187. My Brother, Born Again

My brother Leo Francis Gorman was born twice.  Today – March 12 – is one of his birthdays.

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.

Besides being born again and left-handed, Leo is a bionic man.  As far as I know there is no part of his body which hasn’t had electronic intervention of some kind.

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.

Leo’s surgeries included:

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.

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10 Responses to 187. My Brother, Born Again

  1. Linda Lewis says:

    So, did he get two birthday parties and cakes and presents? Good thing he wasn’t born on Feb. 28 & 29. It’d be real difficulty figuring out his age today.
    So, Leo, Happy late Birthday and Happy Birthday!

  2. Tim Fitzpatrick says:

    You forgot to mention that he is a world class goofball and walking evidence that “all th monkeys aren’t in the zoo”

    Happy birthday Uncle Leo, we love you!!

  3. pattybryant says:

    Happy Birthday Leo. Aren’t you lucky to have two sisters, who probably spoiled you just a little. 1937 was a very good year.

    We’ve got some Diet Pepsi on ice and we will drink a toast to your birthday soon.

    Patty and Charlie

  4. Niecey Denisey says:

    Happy Birthday/s Uncle Leo! You don’t look a day over 147! 😉

  5. Don & Barb Kappes says:

    Such an interesting bio for such an old guy, but anyone born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa has to be an interesting dude, and that’s just what you are–INTERESTING!! So glad we have had a chance to know you and call you a friend.

    Don and Barb

  6. Gretchen Covey says:

    Happy Birthday Uncle Leo!

    What a great story you have. I’ve loved the visits we’ve shared through the years. What a lovely extended family we have!

    Thanks for these blogs Mom. They are clever and interesting.

  7. "Keek" Marie says:

    Happy Birthday, Uncle Goofball! I remember you being my inspiration to go into teaching … looking at my checkbook now I’m not sure if I should thank you for that! Fun times with Leo meant, learning to recite the presidents and all the mnemonic tricks (HOMES)! You tricked me into thinking I might be smart! One year for my birthday I got 3 large hardbound high school textbooks, I think I was about 10. You have always been all about learning. Thanks for being an advocate for so many who found it difficult to learn. You are the consummate life long learner!

  8. Chris says:

    I loved the back story about Grandma Jo’s ‘respect for the law’. I remember when staying at their house when I was about 7 or 8 the Brink’s truck would pass by the house usually about the same time each day. If I was outside, I would quickly run into the house because Grandma had cautioned me never to look into the windows of the truck for fear of being shot by the guards with their ever ready guns. I still won’t look into the windows of a Brink’s truck.

  9. tom stemlar says:

    Leo, you are interesting and , along with Peggy, wonderful friends. Didnt know for nsure that you were older than I but nice to know. Things thathavent been mentioned are your extreme love for coffee..hard to understand..and your inability to see the golf ball even though you know it always goes directly down the middle and a little beyond mine. Love ya leo and happy that we have been able to reconnect here in sun city grand after so many years. The Sisters of Immaculate Conception would be extremely proud of the person you turned out to be..your parents too.

  10. Jerry Sullivan says:

    Leo’s long life can be partially be blamed on the gin and Kool Aide consumed at 2:00 A.M. playing poker in our kitchen after beer league. Congratulations, Leo. Keep it up.

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