for bill siebert and a.
i often think about the days growing-up in pittsburgh as a lil boy, many people don't remember their time as a child but those were times that that's all i can remember.
all but one of my sisters were older than i and most of them would get a kick from answering my endless questions with myths or alternative realities. some would consider that to be cruel but it was the happiest time of my life.
i couldn't imagine a world without steelmills that created the clouds, a god that enjoyed bowling during storms, our next door neighbor that was a soviet spy, clouds being big soft pillows that you can jump on [when i got old enough], brussel sprouts being cat brains and endless other tales i was told.
it got to a point that my parents told my sisters to cut it out because it was becoming clear that i was not 'normal'. then when my questions would be asked they started telling me the truth [as they knew it] and it really fucked me up and i would hide and cry like a lil baby. one of the hardest truths that hurt the most was my sister kathy telling me that the sky was endless [without a roof] and i would never be able to ever touch it even with the tallest ladder. i could never accept that the world was not a real big house that everyone lived in together. so for a long time after that i wouldn't ask anymore questions and lived in my alternative realities with my imaginary friends that never let me down and gave me the answers i wanted to hear.
when i reached the age of about 5 my next door neighbor bill [the alleged soviet spy] took me under his wing by showing me his workshop that was in the basement of his house. i can still remember walking down those steps and the pleasant smell of freshly sawed wood and machine oil. bill was probably in his mid-seventies then and a WW-I veteran. he was also an atheist, the only atheist i knew as a kid and certainly the only one in our large catholic neighborhood. bill would never talk about religion and always avoided the question 'why don't uou believe in god'.
bills gift was teaching you about the world and life while never preaching or scoffing at your beliefs.
on every wall of that workshop there were maps of the world from different eras and when i asked why some maps were quite different than others he would patiently explain that they were made by man with beliefs that were common for that time and that man is always learning new things and finding what was reality at one time would change as we learned more and made new discoveries.
i soon learned all the planets, continents, oceans, seas, how everything is made up of atoms and neutrons, i learned how to read the encylopedia and find answers on my own as well as telling time [both regular and military] all before i entered kindergarten, a kindergarten that i had to take over because my unwillingness to get along with others and read aloud 'run joe run'.
i remember running home from school and asking bill if i can hangout in his basement and look at the periodic table chart that was hanging from a wall. when i was not around bill i would think of him and his teaching and nearly every night before i fell asleep i would lay awake thinking what i would do if bill died, this would eventually bring me to tears and my sister whom i shared a bed with would yell 'mom, lous crying again and i cant get to sleep'.
bill eventually died not long after that and i unfortunately can't remember much after that, perhaps a defense mechanism i created back then to dissolve my hurt.
i still do have bill's world war one wool blanket i was given when he passed, the one that he slept with in the trenches of europe. it lays atop of me on those cold nights, though the tears are gone.