In this moment, I have decided to blog my life story, with the possibility of adding a second chapter any time before I die. In other words, I write as the mood strikes me, and I’ve had little success with organized structured writing.
My memories of portions of my life are scarce, but I can still tell my story. I was born John Jeffrey Harry Goebel. My mother’s father was Harry Francis, so as bad as Harry was to a kid of the 60’s it wasn’t Francis. My father’s name was John, and although that is my official first name, they chose to call me Jeffrey, or Jeff as my norm. I was Jeff Goebel, and only a very select few ever found out the full name. I was born October 19th, 1963 and was told my entire life, I was one of the very first children ever born in the Georgetown Hospital’s new wing that allowed them to perform paternity care.
Later, in my 50’s I celebrated this fact in a Georgetown forum online, and was contradicted by people born a year ahead of me in the same hospital. A bubble burst inside my head, and I felt actual sadness at having lost a point of pride.
I was the third child of John and Mary Goebel, and arrived 7 and 9 years after my sisters.
I have a surprising number of visual memories from my life from birth to age 7, when I moved away. I can remember the names of my two neighbourhood best friends at the time, but was never able to find them on Facebook. I remember preschool a little. This was true mostly because there were some strong stories from that time that have been retold over the decades. My mother was the Nursery school teacher. I remember a girl I may have had a crush on, Kathy Toast, who I re-met again in High School, just to say Hi.
I remember the school and two of my teachers, although some of that memory has been boosted every few years by the school photos I have of Kindergarten and Grade 1.
I remember the places I played, and a few stores. I remembered the hairdresser, presumably because I may have had to wait at it for hours some days.
I remember Golden Fish and Chips and Scott’s Chicken Villa.
Oddly, I seem to have a talent for remembering floor plans of everywhere I’ve spent much time. I remember the floor plan of this house. I remember some of the furniture, and I remember eating cereal at the kitchen table. Scattered memories, many of which are not of the originals, but of the stories my family told. Like the History of our nation, the stories replace the truths.
I have memories of several very specific stories, as my parents would retell them for years. One of the most common, was the group of stories retelling four of my personal life accidents and injuries. Apparently, early Jeff Goebel was a klutz.
#1. The exploding Canada Dry Bottle.
Sometime before age 5, I allegedly dropped a 750ml (26 fluid ounces at the time.) bottle of Canada Dry Ginger Ale from the counter to the floor, and it “exploded” on me. I do not know the full extend of the damage, but to this day, I have three strong deep life lasting scars on my left hand, which I occasionally use as a starter to this list of baby injuries.
#2. The Pipe Incident
This story contains two visual memories you need to possess, in order to fully visualize this injury. A 1960s era swing set, and a wooden hammer and pegs construction set. Already you may being imagining what may have happened to me within this scenario. I was Popeye father, and the kid sitting on the swing, was my child. The wooden hammer from that toy, by luck, happened to fashion a rather perfect Popeye pipe, at least to the imaginations of two five year olds.
When you are a kid with undiagnosed A.D.D using a gigantic oversized mallet as a hammer, and you stand next to another child gleefully swinging up and down on a swing – you may have a better understanding on how I damaged my throat and almost lost my larynx – or some similar, but equally important component to human speech. Apparently the hospital stay was extended. There is no cast for the inside of your throat.
#3. The infield eye ball
I have a visual memory of this injury, although I’m certain I am remembering the story, rather than the incident – but for this one, I have a bit of shame. I can’t quite believe I would have been so stupid. I am sitting on the single wooden step outside my home, that leads to the front door we seldom used. I can picture it in my head clearly.
I was spectating a sporting event happening in the front yard. While not quite a full baseball diamond, my two sisters were pitching and batting a game. My Grandfather Harry was the first in my experience, as “one of those people” that somehow seem to be good at everything they try. In his time, he had been minor leagues in baseball, fantastic at Golf, and other sports. I was too young to participate, and this was the beginning of me watching sports, and not trying to participate. I sat and watched.
The stupid part was from where I was watching. If you understand the way batting works, you hit a ball, and it goes up and forward. They certainly couldn’t bat towards the house, so naturally, my Grandfather was standing directly in front of me swinging away. At some point, I like to believe I got excited and ran towards him, but apparently I was just sitting on the step, and his back swing cracked me in the head.
Not as powerful as a front swing would have been, but enough for a black eye, stitches and a scar that has lasted to today. The facial scar, as it happens isn’t as bad as it could have been cosmetically, but it does slice my left eyebrow nearly down the middle. It is a slash through it showing my white skin.
#4. Catch and Release
By this point in my life, it was clear there was a pattern. I got hurt more than my two girl sisters. As I understand it, there were other examples, not as story worthy. I don’t have any specific memories of being beaten up or abused… just real sincere OOPS moments.
For one summer, probably in the final year of the 60s, my mother was scared to let me outside alone. As she tells the story, I wasn’t allowed to go out where I could get in trouble. I remember this was the beginning of my life struggling with boredom. I had energy and liked to be active.
One day, she agreed to let me enjoy at least the sunshine of outdoors and sit on that step. The same step I had previously failed as a spectator. The bad memory step. As the story goes, a random act of God’s wrath, a neighbourhood teenager walked by, and his fish hook swung all the way to my face on that step, and looped through my nose. I was caught, and nearly lost my nose. We were able to stop the boy and remove the hook without a slice.
Year later at my mother’s funeral the story was re-told by my oldest sister as having happened somewhere else, a little more logical. At Acton Fairy Lake campground beach, which was a regular place we took the trailer in the summer. I accepted the correction, and forgave my mother for changing the venue to close an anthology story. It worked better as a story in front of the home.
This was one of the earliest examples of the story replacing the truth. Parents are masters.
These four events are often used as part of my mother’s story about why we packed up and moved from that house, to farm country. We moved 20 minutes away to a suburb village of the small town of Georgetown. I had to change schools and be bused.
For the first three grades at the end of the 60s, my commute to school was crossing the street. Our home was on the corner opposite the school yards. It was my playground.
For my Mother, we decided to move to the country because I was getting to hurt as a town boy. I would be safer with no friends, and no access to concrete or traffic. Although I was too young at the time, I suspect we moved because my Great Grandmother Gertie had died. It was her house, and we just lived in it. My guess is we had enough money for a new home better suited for a family of five, and they were much cheaper in the country, we could afford something really nice.
I remember a single visual memory of her in the hospital, probably the last time I saw her. She was blind and frail and I don’t know that I ever had much of a relationship with her.
We packed up the family, and moved to Balinafad.