Memorial Day weekend was no cause for celebration. I try not to reminisce of childhood holidays. In my opinion, they were merely days on a calender noted in bold letters. School would be closed Monday. Most kids were thrilled at the start of summer. The long, warm weekend was filled with horrors for me. I’d rather forget them.
Our step-father was home for three days in a row too. I would have rather been in school. Construction work along stretches of Pennsylvania highway came to a standstill so that the roads could accommodate holiday traffic. Bob put his jackhammer down and came home from his job far away. He worked in Allentown. It was a four- hour drive from Three Springs. He didn’t come home every day. He worked in the hot sun, often in overtime, for twelve consecutive hours. We saw him only on weekends and holidays seemed to go on forever.
He was so mean when he came home. I could hear the sound of his Chevy truck approaching the driveway. The hum of the tires on his truck caused me to cringe. Here he comes again, I thought. I’d brace myself emotionally.
“Clean the beer cans from my truck bed, Charlie.”
I turned from him as I reached into the back of the pick-up, tossing out the cans from his long ride home. My hair, covered with long Mick Jagger-like strands fell over my face, covering half-closed hazel eyes that blinked rapidly as I faced the ground, recycling his rubbish. Instictively, I made no eye contact with him, knowing he was watching me, waiting to say something hurtful.
I crushed the aluminum into tiny cylinders, trying my best to stomp on them perfectly, folding them round rather than flat. He might get mad if my foot slipped. More than likely, he was about to start yelling again, anyway. Usually at me first. I stamped my foot with all my might, just waiting to get my beating for something or other.
“I hope you boys got rest. We got lots of work to do this weekend. We’re going to be plantin’ potatoes, boys. I hope you are ready.”
Mom was on the back porch, leaning over a two-by-four that formed a railing around the green-painted deck. She wore a white t-shirt, one of Bob’s that was stretched from heavy construction work. My bother Bill picked up Bob’s tool boxes and carried them into the garage in case of rain. Bob kissed mom. She was so happy to see him.
They went into the trailer. I kept crushing cans. Bill nearly tripped from the weight of two huge tool boxes that even a grown man would have difficulty carrying.
“I hate plantin’ potatoes,” Bill said.
“Me too. Just think of all those rocks we are going to have to pick out of the ground first, after he plows.”
“Maybe we won’t have to. Mom might have her baby this weekend,” I said, hoping and praying.
Moments later, Mom and Bob came out of the house with suitcases. They jumped into our blue Chevy with the letters SS on the steering wheel and grill. They took Barron with them. Bill and me were like men anyway, we could take care of ourselves.
“Be good. I’m taking your mom to the hospital.”
It was a wonderful summer holiday in 1979. Bill and me stayed up late and watched television, way past midnight. Bob came into the trailer and broke the news…
“You have another brother. Come on. Wake up. Get off the couch and get your baths! How many times do I gotta tell you about sleeping on the furniture?”
I brushed hair out of my eyes and followed Bill back the long, carpeted hallway, following the glow of a nightlight in the distance.
“What did you call him?” Bill asked.
“His name is the same is mine– Robert, but listen, he ain’t no junior. I hate that. You can call him Robert, or you can call him Bobbie. When he grows up, we might call him Bob, I don’t know, cause I’m the Bob in this house.”
Bob was incredibly happy. It was his first kid. He seemed so sick of us. I was glad for him.
“When is Robbie coming out of the hospital?” I asked.
Bob slapped me hard. I fell over backwards into the tub, landing on Bill who had already drawn water for us to share.
“I told you his names. Who told you that you could call him Robbie? I don’t like that name. Don’t ever say it again. His name ain’t Robbie!”
When he left the bathroom, Bill moved from his perch at the front of the bathtub and let me wash my long hair first, under the flow of water that was already turning cold.