It started near the beginning of 1963 when my Grandpa Mike Rooney died on Jan. 13 at the age of 77. I was 5 years old, and I remember it being the first time I'd ever been in a funeral home.
A day later, Jan. 14, my sister Colleen turned 16.
A week later, Jan. 22, my brother Tim turned 15.
On Feb. 2, my dad, Joe Rooney, turned 46, and three days later my mom, Doris Carter Rooney, celebrated her 48th birthday.
In March, the road to the Indiana state basketball championship rolled from Muncie, with our beloved Central Bearcats going on to win their fifth state championship on March 23 at Butler Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
A week later, my parents celebrated their 23rd wedding anniversary on March 30.
My family treated me to a wonderful chocolate cake on my 6th birthday on April 15. It's the first birthday that I remember, and I specifically remember turning my head to see Mom with a camera. She took the picture when I turned back to blow out the six candles.
On May 12, my big sister Maureen celebrated her 18th birthday, and about 3 weeks later she graduated from Central High School.
My sister Kathy had her 12th birthday on June 2.
Then on June 27, Maureen was married at the St. Lawrence rectory to David Jarnagin.
Less than a month later, on July 23, my brother Terry turned 14 years old.
In August, there were no birthdays, anniversaries or weddings, but there was the historic March on Washington. I don't have any memories of watching the event on TV, but I'm certain my parents followed the coverage and were moved and inspired by Martin Luther King.
Sadly, my lone focus as August was winding down was that September was approaching. The good news about September was that the NFL season was about to begin. The bad news was that I had to start school.
St. Lawrence School did not offer kindergarten (thank goodness), so my first experience of school would be as a first-grader in September 1963. (Seriously, just typing that makes me anxious)
I don't remember the date of the first day of school, but more than likely it was a day or two after Labor Day, which would have made it Sept. 3 or Sept. 4 of 1963. Although I didn't know what the date was, I knew what the day meant.
So I refused to go. I refused to get out of bed. It didn't go over well -- at all. Luckily, Dad had been taken to work at Delco, so I knew I didn't have that hanging over me. And Maureen was married and not living at home, and my brothers didn't really care. But I did have my mother and sisters Colleen and Kathy trying to pull me out of bed. Unfortunately, they succeeded.
I remember crying -- no, wailing -- and fighting my mom every step of the way. They finally threw me into the car and drove me to school. Once there, I didn't want to get out of the car. Mom, along with Sister Antoinette (first-grade teacher) and maybe others, tried to persuade me to get out of the vehicle. I was more agile then, so I was went back and forth inside the car, remaining on the opposite side from those who were after me.
Eventually, I wore down, and the nun (or nuns) and Mom were successful in cornering me in the car and extricating me. I was sobbing as I was dragged toward the church for Mass (scuff marks still visible on sidewalk). My mom was crying, too.
I truly thought I would never see my mother again. In my mind, if I was with my mother she would be OK. If I could see her, be around her, then nothing bad would happen to her. She wouldn't get sick, she wouldn't have to go to the hospital. The hospital was an awful place, in my mind, because the last time I was in one -- late in 1962 -- we were visiting Mom and Grandpa Rooney. Mom came home, but my grandpa never did. He died there.
And that is what I thought would happen to Mom if I wasn't there.
To this day, I always think about the transition from late summer to fall and the fear that I genuinely felt as September drew near. The fear, obviously, was unfounded and a product of my being profoundly spoiled. But to me, it was all too real.
to be continued ...