As I Turn 52-Years-Old….

…I thought it might be interesting to note how I wrote of my birth in my book, Walking Up The Ramp.  This comes from the chapter 1,268 Square Feet.

Festus, as the story went whenever one wanted to inject a little humor into the events surrounding my birth, was almost my given name.  Mom wasn’t thinking of the Roman Governor of Judea, Porcius Festus.  She wasn’t even envisioning the former guard in the National Football League, Festus Tierney.  (Yes, I had to do a search for famous people named Festus.)  Festus was the name of Marshal Matt Dillon’s only full-time official deputy, Festus Haggen, from the hit CBS series Gunsmoke.  Festus Haggen was known for his simple vocabulary, and demeanor (which hid a sharp eye and considerable native intelligence).  Despite his short-comings, Festus ended up being interpreted by viewers as “lovable”.  At least that part sounds like me.

As others like to tell it, had I been born a girl, one name under consideration for me was Gay Lynette, or Gay for short.  Why not just hang me on a cross right then?  Where could such an idea have come from?

My sister had a doll named Gay Lynette that once, as I have always been reminded, had long golden curly hair.  (How this doll was so special that there was any serious dialogue in the family about naming me after it had I been a girl is rather troubling on the face of it.)  Perhaps there is some Freudian underpinning to the fact I decided as a small boy to wash the doll’s hair in the bathtub.  I have no real idea what I was thinking at the time, but am sure there was nothing malicious to my attempt to bathe the little thing.  Perhaps I felt some scrubbing and washing was necessitated just like Mom did for me when I was dirty?  The difference between my bath time and that which I lavished upon Gay Lynette turned out to be that when I exited the tub I left with all my hair on the top of my head.

Gay Lynette did not fare so well. By the time I was done poor ole’ Gay Lynette was as bald as a cue ball, with her blond locks floating around in the tub.  I was surely as shocked at the sight as Gay Lynette was!  Without intending to do it I had created a whole new image for the doll.  I placed the doll back where I had found it, and waited for the explosion.

There is no way to overstate how traumatic that moment was for my sister.  When I was first dating James in 2000 she happened to tell that story in such a way that James had to ask just how many years—make that decades ago—had this horror occurred?  It seemed to James from the unfolding narrative that if he were to go to the bathroom that the doll’s curls could still be found in the filter of the tub drain!

Mom often said that I was an unplanned child, which in my early years did concern me.  I worried that perhaps I was not a wanted child, which is very different.  I asked my Mom to clarify her thoughts for me on occasion, and she mentioned over and again how my Grandmother Schwarz told her that someday she, my Mom, would be so glad that I was born.  As I grew older, I never doubted that I was the most interesting of the siblings, and therefore never thought much about being a ‘whoops baby’.

I was delivered in to the world on a Saturday night but Mom had wanted the pregnancy over with for days before that.  The weather was hot and sticky, and she was mightily uncomfortable.  She tried to move the labor process along by cleaning the house, and vacuuming.  None of that worked, and I took my time making the arrival. I was polite about it too; I waited until after CBS’s Gunsmoke had concluded, and then let it be known to the doctors they needed to move Mom into a delivery room at the Wild Rose Hospital.  (The Wild Rose facility, established in 1941, had existed a little less than twenty years by then.)  Apparently, that night’s episode of Gunsmoke had been a powerful one if anyone had considered telling Dr. Kjentvit to write Festus on my birth certificate.

My birth came shortly after 10:00 o’clock.   I am, as people call it today, ‘birthday twins’ with President Gerald Ford, born in 1913, and country singer Del Reeves of the 1932 vintage.  History further records that day as being noteworthy for being Bastille Day, the start of the French Revolution…………

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