Every 4th of July we had a street party. We lived on one of the only two cul-de-sacs in Bay Village. In the morning all the kids would decorate their bikes and we would have a bike parade. Our parents judged the bikes and gave out prizes.

We played games all day and in the afternoon everyone carried their grills and picnic tables to the end of the cul-de-sac for a party. We had food and our parents had coolers of beer. Everyone would party and they were great times.

My mom wore a t-shirt that said JOE BALLS on the front and FROM NEWTON FALLS on the back. It was a family joke. We had an uncle named Harold who lived in Newton Falls, but we called him Joe Balls.

One summer a waterspout tornado from off the lake touched down in Bay Village during our street party. We were out in the street playing. All of our parents were trashed. When I ran into the house to tell my mother she said, “Go back out there and play.” But, we ended up having the rest of the party in our garage.

When my mom became a nurse she wore a t-shirt that said BUSHER THE PUSHER because she was an IV Therapist. She was the one who loaded the IV’s with drugs. She became a nurse when I was in 5th grade. She had all of us and then decided she wanted a career. My grandparents put her through nursing school, paying for it all. She studied at Tri-C and later worked at Lakewood Hospital.

It was when I was in 5th grade, at Normandy Elementary School, during the Miracle of Richfield, that I got a pair of tennis shoe roller skates and lived in them for years.

We had a teacher named Mr. Barton and he loved to hoe down dance and dribble basketballs at the same time. He taught us to do it and we got so good at it that we were invited to perform at a Cleveland Cavs game.

It was the year the Cavs were scrappy and good and played the Washington Bullets in the conference finals. We watched it on TV. The crowds were so noisy people in the stands wore earplugs and the players on the benches stuck their fingers in their ears.

“If you don’t drop your ball, or double dribble, or anything, I’ll buy you whatever you want,” my dad said. I told him I wanted tennis shoe roller skates.

“Whatever you want,” he said.

We were great that night doing our hoe down dribble dance at halftime at the Richfield Coliseum, which isn’t there anymore. It’s just a big empty field now that it’s been torn down. We danced to the song Saturday Night by the Bay City Rollers.

S_A_T_U_R_D_A_Y!

I lived in my skates. I put them on first thing in the morning and skated all over the house. I did axles in the streets and figure skated every day in my tennis shoe roller skates But, I wasn’t allowed to wear them to school. Even so, I wore them all the time until I got my first pair of high heels.

The roller skates came off right after that and I’ve never been out of high heels since.

The reason is that I stopped growing when I was in 6th grade. After that I found out I was going to be short, a pygmy.

My mom was a pygmy, too. I don’t know that she was ever taller than five-foot-one.

Everybody else in our family was taller than me. My dad was six-foot-something. I was the shortest of all the kids, shorter even than Bamm-Bamm.

My mom got me a pair of Candies. They were plastic made to look like wood and had a strap across the top of the foot that stopped about mid-way up the foot. You could wear them with anything, shorts, skirts, disco pants. They were the hot shoe. Every kid had to have a pair.

“You’re going to be in these for the rest of your life,“ my mom told me. “You will never get out of them.”

She made me practice walking in them, up and down the driveway, then up and down the street, and finally up and down the stairs.

“You don’t want to walk like a clod,” she said. “A lot of girls stomp in their high heels, but you’re going to walk like a lady.”

I got to the point where I could run in them fast. I could chase dogs. I’m still fast, not as much as I was then, but still fast if I have to be.

I don’t know who invented high heels, but we owe them a lot. You put high heels on and you change. Everything is different in them. Your body moves to a different kind of tempo.

My favorite things are dogs and shoes. I still love dogs the most, but shoes are a close second.

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Our Cutie Patootie

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“It’s important to have a dog so that someone in the house is happy to see you.” Nora Ephrom

The neighbors who have passed and are no longer with us, Mary and Josephine, lived in the house on the driveway side of us. The woman who used to be absolutely horrible to me, but is a little less horrible now, lives on the other side of us. The Italian man and wife who love our dogs live behind us.

Josephine and Mary, who were sisters, lived together in the two-story brick bungalow next to us for 62 years. Neither of them ever married. Josephine cooked hot dogs, brought them to the fence, and fed them to our dogs every day. We never saw Mary. She never came out of the house.

They both died this year. Brian fixed up a security light in their living room and he mows their lawn. We park our Honda Element in their driveway to make it seem like it isn’t vacant, at least until the house is cleaned out and sold.

Chuck and Dawn live on the other side of us. Chuck has been in his frame house the whole time we’ve been in ours. He’s a super nice guy. Dawn moved in sometime later, after Chuck was our neighbor. She’s not so nice.

She’s from New York City. She started in on us right at the beginning. Whenever we used to wave to her she would never wave back. If she caught Chuck talking to either of us he had hell to pay. He would have to sneak over to say hi and talk. The things she says to him about us I don’t even want to imagine.

She would call the dog warden on me every other week. It was always about our dogs barking, even though they’re not big barkers. What she didn’t know was our dogs are licensed, all of them, all the time.

“Here’s the thing,” the dog warden finally told her. “Their dogs are licensed and everyone’s dogs bark sometimes.”

Our little Lab doesn’t even bark. Dawn finally got tired of that game.

Most of the rest of our neighborhood loves it when our dogs are out. It was Dawn who gave us the most trouble.

I don’t care if you’re from New York City, or not. It doesn’t give you the right to be a bitch. That’s all changed now that she needs me. When she couldn’t afford to have her hair done at the Charles Scott Salon in Rocky River anymore I became good enough for her.

“Chuck doesn’t pay for anything for the children,” she said. “Everything falls on me. I have to pay for their school.” She has two kids of her own and doesn’t have any money anymore.

Then, when I started doing her hair, knowing that I don’t have kids myself, it was the kids with her. “Do you think you could come over and watch them for a few minutes?”

“No,” I said. That’s why I don’t have kids of my own, I thought. “I don’t want to sit your kids,” I said.

I might have done it to be a good neighbor, but she would have started taking advantage of me, so I put an end to it.

The Italian couple behind us bought their house the year I was born. That’s almost fifty years ago. They’re straight out of Italy and I can hardly understand a word they say, her more than him. His name is Anthony, but I’ve never been able to understand what her name is. I always just call her Mrs. Anthony.

Everything in their back yard is a farm. They grow everything they eat all the full year back there during the summertime. When we first moved in they had little grandkids that fed our dogs doggie cookies.

We would hear them from our patio. “Can we go see Julie and Brian’s dogs?”

The kids are teenagers now, but they still come over to see their grandparents. My dogs run to the back fence and line up, waiting there. “You can’t stop that now, you have to keep giving them cookies,” I tell the teenagers.

Brian used to walk the dogs every day. He always stopped and talked to our neighbors. They asked him about the dogs, so a lot of them found out we rescue them.

“That is so cool,” some of them said.

That’s how we came to be called the dog people. That’s what we’re known as. Once a lady was walking up and down the street looking for her lost dog. “Did you try the dog people,” everybody told her.

“Have you seen my dog?” she asked me.

“No, but I’ll keep an eye out for it,” I said.

Sometimes neighbors donate dog food to us. We find it left on our front porch. It’s nice to have a little community support.

We’ve been taking the dogs to the dog park in the Metroparks lately instead of walking them because Nookie, our Husky, is an absolute screamer. The second you put a leash on him the screaming starts. It’s like we’re ripping out his toenails. He screams the whole way on the walk. People come out their doors to make sure we’re not beating our dogs.

It’s so embarrassing. Brian stopped walking them.

But, Nookie hates the dog park, too. He doesn’t like other people or other dogs coming up to him, or even up to us.

One day we thought we would hide from him so he would learn to leave our side and run around with the other dogs. We hid behind a tree. But, it was really sad. He just ran around looking for us.

“Brian, we can’t hide from him,” I said. “He’s never going to relax.”

When we came out from hiding and he saw us he ran over to us right away. “He’s back to guarding us again,” I told Brian.

One of our neighbors fell in love with Grayson, who is our little silver Lab. He’s got a great personality, mostly because he hangs out with Baby. He’s a cutie patootie, too

She did everything she could to get us to sell Grayson to her.

“He’s not for sale,” I said. “He’s my dog.”

“But, I love him,” she said.

“We love him, too,” I said.

One morning we took Baby and Grayson, who are best friends, even though Baby is five times bigger than Grayson, to Project Runway on Whiskey Island for a fundraiser for dog shelters. From there, later in the afternoon, we did Doggies on the Patio, another fundraiser. It was a long day. Afterwards we took the dogs out for gelato.

They loved it, the whole day, and the gelato, too, especially our cutie patootie.

 

Poor Little Retard Kid

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“Many of the qualities that come so effortlessly to dogs – loyalty, devotion, selflessness, unflagging optimism, unqualified love – can be elusive to humans.”  John Grogan

When my little brother Brad and I were kids we only ever all as a family went on one family vacation. Before that vacation my sisters used to go all the time, to Florida to see my grandparents, where they’d ride on their boat and go fishing, and all their other fun stuff.

But then Brad and I joined the family.

“Too many kids,” said my mom after we were born. Our family vacations were mostly over after that. My mom never wanted any of us, anyway, so she was pissed that we were there to begin with.

“I never wanted you kids. You are all your father’s idea.” She told us that my entire life.

“Why are you even here? You’ve ruined my life!”

We would walk into a room and she would get pissed that we were living and breathing.

Later on Patty was ostracized from the family and Betsy cut herself off. Betsy would lock herself into her room and never come out. Whenever Brad made my dad mad I would jump in and take his punishment. I couldn’t stand to see him get it.

But, we were always throwing each other under the bus, too. None of us wanted to get hit. The bad part is your sisters then grow up hating you. That’s how we have the mess between my sisters and me now.

I’m not saying there weren’t good times, but it was definitely tough.

The one family vacation we went on in my whole life was to Disneyland. My mom said it was like corralling pets. One morning I was with her. We were out searching for breakfast. No one knew where Patty was. She had just walked off. Betsy took Brad with her and my dad went to find tickets to see the Country Bears Jamboree.

That’s the only reason he went to Disneyland to begin with. He loved the Country Bears.

When my mom and I finally got trays of breakfast for everyone we couldn’t find anyone, so we sat down on a curb. A minute later, sitting on the curb, looking up, we saw Betsy and Brad go slowly by leaning back in a horse-drawn carriage.

My mom and I looked at each other. What? Really?

We all saw the Bear Jamboree later, and the next day I saw Donny Osmond riding the monorail with us out of our hotel. My sisters loved Donny Osmond when they were growing up, but they wouldn’t go up to him.

I was young and gun-shy, but my dad pushed me in Donny’s direction.

“Go get his autograph,” he said.

“No, no, no,” I said.

Dad pushed me forward, I got a running start, and the next thing I knew I was standing in front of Donny Osmond. I was just flabbergasted! I had seen him on TV and now I was standing in front of him. I got his autograph, although I don’t know how. Maybe he felt bad because he thought I was special needs – I don’t even know.

“Poor little retard kid,” he probably thought and gave me his autograph.

I ran out of the monorail. “Why would you do that to me?” I asked my dad. “Why?”

I went to Bay Village Middle School and Bay Village High School, I was a lifeguard at the Bay Pool, and I was a Bay Rockette on the kick line for two years. I had a lot of friends growing up, but I didn’t have them over our house much. I usually went to their houses. I was always leery of having them over because I never knew if my dad would be mad or if my mom would start something.

If you liked something my mom was always going to find a way to not like it. After she moved away my sister Patty wanted a family heirloom mom had, a bench that was in my great grandparent’s house, but mom wouldn’t give it to her.

Mom and dad used to have the bench in our big family house in Bay Village at the end of their bed, but when dad passed and she immediately re-married, marrying her high school sweetheart from Jersey Shore, and moving to North Ridgeville, she put it away in her garage.

Patty really truly wanted the bench.

I told my mom over and over that Patty wanted it, but she was, no, she can’t have it.

“What are you doing with it?” I asked her.

“No, no, no,” she said. It’s because she knew Patty wanted it that she wouldn’t give it to her.

That’s the way she is. If someone loves something, then she hates it. She always finds a way. She’s always been like that.

My dad could be really cool sometimes. I knew, even though he beat the tar out of us, that he cared about us. But, my mom, not so much.

We had a Rockette party at our house once, at the tail end of August, all out of the blue. We were at practice and our coach said the first football game was coming up soon, in September such-and-such, and we didn’t have a place scheduled for our potluck, yet.

“We can have it at our house,” I said.

Just like that thirty high school girls were going to be coming over to our house. I called my dad at work.

“Hey, dad, I said. “I just invited all my friends over for a potluck.”

“Sweet,” he said.

He came home early from work, bought all the hot dogs and hamburgers, and thoroughly enjoyed having all my girlfriends in our backyard. He was all over the place with his camera and took a ton of pictures. It was a good time.

My mom stayed in the house and never came out into the yard. Dad loved it, but she was pissed that I had thirty girls over.

I loved being a Rockette. I was one in my sophomore and junior years at Bay High School until one night not long after the party when I tore my hamstring in three places. I had to give up being a Rockette because of my leg.

It was terrible, like I had lost something special.

The End of Jibbs

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“The one best place to bury a good dog is in the heart of his master.”  Ben Hur Lampman

We have a little buddy whose name is Dell. He’s an 80-year-old man and I met him the day Brian told me he was bringing one of the guys from the shelter to our house for dinner.

“Oh, now we’re going to be feeding the homeless in our own home,” I said.

I cried when I met Dell because I thought he was homeless, but he helps out at the shelter. He’s like Brian, feeding the homeless.

Dell lives in a big house on Erie Road in Rocky River near the Elmwood Playground. He lives alone. We go to his house every Sunday, hang out, go out  to dinner, or maybe eat there. That’s how we know Doug and Christine, a couple we met. They live across the street from Dell, their backyard facing onto the Norfolk Southern railroad tracks.

They had an adorable little three-year-old Jack Russell terrier. His name was Mister Jibbs.

We brought Baby, our 140-pound Leonberger, with us one evening. Leonbergers come from Leonberger, Germany. Jack Russell’s are fox and rat hunters and come from England.

“It’s too bad Doug isn’t out with Jibbs,” I said. “I would love Baby and Mister Jibbs to meet each other.”

“Oh, we can go over,” said Brian.

“I don’t know. It’s Sunday night.”

“They’re not going to mind if we stop by and say hi,” said Brian, knocking on their door. They brought Mister Jibbs out and he and Baby played and wrestled. There was some barking, but not like a world war. Doug and I took the dogs across the tracks to Elmwood Playground on the other side of the street.

There weren’t any teams playing baseball, so we let the dogs run around on the fields, although Baby is too much of a lazy lummox to run very long. He’s a big, muscular, working dog, but lazy. Mister Jibbs did most of the running and Baby did most of the laying around and smooching. After we walked back, across the tracks and through their backyard, and were sitting down again, Doug said he was going to bring out champagne.

“Don’t,” I said. “We just came to say hi, goodbye. We’re going out to dinner, anyway, don’t do anything special.”

“No, no, no, stay” he said. “Christine doesn’t like champagne. I’m going to open the bottle and we can finish it.” We were sitting and talking and drinking when Doug got up. “Have you ever seen a train coming down the tracks from this way?” he asked me.

“No, I haven’t.”

All of a sudden Christine jumped up, worried, nervous.

“Doug, grab Jibbs,” she said.

“He’s fine,” Doug said. “He’s been in the backyard hundreds of times with the train going by. Everything’s fine.”

I grabbed Baby.

“Baby’s never seen a train,” I said.

I held on to him because we were literally feet from the embankment along which the tracks were on. Jibbs was running back and forth with his Frisbee. I think he was guarding it, keeping it from Baby, so he couldn’t get it, not that Baby had any interest in it. We were all trying to catch Mister Jibbs as the train came closer. He didn’t realize we just wanted to get him and no one cared about the Frisbee, at all.

“Someone get this dog, someone get this dog.” I tried to jump and grab him, but he took off.

Suddenly, the jack Russell bolted and ran out onto the tracks.

Christine was running an arm’s length behind him. She was wearing flip-flops and a long, flowing summer dress. I don’t know how she didn’t get hit. Obviously, it wasn’t her time, but the train hit Jibbs. Christine had gotten on the other side of the tracks and I thought she was screaming.

“No, it was you screaming,” said Brian.

The worst part was waiting for the train to pass before we could get to Christine and before she could pick up Mister Jibbs.

It was horrible. I drank myself into oblivion that night at home to dull the pain.

“We shouldn’t have gone over, we shouldn’t have interrupted them, we should have left things well enough alone,” I said to Brian when we were back home.

“I told Doug,” said Brian. “Your wife gave you the look. Go get your dog. Now he’s fucked.”

“He was just guarding his Frisbee,” I said. “Should I have walked the other way with Baby? Would Jibbs have followed us? I just can’t believe Doug didn’t get the dog, or do anything.”

“Julie,” said Brian. “When you tell me to do something I will listen from now on.”

“God, I hope so,” I said. “I hope it doesn’t take another dog dying.”

There’s a place at the Promenade in Westlake that sells silver bracelets with little paws dangling from them. I’m going to get one for Christine, and I’m going to Cahoon’s Nursery and get a plant or a bush for their backyard, in memory of Mister Jibbs.

For more than a week I sent a text to Christine every day. I found out she was sitting by the spot where Jibbs died, every day. She was just trying to save her dog and the train missed her by inches. She might have been killed herself.

I wake up at night seeing Christine barely being missed by the train and Mister Jibbs being hit by the locomotive. I hear the train whistle screaming, which is why I didn’t hear myself screaming that day. All I could hear was the whistle screaming. I wake up all night long, jumping, reliving it in my head.

The other day Brian asked if I could move my Honda because he had to take his van to be e-checked. I was backing my car out of the driveway when a box truck came barreling down the street. I started to panic and jumped out of the car at the edge of the drive.

“I’m not that person, I’m not that person,“ I blurted to Brian when he came running.

Nothing freaks me out, but Mister Jibbs being killed by the freight train has freaked me out.

Throw the Frisbee

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“The average dog is a nicer person than the average person.”  Andy Rooney

Every time I found an animal, birds, squirrels, raccoons, anything, it didn’t matter, I would take care of it and nurture it. If they were hurt my dad and I would nurture them together. If it was an emergency we always took them to the Lake Erie Nature Center just down Wolf Road.

It drove my mom crazy. Besides, she had asthma. Animal dander, saliva, and skin flakes aggravated her asthma.

“Someone’s going to have to take me to the people clinic,” she would say whenever I brought another animal home.

If you’re born to love animals then you love animals. I don’t think it’s anything you can really encourage into happening.

My dad had it. I had it. My mom wasn’t good with it.

If I wanted an animal I always asked my dad. I never asked my mom. We had dogs, cats, guinea pigs, and a poodle.

Our poodle Coco hated my brother Brad. I never knew why, exactly, except I thought he might have been too rough with her when he was a little kid.

“Coco, get him,” was all you had to say if we were all sitting on the sofa together. She would attack him, growling and snapping and pulling off his diaper. I used to have fun making her attack my little brother since I knew she hated him, and because I could.

Before Patty moved out Brad and I slept in the same room. We both had beautiful beds with big posts and a big bar across the back of them. We each had cherry wood dressers, a closet, and shelves for our toys.

I slept in the bed by the window and Brad slept closer to the attic. My brother passed a lot of gas when he was a kid. One time it was so loud he woke me up.

“Are your butt cheeks still reverberating from that one?” I asked him.

I did love him. He was good kid, overall. When I was in high school I took him with me wherever I went.

I played ‘TRIP’ with him when he was small. Wherever he was in the house, which was a split level, six steps up from the basement, or the five steps up to the kitchen, or the twelve steps up to the bedrooms, it didn’t matter, he never knew when I was going to suddenly pull a cord tight and make him trip.

My sisters made me play ‘LET ME HAVE IT’. We would be in Patty or Betsy’s bedroom and I would have to say “Let me have it.”

They would pummel me with pillows.

Just pummel me.

A car hit Coco when I was a junior in high school and when she had gotten to be older and slower.

She used to run up and down the street and into and out of the woods at the end of our cul-de-sac. The man who hit her stopped, picked her up, and went looking for the owners. When he found my sister she came to the Bay pool and got me. We had to put her down.

It was awful.

When we got our Rottweiler mom claimed she loved the dog, but we had to get rid of him because mom said the dog inflamed her asthma. My sister Patty took him, since she had moved away, so I was still able to see the dog whenever I wanted.

Growing up in our house was not like growing up in your average house. You were either going to move out while you were still young or you were going to be thrown out. I think we were all thrown out.

Everybody in my family got married when they were 19, except me. My mom and dad got married at 19, my brother got married when he was 19, and both of my sisters got married when they were 19.

I didn’t get married until I was 34, right after my dad died.

When I moved out of my family’s house I babysat Patty’s Rottweiler whenever she went on vacation. His name was Wellington.

Wellington was a silly, simple, sweet dog, but a really stupid dog, actually. He wasn’t the kind of vicious Rottweiler everybody always thinks they are.

He had a blanket that he carried around. We called the blankie Betty. We would tell him to go get Betty and when he came back he would be dragging his blankie behind him.

He loved people, just loved, loved, and loved people.

Patty lived in West Park, near St. Patrick’s School, and when school let out he would sit at the front door and cry to be let out.

“You’re not going out,” Patty would say. “You’re going to scare the kids.”

He was a silly beast and would cry and cry no matter what she said.

Then he learned how to lean on the door and swivel the knob and get out.

“You’re not going out there,” I told him every time I was at Patty’s house, but if I was upstairs dressing for work he would lean on the door and the next thing I knew he was at the end of the driveway. As the kids walked by the drive there were three big slurps for each of them.

They walked away wiping their faces.

He got out once when two guys were playing Frisbee in the street. He had seen them through the door.

“You’re not going out there,” I told him. “I don’t know those guys.”

But, he banged up against the door and when it opened he just took off. The guys were 18, maybe 19 or 20, and when they saw him running at them they froze. I ran out.

“Throw the Frisbee!” I yelled.

One of them threw the Frisbee. The big sweet-ass Rottweiler hauled ass after it.

“Sweet,” one of them said.

They ran that dog until the end of the day. His feet were bloody when he got home. He was an idiot.

Even though I loved animals and my mom didn’t, I was the only one of my mom’s kids who forced her to love me.

I would come home from parties or from dances when I was in 7th grade and plop down on her bed, laying there and telling her about the whole night, everything that happened. She would stay on the bed with me, holding my hand.

I forced her to love me. She needed that. I always used to wonder what it was like for her growing up in Jersey Shore.

A dog will love you if you throw a Frisbee. Sometimes I still have to force my mom to love me.

Bay Brat

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“Let sleeping dogs lie.” Robert Walpole

I’m a Bay Brat, which means I grew up in Bay Village and lived there my whole life until my dad died. When I was a girl I picked up every lost bird and squirrel, every lost cat and dog, and every injured animal I found and brought it home to protect it.

I was an animal lover from the get-go. I got it partly when I was born, partly from my dad, but not from my mom. My mom never liked any of the dogs and animals we always had in our house.

They met at Lycoming College in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, a few hours west of Philadelphia. My grandparents on my dad’s side had moved from Ohio to Philadelphia a few years earlier and he enrolled there after high school. My mom was working in the library, which is how they met. He fell head over heels for her, swept her off her feet, and then they got married.

“We’re out of here,” is what my dad said the minute they got married. They quickly and promptly moved right back to Cleveland.

Even though they were married for more than forty years it might have been the worst thing either of them ever did.

I had a mom who didn’t love my dad, and a dad who was frustrated about it, and the way he tried to make her happy was to beat the kids, which was us. So, it was a tough childhood. Either you were being totally ignored or you were being hit.

There were four of us. First, there was Patty, and then two years later Betsy, and then me five years after that, and last, five years later, Brad.

Mom always said dad tricked her four times.

My dad was from the west side of Cleveland, where he grew up rich for his time. My mom was from Jersey Shore, just a few miles from Williamsport, where she grew up poor. Jersey Shore isn’t anywhere near New Jersey, the Jersey shoreline, or any real shore of any kind. There used to be silk mills and cigar factories in Jersey Shore. Later on factories made steel rails for trains.

During the Depression my dad’s father was the only kid in his high school who had a car. He used to follow my grandmother down streets trying to get her to come in his car with him, saying he wanted to help carry her books, so what happened was they eventually got married.

My grandfather in Jersey Shore had three jobs. He was a coal miner, a school bus driver, and a milkman, but they were still poor. Even though they were poor they built their own house on the Susquehanna River. I honestly don’t know how they ever got it built since they were so out of money.

The river was their front yard. Susquehanna means Oyster River and it was on the Susquehanna where the Mormons first got their priesthood from heavenly beings. It was a huge, beautiful house. It’s still standing, although it’s not been taken care of lately, so it’s falling apart.

My grandmother lived in that house into her 80s, but then she sold it and moved into a trailer, in a trailer park in the mountains above Jersey Shore. She slept wrapped in foam rubber with an umbrella balanced above her head for protection. She thought people in other trailers were trying to shoot her with laser guns. My mom never wanted to talk about her mom because she thought she was crazy, and a Jesus freak, too.

I didn’t know my grandfather much because he died young. He had rheumatoid arthritis real bad. I knew my grandmother. Whenever my sisters Patty and Betsy and I visited my grandmother in her big house she taught us to pull taffy and fudge, things like that. We played with her paper dolls. She didn’t have real dolls for us.

At dinnertime she would send my older sisters out on the road to wait for the bean truck. When the bean truck, or sometimes the vegetable truck, went by on the bumpy road beans would bounce off of it and they would run and gather them up. My grandmother cooked them for dinner. If no beans fell off the truck, then there was no dinner, although she usually had something in the house.

Most of the time it was something cold she had canned months earlier.

My dad went to Upper Darby High School just outside Philadelphia, when he was a sophomore. His parents moved him to Philadelphia from Cleveland and he always said he hated it. He was a Cleveland Browns fan and wore their colors, so he got into fights every day with other kids who were Philadelphia Eagles fans.

He liked telling us stories, like the one about how he and his friends went up on the second story of their high school one day, and jumped up and down all as a group until the second floor fell in on the first floor.

The school’s mascot is a lion now, but when he was there it was a court jester.

My father’s parents were from Akron, and lived in Lakewood for a long time, but had to move when the new I-90 highway was being built. Sometimes dad would drive us to a bridge over the road and show us the spot below the bridge where their house used to stand.

It was when they had to sell their house that they moved to Philadelphia. After my mom and dad came back to Ohio they lived in Lakewood for a few years. Patty and Betsy were born there, but by the time I came along we were living in Bay Village.

We lived on Jefferson Court my whole life, which was a short cul-de-sac street, five blocks south of Lake Erie. My dad designed our house and they lived there until the day he died, when I was thirty-three years old.

We all had our own rooms, although my brother and I shared a room because we were the youngest. My sisters had their separate rooms just down the little stairway from us and my parents were at the end of the hallway. We had the crow’s nest upstairs until Patty moved out and got married, when she was nineteen, and Brad was seven.

It was in the crow’s nest where I grew close to Brad, who looked just like Bamm-Bamm in the Flintstones. We even called him Bamm-Bamm. I became his protector like I did with all the neighborhood’s lost cats and dogs..

But, I could never protect him from Coco, our poodle, who used to bite and tear off his diapers when Brad was little.

Although, honestly, there were times I didn’t even try to stop Coco.

The Damage Done

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A dog will teach you unconditional love. If you can have that in your life, things won’t be too bad.”  Robert Wagner

My husband’s cousin Clint had been an addict, had gone through rehab and everything seemed to be all right, until the night he decided to stick a needle into his arm again. The problem with heroin is that you think, even though you’ve been clean, you can go back to using the same amount you had been using before.

He wasn’t thinking. He went into his room that one night and stuck a needle in his arm like before.

The next morning his roommate got up and found Clint curled up on the bathroom floor. He had been lying there most of the night, it turns out, on goose bump tile, in the dark.

“Clint, get up, we have to go to work,” the roommate said.

When Clint didn’t move, the roommate, being the genius he was, went back to bed for an hour. When he woke up again Clint was still in the bathroom, out cold.

Did he call an ambulance? No. Did he call the police? No.

He called his girlfriend.

“Hey, Clint’s on the floor of the bathroom and I need to get in. I need to get to work.”

“Who is this genius?” I asked Brian.

“Boy wonder, disaster,” he said.

The girlfriend drove over to their apartment. While she was on the way she called an ambulance and Clint’s mom.

They rushed him to the emergency room at Fairview Hospital in Fairview Park, where the roommate and Clint’s mom were told the bad news.

Here’s the deal.

”This kid is not in good shape. He’s overdosed on heroin, his kidneys have shut down, and he’s got Compartment Syndrome. His whole body is shutting down. Before we can work on the kidneys, before we can work on the Compartment Syndrome, before we can work on anything, he’s got to pull through the heroin overdose. He’s got to come through that first.”

After forty-eight hours he was still alive. Nobody could believe it.

Compartment Syndrome is what happens when oxygen gets cut off to the muscles in your body. That’s what happened to Clint. It’s the same thing that  happens when you fall asleep on your arm in the middle of the night and wake up with it numb and tingling. You shake it off.

But, Clint had been lying on his face, his arms and legs underneath him, when he crumpled to the bathroom floor the night before. He’d been there unconscious for ten hours, circulation, and oxygen, everything, cut off. Everything fell dead asleep.

All his muscles started dying, dying all night.

In the hospital they slit his hands open on the palms and slit his hands open on the back of his hands. The doctors slit his arms all the way up on both sides and slit his legs down the middle. They manipulated his muscles to get them to start coming back to life again.

He was wide open, machines circulating his blood. They did nineteen surgeries over three months.

They saved his arms, but both of his legs are gone. His leg on the left side is gone above the knee and his leg on the right side is gone below the knee. They couldn’t bring the muscles back for anything.

So, he lost his legs.

They didn’t tell him they had cut his legs off until he was almost done with all the surgeries and the recovery because they needed him to fight and keep going.

He was almost ready to leave the hospital when they talked to him.

“We have to tell you something,” they said.

After he got home he got a small motorized wheelchair that he runs around in. He can’t even use prosthetics because all the muscles in his upper thighs were ruined. They had to take some of them out because they were dying. If they had left them in that could have made the other muscles die, too.

The doctors had to take all the muscles that had compartments in them out of his legs.

He has no strength in his upper leg muscles to support prosthetics, so he’s going to be in a wheelchair forever. He’s thirty-two years old and his fingers are locked up. They’re almost like claws. When he talks and tries to gesture he can’t unclench them.

Clint asked us for a dog.

The dog we finally found was a puppy mill dog, a little Parti Yorkie. We got him from another dog rescuer who had put him up on Facebook. They didn’t even know what he was. They thought he was a Maltipoo, but it was really a Parti, a new designer dog, although it’s hard to tell the difference.

We jumped the rescue by telling them we very possibly had a home for it.

So, we just took it. We cleaned him up and had him for a few days at our house before giving him to Clint. Brian carried the Partie Yorkie around with him like a clutch for a few days. He was show dog size, under seven pounds, not a family-sized Yorkie.

That was a mistake, carrying him around, because Brian then started wanting the dog.

When we delivered the little Yorkie to Clint’s apartment Brian told him if it didn’t work out it would be OK and he would take the dog back.

But, Clint does nothing now except sit in his wheelchair and dote on the dog. And the dog is the kind that needs nothing but being doted on.

“I love this dog, man, and he loves me,” said Clint. “I’m keeping him.”