At 2:17 in the morning on 4/17/1947, I was born to Marion Cleo Jones Bradley and Virgil Hoyt Bradley at the hospital in Welch, West Virginia, 20 miles from Anawalt, where I would live for 18 years before going off to college.
Welch, West Virginia's only claim to fame is that Jack Kennedy came there when he was campaigning for President. He pronounced it "Welsh" but won WV in a landslide in both the primary and general election.
Anawalt, West Virginia has no claim to fame whatsoever. A town of 500 (probably 200 now) in the midst of the Appalachian mountains in Coal Country. It was in McDowell County. Anyone from there pronounced it MACK-dowell.
My mother was 38 and my father was 40 when I was born. No big deal today. My grand-daughter to be, Ellie, will be born to my daughter when she is either 37 or 38 and Tim, her father, will be 40 or so. But back then, deep in those mountains, having parents of that age was strange, to say the least. My parents were friends with my friends grandparents!
I was the first, last and only child of Virgil and Cleo.
An only child was weird and strange back then and back there as well. I don't remember a single other 'only child' from growing up. Just didn't happen.
Being an only child cannot be imagined, I think, by someone with siblings. But, over all, if I had had a choice, I would have chosen it.
Couple of things: only children are never bored--we learned from the womb to entertain ourselves; and only children are annoying because they don't get the boundaries very well...for example, if I come to you house and have to use the bathroom, I'll think nothing of looking in your medicine chest. I'll go through your refrigerator and kitchen cabinets as well. Only children think everything is fair game since they're the only one.
From time to time I lament my solitariness. But all I have to do is talk to someone with siblings for a few minutes to return to being glad I'm an 'only'.
When Cleo and then Virgil died, I longed for a brother to support me or a sister to let me cry. And there was none. Only children learn from the beginning that there is no one to play that role, like a sibling would. So, I supported myself and let myself cry. Worked for me.
One thing for sure, only children know how to be alone. Lots of people, I've learned as a person and a priest, don't know how to 'be alone'. I'm an extrovert, but my 'only' status means I have no problem 'being alone'. I just don't. Sometimes I prefer it.
Plus, 'only children' don't have anyone to argue with about memories. I've heard siblings, over and again, disagree about 'what happened' at some point. My memories are solitary and unchallenged. Mine alone.
And now I've lived longer than I ever imagined. I wasn't feeling too bad about being 69 until Bern said to me, "you're starting your 70th year." Gracious girl, you didn't need to say that.
69 is kind of cool since it isn't 70 and since that number has such rich and erotic meaning.
My Junior year of college I lived at 69 Richwood Avenue with Mike and Mike and Doc. We were delighted with our address. It could get you a beer from a stranger.
So, being 69--though I hate how old that is--is cool in an odd way. But Bern reminding me I'm in my 70th year was a downer.
And I never dreamed of living this long. I was going, as the song said, "live fast, love hard, die young and leave a beautiful memory".
Didn't happen. And I'm thankful.
69 for heaven's sake. Who imagined it?
Not me, for sure.
But I'll take it, thank you, Lord, and I'll take, with joy, whatever comes next.
Happy birthday to me!!!!
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- Happy Birthday to me!
- The workshop
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