I had a brother who was 18 months younger than me. When you are close, but not quite in the same sphere of maturity, you remain in the atmosphere of a nature’s trick, competition. Survival of the fittest, even though you know nothing about it, has its hand up your shirt and you are unable to do little but become its puppet.
My parents both had jobs that removed them from the responsibility of being able to care for their children. The duty fell to my grandmother, who although she could not speak our language, managed to communicate her intent. She believed in the great out of doors, no matter the inclemency of weather or the predictability of death, as the skies blackened and thunder shook the ground.
She was born in a time of bombs falling from the sky, and warnings of sirens seemed to do little to prevent their incursion into her world. She believed, as all devotes to the certainty of a heaven, that we are all given a number at birth, and when our number is called, we are expected to accept the invitation politely; kicking and screaming, would not change the outcome, and would only make the process more irritating than necessary.
It was in the light of her belief that no matter the weather conditions, we were too, expected to rid ourselves of built-up aggression in the out of doors. It was not uncommon at that time in our history that temperatures would reach twenty below zero. No matter the hoar frost on the windows was half an inch thick, and got the attention of the violets she kept just out of reach of the glass, we were required to visit the misery of the day, depending upon how liberally you interpreted her need.
It is not as though we were left with no protection against the elements. There was no Thinsulate at the time, or hand warmers. You generated your own warmth through movement. There was no scientific proof at the time that layering was the key to survival, and yet my grandmother knew intuitively that it was the difference between twenty minutes and thirty minutes of peace, hers.
She would push us out the back door onto the frozen tundra of a Minnesota winter. When you grown up in the Midwest you don’t realize how life threatening it is until you have survived, and by then it is too late to turn back, you can’t imagine life without the cold and snow, it has become part of your DNA.
I remember the snow-white landscape of Saint Nicholas, and the hope that the groundhog would be run over by a beer truck as he was traditionally pesemeistic, but realistically we awaited the eventuality of Christ slipping from the cave and leaving us not only spring, but chocolate rabbits, and cream filled eggs.
The madness and chaos that occurs during the time the season has forgotten the equinox, and remembered the solstice, is the time when those in hell are allowed to visit the extremes of their wildest imaginations, and permitted to visit mortals of a certain age. It was during this time between darkness and the beginning of light, that those in the realm of pre-adolescents burst from the common, to the unique. It is during this time serial killers, juvenile delinquents, and insecure siblings burst from their contemplative spells onto the scene.
To handle the vestiges of cold, preferring to not succumb to the sissified normalcy demanded of civilized society, we wore wool lined caps that resembled the mind protecting inventions of WWI, wool lined leather caps that were fashioned no doubt after the first swim caps envisioned by the likes of Harpo Marx, a mute who spoke with the aid of a horn from a 1919 model T.
Had it not been for the leather outer shell, and the cushioned effects of a sheep’s fleece, my brother would have surely died, or would have been minimally deranged from the impact of the ski pole that struck the side of his head.
I have no recollection of the event, other than the shaft sticking from his head and the subsequent screams that brought grandma from the confines of the kitchen, where she found solace amongst the madness of a world that didn’t speak her language.
The blood was barely visible, the screams however reverberated throughout the neighborhood like the sirens in London during WWII. I don’t remember throwing the projectile, but being there were only the two of us within the confines of the picketed back yard covered in several feet of snow, I assumed I must have thrown the spear.
My grandmother having been trained in the subtleties of war, ushered my incoherent brother into the confines of the warm kitchen. I was left to scrutinize the increasing depth of front on the windows, and contemplate my punishment for having abandoned the dictates of civilized war. I prayed for forgiveness as we had been taught to do, and then began to contrive a formidable defense, should one be needed.
No everlasting harm was apparently done as my brother went on to finish the eleventh grade before deciding life was short, and school was a never-ending nightmare he’d been trapped in. I attempted to assure him education was not meant for everyone, and that learning to forgive and forget might just change his outlook on life. He always laughed at my suggestions of innocence, no matter the subject.
There are things in your life that change your outlook on the possibility that we did ourselves no favors by abandoning the ape line, and moving to the humanoid experiment where killing and maiming were done in an attempt to survive, regardless of internal feelings of hostility.
Even though we have made our peace with the inopportune time that left me in the frozen environment of competition for dominance, we both refuse to wear anything resembling a flight cap from WW1. I have the ski pole from the uncomfortable moment in my history that could have changed my life forever, becoming a murderer. It is a reminder that not all intent is worth the price, as the bill always comes due, and must be paid, if history is not to repeat itself.
I thru in that last part to exonerate myself from the feelings of guilt I’ve carried all these years, even though I was forgiven for my impetuous action by my blind grandmother.