I miss my childhood, or at least parts of my childhood. Some parts of it I can still do without. I never cared much for getting grounded, which happened on occasion. I don’t miss being too young to do some things, like riding roller coasters or purchasing alcohol for a minor. Although I really wish I hadn’t so actively wished to be 21, because maybe it all would have gone a lot slower if I had enjoyed it more.
As I’ve gotten older this train ride called life really seems to be picking up speed. When I was a child, time seemed to have a way of standing still. Summer vacation was only 3 months long yet it seemed to last forever. I miss that. I miss the feeling of the last day of school, when you had what seemed like the rest of your life to do nothing but do nothing. I miss slow summer days, and long summer nights. I miss catching fireflies in old mason jars in the woods behind the house with my uncle. I miss tree forts, although I never actually felt safe in them. I was always waiting to hear the sound of boards snapping and plummeting to a horrible and untimely death six to eight feet below. But I think I could handle it like a big boy if I could do it over again. I miss ding-dong ditching, and flashlight tag, and Truth or Dare, and summer camp, and listening to Red Sox games on the radio with my father while he drank Schlitz beer and mowed the lawn. I miss kid stuff.
My childhood was pretty good, until I was 11. That’s when my mother died from cancer. She had suffered with it for about a year. That’s a rough estimate. I was 11 and didn’t have a great sense of time as I stated earlier. From what I remember she had gone into the hospital for gallbladder surgery and when they opened her up they found a large tumor. By the time she passed away it had gotten into her bone marrow. I’m sure there are technical medical terms for this, but once again I was 11, and I was no Doogie Howser, MD. I just knew mom was sick. My father sat us (me, my brother and my sister) down one day and told us that mom had a tumor. I didn’t really know what that was but I knew it was bad. I didn’t associate it with cancer though.
Then one Sunday after mass we were in the school basement where they sold coffee and donuts. The adults would sit around and have coffee and conversation while the kids would run around the place all wired on sugar and salvation. My brother was talking to some kid and he said that our mother had cancer. I told him to take it back. I think it might have gotten physical, as it usually did betwixt us back then. I ran to my father and told him that he was telling lies about mom. That was when my father explained that mom did have cancer and that was what the tumor was. I asked him why he didn’t just say she has cancer. He had no answer, but I think he just couldn’t say it. I think saying it out loud made it real.
She spent the next year or so going between our house and the hospital. She would be home for a few weeks and then she would get bad again and she would be back in Boston for a while. I remember a few times walking home from the bus stop after school and cresting the hill that led to the house and seeing the ambulance pull away. She would talk to us on the phone when she was able to, and Dad would bring us in to see her on the weekends. One time I brought in this ventriloquist dummy I had. Yeah, I was that kid. I figured I would put on a show for her and cheer her up, make her forget about being sick. Instead I walked into the room, looked at her and started bawling. She looked horrible. Her skin was yellow from jaundice and she was extremely thin. I don’t think I even showed her the dummy. It was really bad. That was the last time I saw her. After that my father wouldn’t take us there. I don’t blame him. It was for the best.
The last time I spoke with her was a Friday. She was coming home on Monday and was very excited about it. We talked for a few minutes and I remember her singing to me. I don’t remember what she was singing, just that she sounded happy, which made me happy. She said that she loved me and would see me in a couple of days. I gave the phone back to my father and went back to watching Bosom Buddies or Mork & Mindy or something. Sunday night she slipped into a coma. On Wednesday she passed away. It was January 27th, 1982. She was 44 years old. I am now 2 years younger than she was then. A lifetime has passed in the 31 years that she has been gone. Or almost three lifetimes for little eleven year old Billy. But sometimes it seems like just yesterday. Sometimes I can still hear her voice on the phone.
So I don’t miss that part of childhood. But I would love to be able chase after an ice cream truck again.
Without looking like a fucking weirdo.