My family hails from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. My father died in 1978, while my mother was pregnant with me. He died from cirrhosis of the liver. My father had been an alcoholic since the time he returned home from Vietnam. With modern understanding, it is clear that he was likely suffering from undiagnosed PTSD. My father's mother never approved of his relationship with my mother. She was so disapproving that she had managed to convince my mother that if my father died she (my grandmother) intended to take custody of me because she thought that my mother was unfit, and would not raise me correctly. My mother was an uneducated woman and feared the possibility of losing me so much that after my father's death, she left the state.
As my mother told the tale, she got in her car and drove south until she ran out of gas. Apparently, she ran out of gas somewhere around Essex, Maryland, because that is where my family lived when I was born. My mother gave birth in a hospital in Baltimore. My earliest memories are of our house on Thompson Boulevard in Essex. We had a small, unimpressive house that sat right on Back River, which is a tributary to the Chesapeake Bay. My mother did not own the house. Apparently, she had entered into a self-styled rent-to-own agreement. The owner of the property was my godmother, Lorraine. My mother made payments to Lorraine, who continually promised that one day she would either leave the house to my mother (Lorraine was an older woman), or she would sell it to my mother at a discount. My mother believed so much in this arrangement, that she had even paid to have a new roof put on the house, and did a lot of repair/updates around the house.
My early childhood on Back River was generally very happy. I was given all of my mother's attention and affection because doctors had told her I would not live past the age of two. I was born with a hole in my heart (a congenital heart defect) and the prognosis was poor. This hit my mother particularly hard, because I was her third and final child, and her only boy. If you were to ask her she would tell you that all she ever wanted was a boy. Due to my fortunate gender, and my unfortunate diagnosis, my mother fawned over me and took very good care of me, especially in those early years.
After I reached the age of two, my mother declared it a miracle. When I reached 3 it was amazing. When I lived to four it was a gift. By the time I made it to five, my mother just accepted I wasn't going anywhere. This wouldn't be the first time I would prove a doctor wrong, and it would begin a lifetime of skepticism about much of the medical profession that I share with my mother.
As I mentioned previously, I have two older sisters, Claire & Joan. Claire's full name is Clarabell, she was named after my maternal grandmother. We all have different fathers, and we are all born ten years a part. So by the time I was born, Claire (who was always just called "Peanut") was living on her own. By the time of my earliest living memories (probably about the age of 4), she was married, and had two kids. Both of her children, Michael & Jenny, were older than me. So I am an uncle to a niece and nephew that are both several years older than I. Our family is very peculiar, as you will continue to learn...
Claire must have followed my mother to Maryland, because all I know is that she also lived in Essex, a very short drive from us in a nice town house with a pool. She was married to a man named Henry who worked for the sanitation department. My sister Joan was an angst filled teenager who spent a lot of time either in her room listening to heavy metal or out driving around with her friends. She didn't often want to spend time with me (a teen was too cool to hang out with a little kid), but when she did, we would sit in her room and listen to Queen records and she'd show me how to shake my hair to the music, and I thought it was the coolest thing ever. Little did I know that when she went out with her friends, she wasn't just driving around... and soon she would have a lot less time to listen to Queen records with her little bro.