- Great Strides March 17, 2019
- Revisions November 1, 2015
- Being an Active Part of Your Community August 30, 2015
- Blogging 201: Day One on Day Three Setting Blogging Goals July 21, 2015
- Not for the faint of heart March 27, 2015
Brain Injury/ TBI Recovery, PTSD, Seizures, Victim of Violent Crime, Survivor, Poet, Rehabilitaion,
Head Injuries Change Everything
www.recoveryofthemin… on Blogging 201: Day One on Day T… debb323 on Blogging 201: Day One on Day T… barb Murray on Spring: A Time to Remember The… barb Murray on Brain Injury Association 2015… brokenbrilliant on To Be Yourself
I have to say,” WOW I actually turned 50!!!!” FIFTY can you believe it? After all, the odds have been against me all this time, a milestone that I never thought I would achieve. I never imagined I would live this long. I’ll never forget looking out of my hospital bedroom window at the graveyard and wondering,” Am I going to end up in there.” at age 9. Then an amazing, glorious, possibly miraculous thing happened; while I was still in the hospital an Angel visited me in the middle of the night and said, “You are going to be all right!” Here I am 41 years later of mostly being all right and even better than all right, amazingly well! I guess I should still take that advice and live better than the first 49 years. Like the saying goes, if I had known I would live this long I would have treated my body better. Although I always had dreams or plans of things, I knew I would do in the future even if it was still a crapshoot.
I knew I would write a book and I hoped to help people through education and helping them learn to understand that they can be better than they ever believed they could. Of course, that didn’t come to me easily, I was in my twenties when I figured that out. I went through the normal lost and found part of my life like other teens and young adults at that time of my life. I am incredibly grateful for having the chance to do that searching as many people with the kinds of injuries I have had, never get to do.
I never thought that I would do as many different things as I have to help people in so many different areas in the Human Service field. I also never imagined I would go to college and take this journey to get to 50 by learning to help others find their way. Life has a funny way of steering you to the things, people, and places that best suit you or where you can do the most good. Call it God, call it destiny, or a calling, whatever you call it, I call it a life well traveled. I found myself in this field for a reason and maybe because of what I had to go through. If I had to go through that to get where I am, then I am happy that I had to take this particular road because helping others has been one of the many Joys of living my life. If I could not help others on their journey, I know I would not feel as brilliantly alive as I do today. I believe learning my true nature early in life and knowing that I felt that there were BIG things for me to accomplish out in the world has driven me.
My motto has always been DREAM BIG, no small things for me. When you are told you’re special because you survived such horrific things as many times as I have been, you begin to realize they can’t all be wrong. A standard was set a long time ago, a standard of living- to rise to an occasion, to be better or do more than you thought you would ever was set in place and that’s how I have lived. I am fortunate that I grasped that and that others helped me believe it was possible. That concept was instilled in me at a very young age. My belief that I was here for a Reason is my Life Force, I am convinced of it at this point in my life.
I lived hard and large, which is why I never even imagined I would actually make it to 25, which came and went. I began to slowly, settle down. I was very entrenched in living my dream, not writing my book yet but helping people. Which in fact is very rewarding and it gives you things that you never knew you deserved to have or understand. By age 22, I had really slowed the drinking down and I stopped experimenting with drugs at age 18. I was on the right track. Things that should have killed me didn’t, not that it was the goal. I was trying to experience everything as quickly as I could. You can say I was going 100 miles an hour with my hair on fire. Ironically, I find myself laughing as I wrote that last sentence, because I remember the times so well and someone once told me when I turned 25, that they didn’t ever think I’d get that far in life. They said,” You were moving so fast I worried about you.” In fact, many people told me similar things but that one really hit home because they were with me a lot and they observed all the chaos of my life.
I figured that slowing down and getting it together would help me refine what my life was supposed to look like, feel like, or be like but it wasn’t that conscious a thought, it was a slow progression like the tide coming in. If you have ever been to the beach; you’re sitting on the shore with your blanket and all the things for your day and slowly you find you are getting wet, you move back a little, get situated ,and then you do it again, and again until your dry and the water’s slow progression towards you, halts. I just realized when I did something stupid I seized. I began to have aversions sometimes in the form of seizures to bad decisions. After stopping those bad decisions, I still had seizures but not as frequently. The seizures like the tide kept coming; it slowed down with just quitting drinking or experimenting with drugs. Yet they continued at a steady pace. I had not yet figured out the emotional chaos connection to my seizures until my thirties. When I had been stressed, not just little every day stresses, BIG things, worrying about losing my house, finding work, hormonal changes, anniversaries of bad times, tumultuous relationships, and worrying about finances which is something I have done in my life a lot; those big things are the making of seizures. I have believed seizures would do in me in one day. I have gotten to the point where I just have to say, “Come what may.” I can’t control what will happen in the future, no one can. However, I can make sure I am aware of the tide marching in before getting wet.
When I figured this very simple concept out even though it is one of the hardest things to put into action, I started feeling less stressed about everyday stuff and big stuff. I don’t want bad things to happen, I try my best not to have them happen like most of us, but for example; if I had to sell my house because I couldn’t afford it, I would miss it but I would do it. I tend to walk away from things that have become more stress than they are worth and I have done this with people, things, jobs, and life events, rarely; but I have done it. There is a point of no return in me, where I know I have done everything I can do and there is nothing left but to abandon it. I love too hard; I have lived struggling and fighting the odds for too long to continue things that are not worthy of my efforts. Someone I respect a great deal told me in the last 8 years after talking about things I needed to change, I said,” But I fight so hard and try all the time.” He said,” You are the most courageous person I know. But maybe the fact that you feel you have to fight so hard is part of the problem.” I have thought about that a lot. I think he is right in some instances; there is no need to try so hard or fight so fervently for some things.
It’s time to just live, let me ease my mind in any way I can to have a more stress free life, where I have time to do what is important to me. Not for anyone else just for me, I tend to live selfishly that way and I do not regret things I have done or people I no longer have relationships. These things really do make a significant difference in my life. I have less stress if I am less reactionary of other emotions, and I tend not to be caught up in others drama, or less than usual. There are people that think because I am like this that I don’t care. Then I know all too well that they must not know me at all. In my life, you do not get to be 50 without taking into account the things in your life that are the most important. It is pure and simple self-preservation and maybe a little wisdom, well earned. It’s like the concept of surrounding yourself with positive people, you just feel better, so why not do it.
Now I choose NOT to speculate what will be the end of me. I choose to just think that I am here while I am, so I better make it GREAT. Let the other part of my journey begin. I have Stuff to do BIG THINGS. My newest motto: Live With Purpose and the rest will follow!
This Story is written very well and this is such a very real account of what others experience when their loved one has a Seizures I had to reblog it. Amy L. Kratz
The Beaten Path: Seizures
Amy L. Kratz
On September 13, 1973, I was a child that took the same shortcut we always walked to school and I never arrived at school that day or for many to come that year. I was attacked by what I can only describe as a monster disguised as a man. This man filled with rage, stood like a wolf, waiting his prey, for a little girl, cheerfully walking to the first days of fourth grade. Unexpectedly; I saw him, he asked me something, and I stood frozen, and answered. He rushed over, picked me up, tied a rope around my throat, and beat me until I was just about dead. I somehow escaped him in the midst of my beating and hid in the overgrowth of the marshy area we called Block House Pond in Lewes, Delaware. I passed out, to be…
View original post 3,592 more words
This week I was attempting to turn the page and become the most bad ass awesome guy that I know I can be. I was trying to get on a page that I belong to and attempted to help as many people as I could by starting every morning by saying “I am going to be AWESOME today by…..
I have been successful in some ways and very unsuccessful in others. I have been striving for other to say why they are going to be awesome each and everyday. I have 2 or three people that are catching on. There is well over 1000 members on this page that are either the injured, or the caregivers. My goal as a very lucky man by surviving and recovering so well was to help others. I feel like I have dropped the ball. I have not been writing on this page as…
View original post 481 more words
I started writing my memoir the year I received my long awaited driver’s license because it made me feel FREE. I had never experienced such Freedom before I had to rely on my ability to ride a bicycle or wait for others to pick me up and take me somewhere. Fortunately, I enjoyed bicycling but the waiting for others was excruciating at times and other times embarrassing to have to ask. Many times to travel somewhere that I really wanted to go took phone calls and finagling on a level that I became quite skilled at but disliked none the less. At times I would just forego doing what I really wanted to do because I couldn’t trust that I’d get home in time to work, or do what I needed to get done just for me. So I rode my bicycle in the rain, the snow, the heat, and the wind. I made it through college, had several jobs and was out at all hours of the day and night into the early morning hours riding my bike all over Lewes, DE, Snow Hill and Salisbury, MD or Minneapolis, MN and I got by, rather successfully. I was never late for work or college and my friends and my family have always been kind in getting me to distant destinations without making me feel guilty about it.
There were times that it was incredibly frustrating like the nine months trying to get the State to give me Para Transit ( transportation for handicapped individuals) so I could actually work for The State in another Division. Who knew when the application said, “Do you have a condition that renders you unconscious?” as a requirement and I checked the box “yes” that it would not be a requirement, for me. They argued that “Not all people who have seizures CAN’T drive.” I have never asked for disability or received any compensation for having an Acquired Traumatic Brain Injury from the state or government or for being a victim of a violent crime, up to that point. I had to tell people things about me that I had never had to say and I was begging for something that I believed was a service I should be able to receive. I have been lucky enough to be able to work and fend for myself. So I cannot complain, until I had to. It was a humbling process and at times humiliating, there were days that I would be so stressed it was a wonder that I didn’t seize. I yelled at people, cried on the phone, and was told by some people with good intentions, “Why don’t you move to a city?” I yelled, “I just came from a city, I own a home here, my family is here, and I have a job here! Are you telling me I should leave the place where I feel most supported because this State can’t give people with head injuries a ride to work?” I even told that individual that they were not suited for their job; they were the Executive Director and they were supposed to be supporting and assisting people with Epilepsy and not telling them to pick up their lives and go somewhere else. I thought this was Crazy and I was going to get what I needed and I didn’t go away.
Every day for 9 months after I got my job working for the State of Delaware I did not have a license nor was I eligible for one based on my seizure history and the State standards for receiving one. I desperately needed to get to work 20 miles away from home, a place where no Fixed Route buses even came close to. So I every day I woke up and called everyone I knew for a ride which wasn’t easy because people were busy this took hours and I literally flagged people down on my street paying them $40.00 to go out of their way to take someone they didn’t know to work. I also fought with Para Transit, to the point of yelling at them and calling Legislators and I obtained letters from 6 different people from the government and my doctor to try to get a ride. I even asked for help from the Epilepsy Association and they were helpful to a point, my doctor was most helpful and he put me on a new medication. This all meant that if I was seizure free for 6 months, I could get a driver’s license, which in turn meant to Para Transit, that I would not need funding to use their service for a lifetime just 6 months.
Para Transit gave me one-way service to work because they stopped running at 9:00 PM and I worked until 11:00 PM. About 4 months into this ordeal I secured a taxi service for both ways until Para Transit came through then they picked me up at work at 11:00 P.M. for six months. I was finally able to get my driver’s license after 6 months of a new medication and that was 11 years ago. I had a friend help me find a truck, my cousin and some friends taught me to drive and the day arrived when a Nurse from the Stockley Center picked me up at 7:00 A.M. and took me to do the driver’s test, I could not believe it, I actually passed. That day after getting to work I was so excited and stressed that I had a seizure. Can you believe right there at work, the very first day I had a license? My doctor stuck by me he asked me why I thought I had the seizure? I told him because I didn’t sleep the night before fearing I wouldn’t get up at 7:00 AM and I was stressed about the test. He said, “This is a milestone we are going to let you keep your license.” I was amazed at my good fortune.
Everyone joked that they would be staying off the roads when I was out and keep their children in the house, for fear they would be a victim of my lack of ability. It also meant for the past 10 years I would pay $2000.00 plus for car insurance because I didn’t have any real road experience when getting my insurance, even though I was 38 years old. I guess Freedom comes with a price! My life is far more expensive for having a seizure disorder than if I didn’t have one.
I am FREE and it took a while for this to all sink in. I recall sitting in the house on a rainy evening watching a movie wishing I just had a bowl of chocolate ice cream. I didn’t want to be cold and wet and riding my bike just didn’t appealing. It was so ingrained in me that I rode a bicycle that I thought, “Oh well I’ll do without.” something I had told myself hundreds of times. Now picture this I am talking to myself as I sometimes do, I lived alone and this is second nature too; all of a sudden I jump up and realize I have a truck in the driveway with my name on it, and I jump up and down and dance through the house, laughter fills the air. I pick up my keys and off I go. That was the best chocolate ice cream I ever ate.
Three months later, my cat hurts her knee, she needed surgery, so without any regard to what it would take to drive to Stanton off of I-95 to take her for knee surgery, I mapped it out and left on a sunny January day. It’s was very windy and my truck was like a leaf in a breeze so I was all over the rode at 40 mile an hour gusts. I white knuckle it all the way there. The doctor who I thought I saw at 11:00 AM wanted to look at her at 3:00 PM, they ask if I could stay I told them, “No Way, I’m not driving in the dark.” I leave her there with a large deposit. The trip goes well and is uneventful as far as safety and driving. Two months later I go back because she has hurt her knee again and it is a beautiful here in Milton and it turns to pouring rain and fog in New Castle County, close to two hours away. I couldn’t find my exits, I am in 5 lanes of traffic and on the far right lane needing to exit on the left suddenly and that trip was awful, I almost had two accidents and found myself between a “WIDE LOAD” and the little service truck behind it. Remember this is before GPS and I have not learned the aggression on the highway needed to pass quickly over come the chaos factor of a highway and I was still actually learning to drive, turn on the radio, smoke and possibly drink something all at the same time on top of that read directions. Needless to say I came a master of multitasking in the car and I live to drive another day. I had only mastered driving in Rural America, nothing even close to the fast pace of Highway One and I-95. This created fear, a fear that overwhelmed me for 10 years.
I got a job in Dover 8 years ago and drive through city traffic all the time and heavy Beach Traffic every Friday in the summer for 45 minutes to an hour and forty minutes on some Fridays. I have had people pull out in front of me, almost side-swipe me and I stayed calm and avoid dangers fairly well. Last year I’m driving south on Rt. 1 at the Dover Air Force base on Rt. 1 and out of a concrete factory truck exit, a Cessna Air Plane literally Floats, with its wheels 3-5 feet off the ground, it comes out onto the highway heading North. It was hidden at first from sight by trees and bushes until it was on the road and coming right at me and I tap the brakes and realize I must go to the left shoulder and hit the gas as quickly as possible to avoid it. What an adventure and I was calm until the whole thing was over and I was safe. Then I was a wreck pulling over on the road to call Aunt Martie and I am screaming F this f that and GD and all the stress emptied my body through my mouth. She says, “You were almost hit by a what?” I figure no one will believe me but it was all over the news, CBS, NBC and I, had escaped it as did many others that day on the highway. Another car and I were the first to encounter it coming into the highway and thankfully no one was hurt. It did something for me though. I started thinking if I can respond that quickly and calmly to a Plane on the highway, I can do anything!
Which leads me to why I wrote this; I decide I to drive to my sisters home to see her and her family about 150 miles away taking interstates and I-95 to Pennsylvania. I tell her and she is very surprised and happy. For many years she has been coming here to either visit here or coming to pick me up so I can vacation at her home. I realized that I had to get over the crazy driving restriction I had placed on myself. What is being Free if you’re really not? I know this; we build things in our minds to be worse than they are, we all have done it. I have done it and then something triggers me to say to myself, possibly aloud, “How foolish is that?” So this past weekend I took my GPS and mapped my ride and listened to Cindy’s advice, stay in the middle lane and look at the lane you’re in and the lanes directly next to you. Don’t let 4-6 lanes get you overwhelmed. Take your time and my brother Jan told me if you get lost just let the GPS get you back to where you need to go. They both gave me great advice. Jan also called me a week before and asked if he could drive me there and pick me up, he was worried about me getting stressed and putting myself in a position to have a seizure. It was sweet but I thought about it and called him back saying, “It’s about my Freedom, I have to do this for myself!” I did get lost and didn’t panic the GPS took me right back and who cares if it took longer. I got there safe, loved hanging out with my family and got home no problems.
The thing I learned was that I realized once again when you have accomplished something that should make you move forward, you must move forward and not get stuck in a rut. All the driving I do back and forth to work 45 minutes both ways in steady traffic and city driving taught me to be just aggressive enough to handle the major highways. I also know that no matter how busy it is on the highway, I am cool as a cucumber in the car. Also bicycling all over for that many years taught me to be one of the best defensive drivers I know. I have good teachers as well they were calm and patient and I have listened to them and my gut. Now I am far FREER than I ever was before and I am happy with myself. I did something I never thought I would do. Now I’ll go somewhere else. Who knows where but I’ll tell you about my next car adventure.
After my head injury I had learn how to: walk, speak, write, run, and everything having to do with coordination; all over again. This took years of work, frustration, and tears. Many of us take these things for granted but every movement our body makes is a neurological event in some part of our brain. Everything was just so difficult; I was all of a sudden a poorly wired house. All my limbs flailed all over the place with no rhyme or reason. I just couldn’t move well no matter how hard I tried. When I got better at orchestrating my movement, it was delayed and jerky. I still have moments when I feel as if I have to put thought into placing one foot in front of the other because something just shorts out. My friends think I speak more loudly with my hands when I talk than with my mouth; this was as if I was screaming; my limbs were all over the place. My friend Bonnie always used to tell me when I was being interviewed on TV, for a news worthy event because I was a Facilitator for The Gay and Lesbian Alliance at Salisbury University; “Don’t move your hands so much.” I would laugh and think, she hasn’t seen anything.
I became the biggest klutz, tripping over my feet and falling here and there, besides having seizures that sometimes would result in a trip to the hospital. I would try things like carving my mom a giraffe with an Exacto knife and slice my hand. You all must be thinking, “What the hell was your mom doing?” She was trying to have a peaceful day and read, no she wasn’t asleep or on drugs or drinking herself into some coma, just in the other room escaping for a short moment. She realized quickly I was being too quiet and came walking into the kitchen as I was walking out with blood dripping everywhere. Guess whose Exacto knives? Yes my brothers.
One day I will never forget it I was riding down an alley in Lewes and as I came to the street I couldn’t decide which way to turn so I fumbled and ran right into a parking meter, my bike threw me, and I hit my head and fell. Laying in an oil slick in my new coat and on top of that I had a seizure, not a very big one, actually I didn’t become unconscious this time. As I think about it, how incredibly foolish can you be? A friend came along and went to get my mom. Thank God, she wasn’t upset about my new clothes getting messed up; she was very kind and understanding. At the time ruining my new clothes was one of the worst parts of this situation for me, besides the absolute humiliation of having to tell people I was really going very slow as I exited the alley. I mean I was so klutzy… you say, “How Klutzy were you?” I went to the hospital emergency so often they literally kept my file out waiting for my return. The nurses would say to me with disappointed faces, “Amy honey, now what happened?”
After being in the hospital so much I was absolutely fascinated with doctors and medicine, I dreamed of being a neurosurgeon at age nine. Over the years, I realized the only thing I would be good at would be lobotomies. Since they went out with the 60’s I don’t think there is much of a market for that kind of work. I would be the poorest neurosurgeon in the country. Think about it; I am in surgery and I say to the nurse “Scalpel!” she gives it to me and my hand jumps… “Oops, another lost soul.” This kind of spasm is something that I deal with daily, my hands twitch for no reason usually at the worst possible times.
My mornings are spent trying to get a cup of coffee and pouring it in what appears to be my mug, which suddenly becomes the counter. The other morning while trying to eat Captain Crunch, I brought the spoon to my mouth, my hand twitched, and it was all over my shirt. I have wasted more sugar and coffee on the counter than I want to think about. This would have been a perfect tactic to get my money’s worth out of a law suit, “But, Your Honor the amount of money I will spend in a lifetime on Sugar In The Raw and Starbucks is insurmountable; I am suing for a million dollars.” If you have any idea, what both of those products cost and the amount of them I use daily you too would be concerned about my financial welfare.
I never really comprehended what life was going to be like for me while I was a child. Kids just don’t think about those things. I was too busy trying desperately to be the same kid I had always been and not even fully understanding my limitations or maybe not wanting to know that I know had limitations. I actually consciously thought about how I needed to get back to where I was, at times to devastating frustration. I would ask Mom in tears after having a seizure, “Why me?” She answered this only twice because I quit asking, “You have to stop feeling sorry for yourself.” I could understand everything I lost but never realized that I may never get them back. This was probably best, so I never gave up. I would try to walk and fall, I would try to color and not be able to control my hands, and I would want to go out and play and couldn’t do all the same things. I was relentless at trying, and everyone watched and bit his or her lip, hoping in their individual agonizing wait for the real Amy Kratz to stand up.
Little by little, I regained my coordination; I couldn’t ride a bike the balance was difficult; this was my very favorite thing in the world and this took some time but finally came back like other things that I worked for. I wasn’t as graceful as I used to be though, my hand eye coordination was gone and I had real problems with balance. My family, God bless them bought me a three wheel, low lying bike, it looked like a Big Wheel but with a metal frame. We called it the “Kratz Mobile”, it was bought on my way home from the hospital. They had a wheel chair at home waiting for me but I believe they saw the joy in my face when I found this in the store and it was a relief to them that I didn’t have to sit in a wheelchair, as I had for so many weeks and somehow for some miraculous reason I could ride it. I didn’t have to balance it like a two wheeler. I was photographed on it in the Coast Press, a newspaper in Lewes, and I have many pictures of me on it over the course of two years. The day I came home Uncle Don and Harry put it together and padded around the handle bars, gave me a seat belt and it was somehow my new legs. I could scoot around the house or outside with it. I loved that thing. What grace I seemed to have on it, why I could do this I will never know but it became a symbol of my existence for the past 31 years. Who would have known how incredibly significant bicycling would be in my lifetime.
I never knew I would have to ride a bike for a good part of my life and I rode it everywhere. I rode to the grocery store with a backpack and could only get a couple days worth of food, I rode to and from work at midnight, to school, and somehow I situated my life so everywhere I really needed to go I could ride my bike. I somehow always found places to live where I could to everything by bike. I don’t think this was really a conscious decision; I only recently realized that I had conveniently done this for many years. It became something that I just did subconsciously. Although I knew I had the shortest route to any destination mapped out consciously, I mean I used to think of chores and things I had to do in visuals of what street I should go to get to the next place, crazy the things you have to do in life to manage your own reality. I was used to doing this that even when someone drove me I would tell him or her the quickest way, as if the amount of traffic or shortcut to anyplace would really make a difference to them. A good friend called my bike “Freedom” it really was that to me it was the way I realized all my dreams getting from one place to another. For me to go places is so very crucial to my feeling of independence, and it probably is for everyone. I somehow every day, well most days found it as normal as walking.
It had its disasters too. In February 1997 as I rode home in the pouring rain one night in Salisbury after work at The Peninsula Regional Medical Center it was 11 p.m. and I was hit by a car, they didn’t see me. My coworkers at the emergency room asked, (it was the first question out of their mouths) “Did you have a seizure?” This really put me out of commission because I hurt my back very badly and to this day suffer with it. It also scared me to the point where I was afraid for a while to get on it. I was in a lot of pain, I had bad dreams, anxiety, and depression all over again. The symptoms of loss of control, I had them all. Talk about a setback, this put me in a position of feeling afraid of the thing that I believed was one of the greatest inventions in history. How could I be free if I couldn’t get around and if I was so afraid to get on that dam thing?
I became depressed and fearful in a way I had not felt since 4 years earlier when I broke my knee at the hospital after falling down a flight of stairs. The knee injury four years earlier was actually the first time I suffered this type of depression from a seizure or related event. I had panic attacks and didn’t want to get too far away from my home where I felt safe. This kind of response after having a seizure is pretty common and even though I didn’t seize it was from my misfortune as a child that I rode this dam bike all over the place. It all was the same as far as I was concerned.
This is just another wound from the almost 30 year injuries, although this kind of fear I had never experienced. This was all new and incredibly unsettling. I worked hard to get over this. I quickly found a way to overcome out of sheer necessity. Fear was an all-new experience I had never understood fear quite like this, this was crippling fear worse than the fall down the stairs. I felt more disabled than I had felt in a very long time or ever wanted to feel again. This became another mountain to climb after a lifetime of climbing Mount Everest. I did get back on my bike and soon moved to Minneapolis and rode it all over the city.
I went to the grocery store one hot summer day and unfortunately this day I was very hungry, never go to the store hungry we all know what happens. Well I bought all these groceries and after they were bagged thought, now what the hell do I do with them? So I pack my backpack like a professional outdoorsman and I got on my bike, I lost my balance, and fell flat on my back. Mind you, I had a full pack and two or three bags hanging on each arm strap. I am so very frustrated that I pick myself up, pick the backpack up, and throw it into the side of the store screaming some obscenity. Boy did that make me feel good! As I am regaining composure, if you really can after such a spectacle, I look over to see a homeless man sitting on a bench in front of the store, with his mouth to his chest; he looked afraid and astonished yet he was kind enough to ask if I was all right. I was too mad to speak.
I then saw two people I know in cars drive right by me and as I try to wave them down, they left without seeing me. Frustrated to tears I manage to get on my bike with as much grace as one can muster after making an ass out of myself; with my unusually heavy pack, crying, and peddling as fast as I can, in the heat of the day. I was almost home and I feel this cold something dripping down my leg, I look down to see cottage cheese sliding towards the peddle and into the street. I can only laugh at this point, as tears streamed down my cheeks; I think of how ridiculous I’ve become.
Shortly after this I took a philosophy class call “Tragedy and Comedy” and the whole premise of the class was that comedy originates out of tragedy and tragedy is at times best illustrated and understood through Comedy, you know like the old Laurel and Hardy films, the Three Stooges, Charlie Chaplin and the like. While taking this class it all came together in an epiphany one day struggling with the concept of the whole idea. I stood up and said, “I think I get it!” I then tell my cottage cheese story and we all laugh, the professor applauded me on and life seemed no less tragic but a lot more comical from then on.
Well I can walk now, talk, comb my hair, and brush my teeth instead of my nose; most of the time, but now I have an infestation of ants on my counter. I gave up the neurosurgeon idea and decided I had better do something that I could actually be successful at; working with people was where I landed. Not such a bad place to land I must say.
Listening to Train “Hey Soul Sister” makes me think of the 80’s when we would go out all night dancing at the Renegade a gay bar in Rehoboth, Delaware where we would dance until 3:00 am. We loved going there where the air was thick and heavy with smoke and sweat, the beat of the music so loud it encompassed your soul. We were all beautiful and dressed to the nines; the hunt was on but if there was nothing worth striking for at least we could dance. We all believed we were fabulously smooth and graceful out there under the disco ball. It truly was a fascinating place, where the sights ranged from the most beautiful woman who weren’t but they were tall, broad shouldered and in dresses and heals or young woman in tuxedos and suits, looking like handsome young men. It was there where we could be as unique as we wanted to be and no one glared or was aghast. Everyone was popular in the Renegade and you didn’t give a shit if you weren’t because you were too inebriated or just sucked into the music so that you didn’t have to care.
If you have never been to a smoking hot dance bar like a good old gay bar you probably have never seen the likes of what the world had to offer as far as bravado and insecurity all at the same. It was as close to the feel of a city as we could get in this State rambling with small towns and beaches. I would never find anything there worth holding onto except great memories of good people and the love of dance. Strangers could surround you and after dancing all night with them, you walked out at near daylight best friends. Those people we held so near and dear to us were our friends and community that we had struggled to make through pure hedonism. That sense of community glued us together for years; it kept us coming back every Friday night at about 9:00 pm and would end seemingly abruptly on Sunday with a Tea Dance, which was just another way to say Happy Hour only it began at 2:00 p.m.
The 80’s came in with a bang, big glasses, big hair, with music and sleek tanned bodies and ended in the 90s with hundred of our friends dying from the AIDS crisis. I lost so many people I knew that I can’t even count them all. I remember some very special friends who I still like to think of as dancing with me, with sweat rolling down our faces to “It’s Raining Men”. They sit with me on nights like tonight when I am just missing something and missing them seems better than sitting here not knowing what it is exactly that I am missing. They were: Juan 1987, Chris 1989, Billy 1992, Phillip “Sport” 1994, Steve 1999. Then there was a feeling of impending doom that lingered within us, it was heavy like a wet wool coat over your shoulders and just as comforting. It was a time in our lives that we all knew that every year we could discover that someone we loved had AIDS. This disease of the body and of the heart had its tendrils wrapped around each of us, and the sting burned like the flaming sting of a jelly fish.
We became angry from our grief. We felt we needed to change the way government worked for us so in 1993 WE Marched on Washington for legislation to help fund research that two administrations had kept from positively funding efforts to stop or find a cure for AIDS and for our Equality. In 1994 we went to Washington again for the largest Memorial the World would ever see. All that was left of the millions of people who had died up to that point from this horrific disease was the biggest Quilt from the Names Project that we would see for the very last time all in one place because it had gotten too large to display in one place. It laid from one end of the Mall to the other as wide and as long. There we would hear every individual’s name spoken as a bell rang over a loud speaker all day from early morning to late at night. We all stood in a collective state of mourning, stunned at the enormity of it all; those of us who had passed from ignorance, inaction and fear in symbolic squares laying at our feet. It was the gay disease, “Who cares if they die” and it’s “God’s punishment” people would say, now it is everyone’s disease, irony.
The Dance still went on but somehow it wasn’t as joyful at the Renegade after that, as I watched ghosts pass me by in every inch of that place. In fact one night after Chris died I saw him walk by and he stood at the bar, smiling; when I walked up to see him because I knew it had to be him, he was gone. All that lingered was a gin and tonic sitting there that no one knew who’s it was or where it came from. The nights of dancing for the pure joy of it all seemed to fade as we all aged and realized how foolish it was to continue to have so much fun in light of the seriousness of inaction. I became more an activist and would speak out and fight and teach about Diversity along side of my friends and we would collectively help with the care of our dying loved ones. I often thought silently while sitting next to Sport as he lay in his hospital bed, talking to the ceiling in Russian; was the awful feeling that this was not supposed to happen until we got old and gray and not while we were all so young. We however were in unusual times and this Pandemic would sweep the World and it wasn’t just about a small group of people not being taken seriously any more it was all of us; EVERYONE.
*And The Band Played On, ~Randy Shilts , Published 1987 Good Read.
Amy L. Kratz
There is irony for me in leaving Sussex County for 14 years and now being home again. I have grown to realize that the only way to move on was to go backwards, or so it seemed at first. I had to come home and face my demons. I never dreamt that I would end up being or actually wanting to be back in Sussex County. I had big plans to stay far away and I had not once thought about coming home in 14 years. I must admit it all was just happenstance yet I began to see it for its real value. I had to come home to learn about things about myself, things I had been running from for years, people, everyone who knew all the intricacies or thought they did about Amy Kratz. People meant well but being away and finding me was the best thing I ever did ironically I had to find that little girl, the child left walking to school on a tragic day. She was the one that I had actually lost; she was the one that I needed to reconcile the differences of my life.
I felt a weight that hung around me when I lived here and I was returning to hold on to another one, a weight of sadness so heavy it would take all that I had learned, to come to grips with it; and again I wasn’t alone in my grief and sadness. I never really imagined that coming home would be so incredibly difficult and eventually empowering all at the same time. Trust me when I say it took many years to grasp the concept of it being empowering, it really was another difficult journey.
I was guided home for the first time five years ago because our mother had died in a horrific car accident. It happened while I was actually 45 minutes away in Salisbury, Maryland on the first part of my vacation to see friends and family. I was coming to Milton on Thursday
May 7, 1998 when on May 6 I got a call telling me she had died. I never saw her on my vacation where the family would be celebrating her 65th birthday and Mother’s Day all at the same time. I had been living in Minneapolis for 10 months and I loved it. I had planned to stay awhile, I was thinking about buying a home and settling down with my significant other of two years, and building a career for myself, possibly even going for a Masters Degree.
After her death, I went back to Minneapolis and I felt a strange pull an aching need to be home; I desperately wanted to be immersed in her life by the people who loved and knew mom. I needed to be close to my family and her friends; I wanted to hear stories about her. To keep her alive somehow, to make the pain more bearable if that was possible. I found great comfort in the warmth of who she was to everyone in town and my family. I found a place that I originally thought would bring me some kind of peace and realized while I was here that I couldn’t bare the sadness of it all. I realized that somehow at first I was seemingly living in her shadow, which was comforting and not, all the same time. I also felt the absolute burden of being the keeper of the memories of this home and her belongings. I had the house, the warmth that was once here now was now shattered, and something felt very scary about all of that responsibility that it seemed to have a hold on me like a lead weight around my neck. I yelled and screamed at her at times and sometimes I would wander this house for hours, just looking at what she had built and collected, in awe of how hard she worked to have this cozy home in which she loved and shared with all.
Ironic as it may seem the same people I needed to be so close to, were some of my reasons for leaving the second time, a year after living in Milton I moved to Silver Spring, MD, hoping once again to get away from the weight of my messed up existence. I found it very difficult to be here when my family and I needed each other the most, at this point in our lives we were not able to be there for each other. We were all much too devastated to rally around each other we were all adrift in our own grief. I found it comforting and difficult to live in my mom’s house when she was no longer around. It was still mom’s house for a long time after her death, I could not get used to fact it was mine even though the deed stated it was.
This home had all of her in it. Every nuance of what she represented to each of us in her lifetime, who she became was wrapped around every piece of furniture and every picture hanging in the very carefully chosen spot she put it in. My family found it difficult to come and visit me at Mom’s house because it created such pain. She wasn’t here anymore but the memories of all the happiness we enjoyed in the house still lingered, they were like a fog wafting through every room. There were times when I thought it was becoming a place of happiness, but not enough to keep me here. I didn’t have a license so I was stuck here often times alone; I began to find my life a very lonely mixed up place.
I had somehow lost myself along with my mom, in an instant, whomever it was that I had built; the person I was supposed to be, was now deflated, and I was truly lost. I felt more lost than I had ever felt in my life. I went running again, but now from something different. I had to leave once more to figure out how to get back to the strong me, I knew was within, wrapped in all the sorrow, grief and broken ties with my brother and new relationships I had begun to build. I was having adult relationships with my family unlike before because while I was gone we rarely saw one another enough to understand each other. I left as a self-serving adolescent and returned an adult with goals and idea, someone different and so were they.
These were relationships I had when I left at age 20 that had not quite been seared since we did not have a chance to form them after me being injured and it really is quite different knowing someone as an adult then when you’re young; that sounds so obvious but was such a revelation to me. My family and I in retrospect had not spent much time together just getting to know each other on the holidays that I came to visit or the family dinners when I happened to be here for a day or two for that 14 years.
I also could not find any employment, stuck in Milton with no transportation and no viable work to save my soul. I had realized that after my mother’s death I couldn’t work with anyone who was depressed or in crisis, which is what I had been doing for 14 years. Working in the mental health field one really needs to be able to give 150% and I felt I had nothing to give. I needed something, but I had no idea what that was. My first job in Milton was in the Spring after my mom’s death at King’s Ice Cream Store, they are a family in town that have known me and my family for twenty years, they have amazing thriving homemade ice cream stores and I became the manager. It was a fun job with great benefits, free ice cream every day. This job was just a summer thing that really wouldn’t pay the bills but I was grateful for the King’s, their kindness, the ice cream and the good reference they gave me.
I found great joy in working with people who walked in the door happy, unlike working in the mental health field where people are sad and tortured when you first meet them. Everyone loves to walk in an ice cream store and it gave me a chance to feel a part of a community that I only knew about through mom. I not only had the opportunity to let people get to know me as Amy Kratz, not just Joan’s daughter. Funny how the tables were now turned in some ways no one knew me, but mom had made sure that people knew who I was in her eyes, she had told everyone she met about me and it was moving to hear how she spoke of me to others. She told her friends in town about what happened to me as a child. I was glad to know she was working it out within herself, as I know it tortured her, even though she rarely showed that to me. I used to joke with her and say, “I’m the apple core of your eye.”
I went off to Silver Spring, Maryland about a year after moving here and found a job managing group homes for individuals with developmental disabilities, who were also Jewish. I found myself starting over and instead of working with individuals with mental health issues, I was back to helping people with developmental disabilities as I did in Snow Hill, MD, my first job in the human service field. Here I could do the work I found so fulfilling and not have to be on the front lines of someone telling me about their fears, insecurities, loss of loved ones, sexual abuse, or suicide attempts. I found myself working 60 hour weeks trying desperately not deal with my own grief, yet in a way I was. I have my way of running and not really getting away from what it truly is that I need to work on. So I worked instead of drinking as I had done earlier in life; to escape; although I did a bit of the latter in the first six months after my mom’s death.
While living in Maryland another ironic thing happened. I had two experiences that threw me back to my childhood in a way I never thought I would experience. I lived in an apartment complex near the corner of Georgia Ave. and Connecticut Ave. in Aspen Hill, MD, I used to walk in the dark from the bus to my house. I had to walk only about a city block past a section of woods that was a tiny park and then my apartment was right there. It was fall I walked up the street and saw two young men in hooded sweatshirts on the other side of the street. They decided to take a tactical move and approached me one crossed the street and got in front of me the other behind me.
They asked me for a cigarette I kept walking and told them I didn’t have any. They left me alone. I successfully told myself that I wasn’t going to let this get to me and continued my routine as usual. The next incident was the deal breaker; it was now winter and I was fully dressed in a hat, a big coat and a briefcase, the same two men stood side by side in front of me blocking my path. They said, “Hey man, give me a cigarette.” I did not speak because I realized they thought I was a man that was an advantage to me. I walked around them as if they weren’t there. As I got behind them one of them said, “Let’s Jump him!” I turned to see if they were running after me and I walked with as much composure as I possibly could to my door. I will never forget how incredibly scared I was. My heart was beating out of my chest and I was shaking all over. I realized I couldn’t live in a place that made me feel this unsafe; I was testing fate and I knew it.
All of a sudden I was a little girl going to school, walking by the woods, I felt vulnerable and incredibly unsafe a flashback of a time I had desperately tried to forget, a time where I was so helpless and small in comparison to the enormity of it. It scared me so badly I could barely breathe and that evening I looked for jobs online in Delaware. I changed my routine and did not go home that late at night and kept myself out of those situations. Then it angered me that I was a slave to my emotional self; powerless to the past. So I waited for a break in the job search. It was all a gamble, I had no idea how I would ever get to any job that was outside of Milton but I went on the notion that has driven me this far, Everything seems to always work out for me, it has been my philosophy and the inner voice that carries me from one challenge to the next.
The kind of fear I experienced was as real as being back in 1973, and it angered the hell out of me that again my childhood affected my decisions. I had worked so hard all my life to stay as far away from fear as possible and somehow I had managed pretty well up to this point. I knew I could not live my life in fear and I came back to the safety of my home. The place I felt more comfort in than any other place I had found in a long time. It was a wise decision to go home and again face my ghosts there.
I was surrounded by memories and I started working on getting through the days of now living with it all. I had not only come home in the real sense of the word but somehow within myself I had gotten back to me, I was at peace in a way that had escaped me years earlier. I started work at The Stockley Center in May 2001, and I had other challenges to overcome but I took them in stride and thought to myself, nothing is going to keep me from my goals.
People have asked me, “Is the man that hurt you out of jail?” I had thought since 1989 when I received a letter stating he was on work release that he would soon be out of jail, it just seemed that when someone is on work release eventually they’re on their way out the door. People have wondered how I can feel safe here. I have never wanted to live in fear and I do not. My surroundings, the surroundings of this area, the security of the small town may be deceiving but I think it feels safer than anywhere I have been before. I believe that this move was the destiny I had faced all of my life and it has rejuvenated something in me that once was not to be found despite my greatest search.
In Aspen Hill I lived in that ominous 1 mile radius that some of the D.C. Snipers victims were first slain. In fact, my apartment was very close to where they sat waiting for the bus driver, the last victim killed in their killing spree in 2002. I literally walked by that very same bus stop four or five times a day and I took that bus and knew the driver. It was exactly at that point in my journey home every night that I met those young men in hooded sweatshirts, odd isn’t how I was guided away from that place. My apartment was only 30 feet or more from those woods they hid in and my old roommate heard the shot that morning and called the FBI.
After getting back to DE, I knew automatically that I had made the right decision and the news of the sniper definitely confirmed it for me a year later. I was more than happy to be in my quiet little rural area where I could walk or bike at any time of night and be in my home feeling a sense of security that I had not felt before I left for Maryland it seemed to be another sign of good fortune.
Amy L. Kratz
I was a fun loving, active, little kid and ornery as hell. I was a tomboy in the biggest way and everyone I knew called me that, I liked and I enjoyed being the only tomboy in my neighborhood. I wore that name like a badge of honor. I played football, baseball, kickball, cops and robbers, climbed trees, road my bike and generally the same stuff we all grew up on in our little town. If a boy could do it so could I. I made friends easily as a child and met my very first friend the first few days we were in Lewes at our new home. She lived up the street and she had walked down the street to watch what was going on. I walked up to her and who knows what we said but I vividly remember us standing there together in front of my new house, Dawn Zigman and I were inseparable from that moment on. We were both three years old and Market Street was our haven of adventure, fun, laughter and games. Mom called us “salt and pepper” because I was fair with white blonde hair and Dawn had a tan almost American Indian complexion and dark brown hair, we even had very similar haircuts, in fact, they were the same.
I soon made many other friends, there were many kids on our street. If we had enough kids to have a game of football, kickball, or basketball we were happy. Of course “smear the queer” was on that list too; this game deserves a definition, we threw the football in the air and some fool “the queer” would catch it and run like hell and try desperately not to be tackled. Someone always tackled them and then they were “the queer”. Sounds just like a down-home wholesome activity for youth, doesn’t it, we didn’t even know what that meant, and for the life of me I can’t recall where it came from.
Of course, I never understood then what gravity that word would hold later for me in life. Who would have thought one day I would be Queer. When you are “Queer” you’re allowed to say it about yourself and your friends who are. The other instance when its O.K. to be called “queer” is if you are crazy enough to enjoy catching a football thrown in the air that no one else wanted to catch just so you could be tackled. However when others scream it out of a car window at you, it certainly does take on a completely new meaning.
I was the leader of the group I was and still am outgoing and a bit bossy, but persuasive and I always had some kind of scheme going. I had a plan for everything and would direct us all to whatever end and I always seemed to have it all figured out. We once took one of Mrs. Zigman’s checks and made it out for what we believed was a million dollars; although I really think that was a collective effort of scheming this time. Oh, the absolute joy of buying the biggest booty of candy at Lehman’s Market. Lehman’s was a little convenience store in the middle of our street that we all bought every tooth rotting goodie we could get our hands on. The Lehman’s were very patient people and would wait for us to make up our minds choosing the best possible combination of junk food for the day with the pennies we could scrounge from deposits on coke bottles.
They had an old-fashioned wood case with glass on the front we pressed our grubby little faces against it staring with glazed looks in our eyes, our mouths watering for penny candy. They had shoestring licorice, root beer barrels, squirrel nut zippers, Mary Jane’s, bazooka bubble gum and just every possible delight one could imagine. Little did my family know that when my dad and grandparents sent us checks for our birthdays, Christmas and other special events that this would become a clever scheme of forgery and deceit for the sweets of our youth.
We walked in to the store and smacked the check down like we knew we were the ultimate consumer and had no other thought about it. We told Mrs. Lehman we wanted a million dollars worth of candy. She let us get settled in and think we had our own destiny in our little hands. We hunkered down picking out the bags full of goodies we were going to get and then the gig was up we had been ratted out by sweet Mrs. Lehman. She called Dawn’s parents, they came over dragging Dawn off, and we never did that again. But we had fun trying. Dawn kept that check and I saw it many years later, we didn’t even know how to write it was all scribbles.
We used to bug the hell out of the employees at the telephone company up the street where we would beg for this cool colored wire, we all made rings, bracelets and necklaces out of. They never seemed to mind as we banged on the door they obliged our whims. We thought they were the fashion statement of the year; we were trendsetters and we knew it; spending hours making them. I found a pool stick carrier in our attic; it made an excellent display case for my wares. I decided I would sell the Amy Kratz Collection of handmade jewelry on the street. I sat all day in the sun and waited for the flock of customers that would obviously want my jewelry. I sat there most of the day undaunted by the lack of interest in my product or talent and finally my next-door neighbor Pam Faust who was in her late teens; early twenties came to see what I was selling. Ah my first, real, potential customer of the day; she was interested and told me it was nice and then left for the day.
She returned to find me still there eager to make my fortune; she asked me how much would I sell the whole Amy Kratz Collection for; I sat thoughtfully and then said, “Twenty dollars!” She did not seem surprised by this figure and actually seemed as if it was a fair price for its obvious timeless originality and without any hesitation, she gave me twenty dollars. I closed up shop for the day, actually I had no more stock and had to make more.
Every rooftop, alley, backyard, and hiding place in the block was ours for the discovery and the taking we explored every inch of it. We had real live adventures and the games of hiding go seek that were long and difficult; if you were “It”, finding someone in that whole block could be grueling. I hated having to find everybody so I found the very best spots and was rarely the one that was caught to be called, “It”.
If you were in a car driving in our neighborhood, watch out because we had figured out that the very best place to throw water balloons at you was the corner of Market and Third Streets where there stood the graveyard of the St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, with a wall around it and the two-way Stop. There, we had sitting duck targets and the churches outside water faucet for every balloon that needed water. None of us ever worried about being a bad aim; we only worried about the police catching us as they pulled up many times and we would split, never to be found in our maze of cracks and crevasses we had planned our escape to. The excitement of it all was that we always knew the police would eventually arrive. We were fugitives and utility thieves on top of our early endeavors of forgery. We were never caught but then again they probably were never that enthusiastic about looking for us; yet we wouldn’t have ever believed that at the time. What fun is it if there isn’t the potential to be caught?
I am also the first person to provide the notion of smoking into our group, great influence I was. We went to the very same marsh that I was drug into and beaten only a couple years after the discovery of smoking; we would break little hollow weeds off and light them which provided the experience of smoking a cigarette. This was not good enough though and I decided we should buy cigars in those days anyone could buy tobacco, they sold it to infants so we bought it every chance we could get. I seemed to always have some money, either from my dad sending gifts or the many money making schemes, raking leaves in the fall, shoveling snow in the winter and selling lemon aide or Kool aide ice cubes on the street in the summer. I’ve recently seen this advertised as if it’s some new discovery. HA! We did it first; actually our parents probably did it before us.
The Easter before I was hurt I was with one of my many buddies, Jeff. I was riding on the back of his bike with a pack of cigars hanging out of my back pocket. My brother Jan found me, he had been looking for me because mom was coloring Easter eggs and wanted me to help. There was no way to keep the cigars hidden from him or my mom if I was going home. I confessed and gave them to my partner in crime and my brother never snitched.
We were very close and I counted on him in more ways than he knew. I loved him so much that I stole his change from a bottle in his bedroom, but he knew that as well, he didn’t seem to be all that upset about it. I never confessed but he had rigged the jar and he knew I had been in it when he got home. That’s what little sisters are supposed to do right, torture their brothers. I guess it would be time to pay him back. I was also playing with matches in my brother’s room and lit the trashcan on fire, I quickly ran it to the tub and put it out. That scared the hell out of me and I never let on that it was my fault, the master of deceit, or so I thought. Maybe that is why I am so neurotic about fire to this day, well besides the fact that a third of Lewes Downtown burned on New Year’s Eve in 1969, and embers were flying up our street; I was five then.
One day at work we watched a fire education film and I became sweaty and filled with thoughts about how my house could catch on fire. I live in a house that is about 150 years old and I always told my girlfriend, if this house did catch it’s so old and dry it would go up; as I snap my fingers and said my favorite saying, “Just like that!” It distressed me so much that I came home as the film suggested and planned several routes out of my house, I kept the flash light by my bed so I could find my way out through the smoke and updated all my alarms in the house. My girlfriend called me “Fireman Joe” and laughed. My thought is she would have been happy one day if the house did catch on fire because I had it all figured out so we would be safe.
I must say that some of what seemed like very well thought out ideas in my youth turned into disasters. One of my favorites was the day we all went to Freeman Highway bridge it was a cold winter day. In the summer, we took boxes and slid down the side on the long dried grass that grew there. In the winter we went sledding; it actually used to snow enough to go sledding at least once a winter. Those days are gone with global warming. Sledding could be grueling since it was quite steep, the bummer was getting back up the hill to do it again. I decided one boring winter as many of them could be when there wasn’t any snow we would slide toboggan style down the drain reservoir of the bridge, it was just an open concrete gully that took water from the bridge like a gutter to the street, in the winter it froze and was an accident waiting to happen.
There were about four of us and we all sat inside each other’s legs and what a slide it was. We zoomed down the hill laughing and yelling only to stop abruptly at the end forcing us all to be thrown forward and we systematically like dominoes all struck the person in front of us in the head with our teeth burying into each other’s skulls. The kids in the middle got up holding both their mouths and their heads, the front person held and the back of their head, and the back person held their mouth. The front and back positions were obviously the most desirable positions in this antic, if there was anything desirable about it at all. We obviously decided that being bored was better than the pain suffered on this short lived exercise in absolute stupidity. I was about thirteen when we did this maybe we could just blame it on the brain damage? It certainly sounds like a great excuse.
Another crazy idea worth mentioning, is one early summer day my neighbor and I took our bikes on Freeman Highway, I thought maybe it would be fun to ride our bikes down the side of the bridge like we were sledding. The sides were very steep, it had just rained and it did look intimidating. He said; (being in his right mind) “You go first.” Well not being in my right mind I took my banana bike down the rain soaked grass, brakes on all the way down.
The hill was so steep that I was looking right at the bottom of hill as if I were going head first in a dive off a mountain. Even though I had my brakes on all the way down I was still traveling at what felt like the speed of sound. At the end, it straightened out in a brief plateau that abruptly ended in a drainage ditch. I was not stopping and I made a slight Evil Knevil like jump and hit the side of the drainage ditch, the bike threw me over the handle bars where my gut stuck on those damn things and jolted my all my internal organs. I realized this activity needed a disclaimer; “Don’t try this in your own neighborhood!” So maybe I wasn’t truly operating with a full deck or maybe I had some kind of death wish. The latter was probably more true to life. I was a risk taker in fact I never met a risk I did not like or would not try, at least once.
Growing up in Lewes was like the hot summer day that the Coca Cola truck rounded the corner at Market and Third Street, the driver hadn’t pulled the door down on the side of the truck, it spilled Yoo Hoo, Coke, Sprite, Dr. Pepper, and whatever soda Coca Cola made at the time. The bottles rolled and crashed all over the street and there we were ready to jump onto some new treasure that lay before us. Some bottles lay broken all over the street but we were told by the driver to keep what had fallen into the street and was intact, as long as we cleaned up his mess. We did keep all the soda that were still intact and cleaned up the rest. The fun of the town lay in its little surprising joys that somehow fell in our laps at what seemed the most opportune moments and we were always somehow in just the right place at the right time to grab them up with our greedy little hands.
The funny thing about my childhood, as I have looked back at it many ways and many times is that I still have the fondest memories of being a child, even though they were short lived. It doesn’t really seem to matter because they somehow shaped the person I became just as my injuries and life struggles have. The fact that I was injured so severely didn’t stop my mind from scheming up fun and excitement. I will say though that the fun for many years took on a completely new feel and my interests changed just as my abilities did.