The first time Leo was born was on Thursday, March 11, 1937 when our mother, Josie Gorman, delivered him at Mercy Hospital in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
According to the official records of the great State of Iowa, Leo was born again the next day – March 12. To the same mother and at the same hospital in the same city.
Leo didn’t find out about his Second Coming until he was eleven years old. He was tall for his age, and the cashiers at the movie theaters didn’t believe he was younger than twelve and eligible to get in for only 25 cents. Instead, they wanted him to pay the regular price of 40 cents per ticket. (No, it wasn’t a sale. It was 1948).
So he could prove his age, mother applied for a copy of Leo’s birth certificate. When it came in the mail, the shocking truth was revealed. Leo had been born again. On March 12. It was right there in black and white on the formal and official Certificate of Birth stamped and authorized by the great State of Iowa. And it’s still there.
Not only was this at variance with our parents’ memory of Leo’s actual birth, but the formal document issued by Mercy Hospital, was also clearly dated March 11, and was impressively decorated with Leo’s inked-in baby footprint to prove it.
Now, most families – but not ours – would have recognized the birth certificate just received in the mail as one of those clerical artifacts of bureaucracy and would have politely suggested that some reckless employee of the great State of Iowa might have (gasp) made a clerical error. Not our family, though.
Our Norwegian mother had what you might call an ingrained respect for and fear of American authority. If a policeman, for instance, were to appear anywhere in the presence of her children, we were to stand in hushed attention, salute or curtsey, recite the Pledge of Allegiance, say a Hail Mary, and then await permission to beat a fast and orderly retreat.
There was no way in hell, mother would have challenged the great State of Iowa by making the insulting suggestion that Someone Had Done Something Wrong as to the recording of vital information about one of her children. Such an action might have serious consequences. Maybe the sheriff and a whole squad of policemen would come to the house and confiscate Leo. She couldn’t take the chance.
So it was, that Leo had to learn to live with it. And he has. Some might look on it as having a true birthday and a fake birthday, but not Leo. He prefers to regard it as having dual citizenship in the great State of Iowa. (Which he moved away from at the earliest opportunity.)
This duality in his early impressionable years may explain why Leo likes to have things in two’s. Like, besides having two birthdays, he had two parents, two brothers, and two sisters, for instance. He went to two schools in Cedar Rapids when we were growing up – at Patrick’s and Immaculate Conception. He played in two sports – basketball and baseball. He had two fists to fight with his brothers, sisters and cousins and he still has the scars to prove it. (We were Irish.)
Leo graduated from Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa in 1959, narrowly escaping becoming a priest. Then he went to the University of Wyoming, Syracuse University, the State University of New York, and the University of Mexico. All this schooling prepared him for a career in the teaching of 2 languages – Latin and Spanish. Unfortunately, his primary specialty was Latin, a dead language which became entirely cremated and buried as soon as Leo graduated. Latin teachers were not in high demand by then.
As a teacher at Immaculate Conception School in Cedar Rapids, at Marquette High School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, at LaSalle High school in Cedar Rapids, and at Liverpool High School in New York, he taught Latin (temporarily), Spanish, American History, and later became an innovator in the teaching of study skills.
It was while he was attending the University of Wyoming in Rock Springs that he met the love of his life, Peggy Althouse. Leo and Peggy were married on June 11, 1965 in Auburn, New York. They had three children, and now have five grandchildren, going on six. They both spent the greater part of their teaching careers in New York and then retired to Sun City Grande, Arizona.
Leo is very proud of being left-handed because he says “left-handers are always right”. If there was a way to have two left-hands, I know he’d sign up for it.
He had his tonsils removed when he was five years old, and after that, he managed to stay out of the operating room. Until 1975. That’s when he started getting his other body parts, removed, repaired, tuned-up, or replaced with silicone and other bionic products.
1975 Total hip replacement, 1st…torso
1980 Total hip replacement, 2nd…torso
1981 Triple bypass…heart
1993 Brain aneurysm…brain
1998 Quintuple bypass…heart
1999 Hip revision…torso
1999 Hernia, 1st…abdomen
2000 Hip revision…torso
2001 Dupuytren’s contracture…fingers of hand
2003 Cataract right /left…eyes
2003 Correction of misaligned left eye…eyes
2004 Hernia, 2nd…abdomen
2010 Hip fracture and revision…torso
2010 Revision Femoral of RT THA…limb
When the TV series about the Six Million Dollar Bionic Man was written, I’m sure they had Leo in mind when they described Lee Majors’ character thusly:
“Steve Austin, astronaut. A man barely alive. Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capability to build the world’s first bionic man. Steve Austin will be that man. Better than he was before. Better, stronger, faster.”
Leo’s surgeries didn’t cost the six million dollars that Steve Austin’s did, but it probably seemed like it to his insurance providers. Brain surgery, as an example, is something nobody really wants to have. But if there’s no other choice, it’s nice when somebody else pays for it.
All Leo’s tuneups worked great. That must be why he can still get around on the golf course so well every day. And thanks to Peggy’s teaching and example, he does Tai Chi and Chi Gong. (Peggy’s got a black belt in it.)
He never gains weight, even though he’s living in the same household with a world-class cook, and even when he scarfs down a pint of ice cream per day. He can still recite from memory the names of all the American Presidents (frontwards and backwards), and all kinds of other weird lists using mnemonic tricks he concocts. And he’s still trying his ornery best to develop more effective interactive learning tools on the computer.
But all that’s the least we can expect from a guy his age. Anybody else born during 1937 – but who only had one birthday per year – would be 74 years old right now. My born again brother, on the other hand, if you count his birthdays, is 148 years old today.
Happy birthdays, Leo. Both of them.
For a few more photos, click the first slide below.