In 1895, my great grandparents immigrated to America for the chance at freedom & medical benefits. They had my grandfather lobotomized at the age of 12 in 1912, again in 1914, and once more for good measure in 1917. I imagine the family was on good terms with the local Lobotomist. Maybe they had bought some sort of package deal and were holding onto the last one until after the war. It would’ve been ironic that the Krauts didn’t get my grandfather, but the other Krauts, his own parents, nearly finished the job.

Seemingly none of the procedures took. Or at least they only produced mild flatulence–a condition that would worsen deeply with old age–but that’s a story for another time. So Gampa was made an Army Officer. This directly led to his working under the command of several Academy Generals and over more than a few nurses. He seemed a cheerful fellow & went on to have 16 children, 2 wives, a dog named Howitzer and three cats who drank too much whiskey.

I never knew if all this had any lasting effect on my own mother, one of his Top 5 favorite kids. We suspected there was a connection between the operations and his ability to pick up radio broadcasts unassisted by an actual radio. He also wept openly whenever hearing Glenn Miller’s “Beat Me Daddy Eight to the Bar”.

During times of greater stress, like while baby-sitting me in 1967, Gampa would meet my childish resistance with a call to my sister, “Bearta, get my extra long icepick and a hammer. I know how to fix him.” To my knowledge, nothing ever happened as I tended to settle the Hell down rather quickly. Having had several concussions myself, I never knew if my memories were real, cloudy or partly cloudy with a chance of reign.

When Gampa died in 1975, and again in 1976, they were a couple of the saddest days of my life. He often encouraged me to dream small, accept my limitations, and tilt my head further back so he could see where the damned icepick was going this time. He would’ve been a great musician or drummer. I thought his sense of rhythm was pretty solid. “Tik-tik-tik-KA-TIK–JACKPOT!”

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