Authors' Notes - Well who is who this time?


My Young Heart by Alan Shepherd Tracy

I grew up with that loveable, idiotic goofball who was known as my favourite brother Gordon. He was the red-haired, honey-eyed, fun-loving big brother who wasn't that much older than I was. Only thirteen months older to be exact. We were really close.

When we were very young, being close meant sharing a bedroom in our six bed- room house in Boston, sharing our clothes including that awful yellow duck jumper Grandma made us wear turn about, sharing our toys and above everything else I remember, missing our Dad.

Dad worked all the time when we were little. He had an Office at home, an Office in New York and an Office in Tokyo. He went away on Monday and didn't come home sometimes until Friday. Gordon and I used to sit out on the fence and wait for him to come home if we knew what day it would be. We'd always argue over who would get to sit on Dad's lap after dinner when he sat in his favourite leather arm chair that none of us were allowed to touch.

Gordon always won our arguments. He was older even though we were the same size and as a result he seemed to get more turns than I did. Not that he took his turn out of order. It just seemed that whenever it was my turn, Dad was always late coming home or didn't have time to sit in his chair. It used to make me mad that Gordon always seemed to get his turn when he expected it and I didn't when I needed it. I liked having Dad hug me and I needed those hugs sometimes more than he realised. I was always sad he didn't give them to me very often.

Other days Dad would stay home and take telephone calls all day. He usually did that after Grandma berated him for being away from us too much. On the days he was at home we weren't allowed to make any noise in the house or disturb him. That was worse than him being gone. Often he would still be on the telephone talking about contracts and plans when we had to go to bed. We really didn't get to see him much even when he was at home.

I asked him once if he would take Gordon and I to the park and he agreed to take us when he had finished his work that day. I was really excited because no-one could swing me higher in the playground than my Dad. He said the higher in the air you went the better it made you feel and I wanted to feel what he said he used to feel when he went up in the sky in his plane; and his rocket ship. Whenever he had time he told me about his rocket ship and walking on the moon. I thought it sounded swell and imagined what it would be like but Dad said I'd never sit still long enough or have the patience to learn to fly something like that.

Anyway that day he didn't finish work until many hours later when it was dark but the two of us still sat outside his Office at home waiting expectantly for the promise to be delivered. Imagine his face when he walked out of his Office and saw us still waiting there. I heard him whisper to himself. "Oh no."

Even though he then remembered what he'd promised, he still shook his head at us. He told us that it was dark and the park was way too dangerous to play in now. I refused to believe it was. Our Dad was the bravest man in the world because he had gone to the moon. He was never afraid of anything and if we were with him we would still be able to play and be quite safe.

"Please Daddy." I said looking up at him. "I still want to go."

"Me too Daddy." piped Gordon. "I'm not scared. No-one would hurt us with you there Daddy."

He had knelt down between us and hugged us both.

"Boys. I'm sorry. I promise I'll take you tomorrow before I do anything else." he said. "Come with me now and wash up for supper." He held out both hands for us to take.

"Daddy you said you should never break a promise." I trembled eyeing his hand.

He looked upset when I said that.

"I'm not breaking my promise son." he said hesitantly. "I'll take you but it will have to be tomorrow. Come on."

Gordon just accepted things and looked up at him sadly as he took one of Dad's outstretched hands.

I, on the other hand, refused to accept we couldn't go. I'd waited for hours for him and he was breaking his promise. He said we could go after he finished his work and he was finished it now. What was wrong with us going in the dark and being late home? The park was only a few blocks away from our house. We could walk holding his hand on the way there and back, and it would be good because we could have one hand each, instead of having to share as we did with his lap.

He held out his other hand to me as I stood there.

"Let's go Alan. Grandma's waiting." he said and smiled tiredly at me. He looked exhausted from his work. I should be a good boy I guessed and just do what he wanted.

No! He wasn't going to let me down and get away with it. I sat myself down on the floor and threw a full-scale tantrum. Dad was dismayed.

Grandma came in to see what all the commotion was about. When Dad told her he'd forgotten about taking us to the park, she shook her head at him and looked really cross. I realised then I'd gotten Dad into trouble with Grandma.

That was my earliest childhood memory. Four years old, waiting patiently for Dad with Gordon outside his Office and being let down. That and Grandma chewing Dad out before supper saying he'd lost perspective again when it came to his children. I didn't know what that meant but I gathered it was bad by the way Dad nodded and hung his head before apologising to Grandma.

When supper was served I sullenly took my seat at the table. Dad looked at me and I looked at him. I folded my arms and refused to eat. Dad heaved a heavy sigh and looked down. He had tears in his eyes and ate his own supper in silence that night. Immediately after, he excused himself and went and sat out on the porch alone. All my brothers blamed me for upsetting Dad, even Gordon. They had wanted to be with Dad after supper too and now he was too upset to do anything but sit outside and stare at the sky by himself.

I know I was being selfish but Dad had broken a promise to me as far as I was concerned and he didn't seem to understand why that upset me. All I wanted to do was to be with him and I knew Gordon did too but unlike me Gordon was too resigned to things to show it.

I wished I hadn't have shown it sometimes as I grew older. Dad was an expert at the punishment processes especially the caning one and being the fifth son, he'd had a lot of experience in delivering it to the others before it ever got to me. My temper tantrums a few years later ended up being rewarded with a good old-fashioned caning that was for sure.

Punishments of any kind on our home hurt but Dad's lack of time to give attention to me back in those early years really hurt me more.

And that was the difference between Gordon and me as we grew up together. I constantly craved and fought to get Dad's attention. Gordon didn't. He seemed to understand something about Dad that I didn't. Gordon still says it was because he was into self preservation and I was stupidly only into self destruction back then.

But whichever one it was, both of us really missed our Dad in those early years and wished he didn't have to work so hard to provide for us.

But there was something else that we should have been missing back then but didn't.

Our Mom.

You see we didn't even know we'd had a Mom...either of us. Dad had never told us. Grandma had never told us. Our brothers had never said anything to us either. No-one talked about it, at least not in front of us.

We only found out when Gordon went to school and found out we were supposed to have a mom from his friends.

I remember him coming home that day looking all worried. He had just turned six and I was now five. I knew when something was bothering Gordon even back then. Normally after he came home from grade school we played a game together especially since I had been stuck with Grandma all day by myself. That day he told me he didn't want to play and went upstairs to lay down on his bed instead. Grandma of course thought he was ill and fussed around. But I knew he had something on his mind and after Grandma went downstairs he told me what it was.

He had realised that everyone in his class at grade school had a special person that they called "Mommy." Our special person had always been "Grandma."

Gordon hadn't noticed anything unusual about our family until his Teacher had walked around the class that afternoon handing out invitations to a "Mother's morning tea." She had stopped in front of him and smiled sadly before handing him a note.

"Even though you don't have your mommy Gordon maybe your Grandma might like to attend instead." she had said gently. Gordon had simply stared at her stupidly. Actually staring stupidly wouldn't be too hard for Gordo let me say especially back then. I didn't understand either. Weren't Grandma's and mothers the same thing?

"Well why don't we have a mommy then?" I asked.

"I dunno. But my friend says everyone has one."

"Well where's ours gone?" I asked.

Gordon announced he was going to find out and he asked all of our brothers. John had cried, Virgil said we just didn't have one but finally Scott explained that we used to have one and that she had died a long time ago.

"Scott says we can't say anything about her to Daddy." Gordon told me gravely. "Else he'll get mad."

Well back then Gordon and I worshipped the ground Scott walked on and what he said went. Besides that, I didn't want any more canings than I regularly got for my behaviour by upsetting Dad. But I still didn't understand where a mom fitted into the picture and why Dad would get so mad if we asked about her.

Naturally and as I said before Gordon can sometimes be particularly stupid. He was that night he asked Dad about Mom. Dad had snapped at his question about Mom dying. He had snapped at Scott for telling us in the first place. The past was done, he'd said and he didn't want to think or talk about it any more.

We didn't understand why Dad wouldnt want to talk about our mom to us. I for one would have liked to know what she was like. We didn't even have a picture of her anywhere to imagine. Dad had one in his room. But we weren't allowed in his room to look at it. I didn't understand.

Grandma said it was because our Dad still had a broken heart and it had been broken since the day our Mom had died. She also said no-one was able to help him fix it and that was the reason he worked so hard; so his heart didn't hurt so much.

"How do you fix a broken heart Grandma?" I asked her with interest. Maybe if I fixed Dad's heart for him then it wouldn't hurt and he wouldn't have to work so much.

"Only time fixes a broken heart child." she had said. "But unfortunately even time doesn't seem to be working for your Daddy."

I asked Grandma why and she said it was because my Father had loved my mother too much to forget her. They had had a special kind of love for each other she said, not the love brothers feel for each other or the love we felt for her.

It was a love that was special between a man and woman Grandma said. It was the greatest love of all.

"One day you'll feel that great love too young Alan." she said smiling at me. "One day when you least expect it you will meet a pretty little girl who you will fall in love with and when you do you'll understand why your Daddy feels like he does."

I felt sick at that thought. Fall in love with a girl? No way. Girls were silly. I was always grateful I didn't have a sister to put up with. My four brothers were bad enough let alone have to tolerate a girl too. All the girls I knew carried on so stupidly, especially the giggly thirteen year and fourteen year old ones Scott and Virgil talked to.

But what was this greatest love of all that Grandma spoke about?

Gordon and I talked about it neither of us knew what she meant.

Love around our house only scratched as deep as a hug from Grandma in the middle of the night after a bad dream, or a tousle of the hair and pat on the back from Dad when he came home from work. There was no other affection shown. If either of us ever sat on Dad's lap he would hold us to his chest only until we went to sleep. As soon as we slept he put us to bed and then he went back to work. There was no time to relax and just be a Dad. He had too many other things to do and so little time for him to do them in.

I guess back then he was only yearning for the great love Grandma told us about and the love of two little boys who idolised him like we did wasn't enough to make his heart feel better.

In the end Grandma, in an effort to explain said to both of us.

"This love is a type of love that brings two grown people together and brings their babies into the world."

I understood that even less but Gordon looked like he understood so I just nodded my head and pretended I did too.

Nevertheless that explanation swam around constantly in my head during my childhood.

A love that brings two people together.

A love that brings their babies into the world.

At seven years of age I simply didn't understand that but I finally worked out after a bit that I must have come into the world somehow because of my father loving my mother. I also figured out that since my mother had died that's why we didn't have any more babies.

I decided to help fix Dad's broken heart.

Grandma had always told us that you should ask after someone who's got troubles. She said it made their troubles less because they were sharing them with you. So I asked Dad how his heart was. Asking him that seemed to aggravate him further. He told me in no uncertain way that his heart was fine and to leave it go. However everytime I asked he went outside by himself and walked about in the garden for a long time. One time I even saw him crying as he looked up at the sky. He talked to himself a lot when he walked in the garden and one night I heard him say, "Why Lucy. Why did you leave me like this?"

Well I guessed the cause of his broken heart was Lucy and a check with Grandma confirmed that Lucy had been my mom. I decided that was a pretty name and Grandma told me she had been very pretty just like her name.

I finally decided that this special love must be very powerful if it could make my Dad feel so dreadfully sad and even cry because he had lost it.

It made me a frightened of love back then especially this "great love" which seemed to have the power to break your heart and make your whole life totally miserable . I didn't know if I was willing to risk that ever happening to me.

But it wouldn't happen to me.

There was no way I was ever going to love a girl.

Little did I know as I made my big decision at the tender age of eight that very soon I was going to meet Tin-Tin Kyrano. The girl who would make me feel that "great love" and much, much more.

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My Young Heart - By Gordon Cooper Tracy

Childhood to most people means stereotypical things, a mum, a dad, a family, and lots of happy times.

To me it meant something entirely different.

Oh don't get me wrong, I had good times growing up, but our house wasn't always filled with happiness, it wasn't always filled with love and it was never filled with a mother.

Lucille Tracy, as a child I never knew her, as an adult I feel I know her a lot more. But the fact remains, Alan and I never really had a mother.

People, doctors, psychiatrists, they all have this theory that children who grow up without a mother turn out differently, I guess in a way that's true.

Life when Alan and I were growing up was all about routine and discipline. You have to remember we grew up in a house full of men, Grandma was an enormous help, but she wasn't a mother.

Until that day at school, Al and I were under the impression that most families had a father and a grandma. A mother? I'd never really heard of one of those. Except when Dad would call to Grandma sometimes. The shock when the teacher informed me that everyone else had a mother was unbelievable.

That is one of my earliest memories, not a good one really. I remember my friend Stevie informing me that his Daddy said that our mommy had died, just after that very class. I flat out didn't believe him, but for some reason his comment gnawed at me until I found out the truth. Alan of course knew that I was upset about something and I found myself wishing at the tender age of six that he didn't know me as well as he did. But that was how we found out about our mothers death, together at five and six.

It wasn't our family's fault. The subject of mom was too painful for them to bring up, especially to two inquisitive little kids who couldn't understand why their father remained so emotionally distant to the rest of the family.

Although we weren't a physically close family, we'd show our love in other ways, well as many ways as a family of six men could muster. Wrestling one another, Scott, John or Virg walking us to school, the simple tradition Scott set up where we all climbed into Dad's bed if it was someone's birthday and watched them open the presents together.

Things like that, we all knew we loved one another, we just never said it.

But Dad was another story. When he promised to take us to the park and never showed up, we finally had the notion brought home to us, albeit harshly, that our Daddy wasn't like other Dads.

He didn't have time to coach Little League, take us to the football matches, spend much time with us. I know now why that is, but back then, to two small, betrayed little boys, if felt very much like indifference. That he didn't care. Alan always kicked up a fuss when Dad couldn't fulfill yet another promise but I became accustomed to it. I knew it would only make matters worse to have a tantrum. Alan never realized that.

He would stamp his feet and scream till his little face was the colour of beetroot and then when he got older he'd get caned. I did nothing, but every time they would take him off for his punishment I would see red.

No one was going to hurt my little brother, my partner in crime, no matter how old he was. I would yell and kick up a real fuss. Of course I never really physically went for my father, apart from one occasion, but I'll tell you about that later, no I just hated seeing anything happen to Alan and I never took it lying down, still don't really. Unfortunately my arguing often resulted in both of us being punished. Still I couldn't let it go, Al and I were always together, what did Grandma call us, 'two peas in a pod' so I could never stand by and watch him get hurt.

Plus it's well known in my family that I've always been the one to speak my mind, Alan is the tempremental one, Virg the pacifist, John the quiet one and Scott the bossy one. So even though I knew when to shut up, something Al's never learned, I also knew when not to shut up.

Of course when the caning came when we were almost teenagers, Dad hated punishing us, you could see it in his eyes, in the way he'd stand out in the garden afterwards, but Dad was from a military family, our Grandfather was a kind, but very strict man. It was the only way Dad knew how to keep us in line.

But it still hurt.

Afterwards we'd go into our room and lie on my bed together, and cry. I would attempt to comfort Alan by putting my arms around him, but he would sob for hours, little heart-wrenching sobs that would make my heart die a little each time he cried.

Scott, Virg and John hated Dad's disciplinarary tactics too and I'd hear them often arguing with our father over how he was to handle us. We were in a sense everybody's babies. I hated these fights as it always left everyone in a bad mood and nothing resolved.

But our childhood was filled with good memories too, it just sucks that it's God's plan that we remember the bad memories much more than the good.

I remember Scott teaching Virg, John, Al and I to kick a football when we were really small, I remember Dad's fortieth birthday party, it was one of the few times I've seen him really happy.

I remember it so clearly because he took each of his sons into his arms and hugged us all. As his arms cradled me, I made a vow to myself, that it didn't matter what happened from then on, that my dad must love me to hug me like this.

Of course while some may think we lacked both parents in a sense, they'd be wrong. Scott became a father to us I believe from the moment my mother died. I can't remember that, but as far back as I can remember my eldest brother was there for Alan and me, walking us to school, putting plasters on our cut knees, taking care of us when our father was too busy.

It was through Scott that we first learnt about girls. He would bring them back to the house and Al and I would watch how he behaved with them in quiet fascination of course we were still at the 'girls are yucky' phase when Scott was in the 'girls are definitely not yucky' phase, so we learnt quite a lot.

Scott was the one who dressed us for our first days of school, he was the one who helped us with our homework. All in all he became a very special person in our lives.

Of course while Scott, Grandma and to a lesser extent Virg and John took care of us, as we experienced first kisses and first fights at school, Dad failed to notice us growing up until it was too late. I remember vividly the time dad realized what he had missed.

It was Alan's 8th Birthday, we had a party in the garden and Dad took a picture of us five and Grandma on his digital camera. I remember waking at ten when I heard noises from the room next door. I looked across at Alan's bed and heard the familiar sound of his snoring. I was very tempted to wake him, but I knew he had had a tiring day.

With more than a little fear in my belly, I stepped from my bed determined to check out the source of this noise. It was when I was outside my father's study that I heard the raised voices. I stood ear to the door as I listened to my grandma and my father talk.

'Jeff, Jeff' Grandma was saying softly, 'it had to happen eventually'.

It was at this point to my horror that I realized my father, strong, stern, formidable Jeff Tracy was sobbing like a baby.

'But mother, it only just hit me..' My father sobbed, 'my boys are grown up, my babies aren't babies anymore.'

'But Jeff they can't stay children forever.'

'I know, but I just realized, I was sitting in here just staring at this picture and I just realized how much I've missed.'

I breathed, a sharp intake of breath as I listened.

'I mean, Gordon's.....'

I jumped guiltily as I heard my name, convinced I'd been spotted, but for some reason I couldn't move away from the door.

'.a really good athlete, I only noticed it today in the pool. I mean he's not even the good, you say to appease your child when they try and swim a few lengths, I mean mother the kid is unbelievable, the way he moves in that water, it's just.....'

My father trailed off and I smiled to myself, I hadn't thought my dad had noticed my swimming ability.

'And Alan...Alan's eight' My father breathed heavily, 'my God he's eight and I didn't even notice mom.'

My Grandmother's voice was soft and comforting, I pictured her moving closer, placing a thin arm around my father's broad shoulders.

'It's not that you didn't notice Jeff, you just work hard that's all.'

'Yes mother I do, I work hard to feed and clothe my children, but to what extent eh? To the extent that I see them all for half an hour at the most on an evening, and I'm usually too tired and irritable from the day to spend much time with any of them.'

'Jeff, listen to me.' My grandma stated in her no-nonsense tone, ' are a damned good father to your children, I won't lie to you, I don't think it would hurt to spend more time with them, but you are not a bad father son.'

'I am mother, I am.'

'No Jefferson, you're not. Answer me this, do you love your children?'

'What kind of question is that? Of course I do.'

'And would you do anything for them?'

'I'd die for any one of them, you know that.'

'Then that proves it.'

'Proves what?'

'That you're a good father Jeff. You love your kids, you protect them, you provide for them, that's all that matters in the end. There's no bond like that of a parent and their children.'

My father took a deep breath, 'I just miss her so much sometimes..' his voice became low, barely audible. 'Sometimes it's like, I wake up and I know she's not there and I can't bear it, I just want to curl up and die with her, and I just have to get out of the house. At work I can forget that, just for a few hours, forget that she's gone, that she's not coming back and that I have five little boys at home who all remind me of her.'

I frowned at this, he was talking about my mother, even at the age of nine I hated the thought that I was responsible for causing my father pain, purely by existing.

'I just don't have to think about Lucy and the kids at work, I can block them out. And I know that sounds terrible but I know how much the kids need me, how much they want me to be with them and I just can't mother, because in every one of my children's faces I see her, I see Lucy mom, and that kills me.'

My father began to sob again, and I found to my horror that I was crying too, boys didn't cry, it's what father told us, after we fell over or hurt ourselves, we counted to ten and we got over it, I never cried in the vicinity of my father, it was weak. I angrily wiped the tears away and wordlessly walked back to my room where I cried myself to sleep.

I didn't know then and I still don't know now what Grandma said to Dad that night, but he was around a little more after that, and he was a lot less strict, even stretching to a cuddle once in a while.

And Alan and I, well we learnt how to love from our brothers and our grandmother, we learnt how to love our family, but girls, they were still a no go area to us. Of course we hadn't counted at eight and nine upon the arrival of one Tin-Tin Kyrano.