David The Daredevil

 

I can still picture exactly what I was doing and remember how I felt when I heard the squeal of the car’s brakes and my Mother’s horrified scream. It was the summer between my brother’s third and fourth birthdays, and he had just been hit by a car.David was a normal, rambunctious boy. He got into things, no matter how many times you tried to stop him. He never believed it when you told him something was dangerous and he could get hurt. He questioned every rule and defied every order. I’m told many little boys are like that. It’s just we weren’t prepared.My parents were only 18 and 19 when I was born, and I was an only child for fourteen years. They took my childhood in stride. They gave orders, I followed them. If I goofed up, there was spanking, scolding, and worst of alla look of extreme displeasure. I worked hard not to make mistakes.They really wanted another child, but as the years passed, it didn’t look like it would happen. Then, just before their 33rd and 34th birthdays, they found they had been successful. In the fall of that year, my baby brother, David, was born.My parents thought if they followed the same procedures they had used with me, my brother would become a well-disciplined, cooperative child. After all, good parenting was a matter of enforcing the rules and guiding the child. They got the surprise of their lives.Everything they had known and believed about raising children became obsolete. My brother apparently had no fear, at least not of being disciplined. Scolding and spanking didn’t deter him much from whatever he set out to do. I was shocked and appalled. Who knew you could get away with the kinds of stunts he pulled. I wondered how he came to be blessed with this attitude. His confidence and fearlessness were enviable.

By the time he was walking, which was about three months earlier than I did, he was getting into stuff with regularity. He didn’t talk until he was almost two. I don’t believe he thought it was necessary. You could never be sure he was really grasping the orders or just ignoring them. I believed he was ignoring us but Mom gave him the benefit of the doubt.

He received the usual admonitions about staying away from electrical outlets and not sticking things into them (which he ignored), not playing with scissors and knives (which he also ignored), and not climbing on the cabinets (ditto). He had an “I’ll just check this out for myself” attitude. He was Superboy. Nothing could hurt him. This was all conveyed with a look since he didn’t bother with words. But his meaning was unmistakable.

When he was two, he was playing with a little boy across the street and they decided to stick a hairpin in the electrical outlet that serviced the family’s freezer. A loud pop, flames, and the outlet was fried. No injury to my brother or his friend, just a freezer now without power.

Another time, Mother let him have chewing gum. He quickly became bored with chewing it and decided to play with it. He put it in his hair and realized this was a bad thing. When my Mother discovered him, he was cutting out huge chunks of hair and gum with a pair of blunt edged scissors. You could have heard her all the way down the block. That year he got his first buzz cut.

When David was six, he and his playmate found some hormone pills the kid’s mom was taking. They decided, for whatever reason, that taking these pills would give them super powers. When the lady found out, she brought my brother home and told my Mom what had happened. Mom panicked and called the pharmacist. He questioned her as to what the pills were and how many David had taken. Then he chuckled and told her not to worry unless David started growing boobs.

Dennis The Menace had nothing on my brother. I fantasized about trading him to Gypsies for a goat or something, but I never got the chance.

When I graduated from high school, several relatives came from out-of-town for the event. After the ceremonies and dinner, my aunt had a gallbladder attack. Our neighbor across the street was a doctor, and the next day my Mother wanted him to come check on the aunt. He was due home momentarily and my Mother was standing in his front yard talking to his wife as they waited.

David had been playing with the neighborhood kids in our backyard on his new swing set. I found out later the older kids wouldn’t let him have his turn on the swings and this infuriated him. He marched himself out to the front of the house to complain to my Mother, and seeing her across the street, off he went.

My parents had warned David often to look both ways when crossing the street. Our street was just a block from a major thoroughfare and sometimes people didn’t watch their speed. David remembered to stop at the curb, and he looked left toward the busy street. Sure enough there was a car coming and he waited until it passed. Unfortunately there was another car coming from the right, and that one he did not see. He ran into the street and the car hit him.

I was sitting in my bedroom at the front of the house writing a letter to a friend. My window was open and I heard the sound of the breaks squealing and the “thunck” that followed. Mixed into these sounds was my Mother screaming. By the time I got outside, David was surrounded by the neighbor, the driver, my Mom, and all the relatives.

The driver had seen David and realized he was not looking in that direction. So the driver had slowed to almost a crawl when the kid ran out into the street. The man slammed on his brakes, and David bounced off the front left fender. But for a moment, the car was between my Mother and her son, and that’s when the screaming started.

The doctor arrived home amidst this chaos and examined my brother for injury. Aside from a few bruises and a large fright, David was fine. We took 16mm movies that night, and my usually hyperactive brother was quiet and subdued. The bruises turned a vibrant purple, and soon he was proudly showing them off to his friends.

After that, he looked both ways before crossing the street. Sometimes the lessons of life aren’t totally lost on children.

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