I Am The Man From Nantucket: The Life of David Lee Tayman III Part I: Innocence Through the 80s.
I’ve seen many autobiographical pieces begin with what the writer sees as a joke – the beginning of their memoirs begin with the phrase “It was a dark and stormy night”, and then the author immediately jumps in with a clever-sounding ‘just kidding’ remark, and proceeds to tell the true and oft boring account of their birth.
Well, folks, for me, “It was a dark and stormy night” is how everyone – my parents, and especially my grandparents - describe the date of my birth – November the Sixteenth, Anno Domini nineteen-hundred-eighty-one. But just because there were nasty weather conditions going on outside the hospital doesn’t make the birth account any more interesting.
That date, according to my mother, was the historic day in which the characters Luke and Laura of TV’s General Hospital finally tied the knot (My mother watched this blessed event occur from the comfort of her own Hospital Bed). Interestingly enough, on the same date in the year 1676 (according to a ‘this-date-in-history’ search on the internet), the first colonial prison was organized on a small Massachusetts island named Nantucket -- the same Nantucket where, exactly three hundred and five years later, I would first come into the world. Now that I find interesting.
My maternal grandparents flew into the Island amidst a horrible storm. The term ‘white knuckled flight’ is thrown around a lot describing this particular voyage; and under the circumstances, I don’t think they were straying into the realm of hyperbole one bit.
Before proceeding with my account, perhaps I should backtrack a bit, and give some background concerning the circumstances of my birth. One baby born is no different from the next until you place it in the proper context – the very lives the newborn child is now affecting are the very lives that will in turn affect the way he lives the rest of his life. So a continuing discussion of my own life would be incomplete, and perhaps quite empty, without an understanding of who my immediate family was.
My father is David Lee Tayman, Jr. His father, DLT Sr., died due to complications in surgery when my father was a young teen, leaving him as the Man of the House to look after his widowed mother and younger brother and sisters. David Senior had been a prominent Radiologist (and inventor) in Maryland when he’d gone in for a relatively simple surgery at the Hospital. However, something suddenly went horribly wrong, and he ended up very quickly dying from a cardiac arrest. While it appeared it was triggered by the Anesthesia, we wouldn’t find out until many years later exactly what had happened, mainly because they didn’t know. It ends up he was one of the very first reported cases known to suffer from what is now known as Malignant Hyperthermia.
We also were surprised to learn that the condition, which is triggered by an adverse reaction to anesthesia, is highly hereditary. This caused the family to be a bit startled, because since the death of his father, my own father had gone in for surgery under anesthesia. I hadn’t yet – and still never have – but the chance remains that I am susceptible to the Condition. It is not something that can be tested for.
But while he was living, my Grandfather, whom I never had the chance to meet, was very much involved in his church (The Assemblies of God), and was a wonderful example and spiritual leader to his wife and family, as was his own father and mother – William and Nellie Tayman. So you can imagine how much of a support his surviving family was when my father, upon graduating High School, felt a call into the ministry and attended Central Bible College in Springfield, MO.
This is where he met my mother, Robin Lee Robedee.
My mother was also the eldest of three children, and grew up in New York. Her father, Richard, (or “Dick” as his wife calls him, or “Pop” as he is known by his grandkids) was an Assemblies of God minister with a no-nonsense, follow the rules or face the consequences demeanor. My maternal grandmother, Beverly, is a bit more of an eccentric, who tended to be a little overprotective of her kids; my mother has memories of my Grandmother (whom all of us grandchildren called ‘Nanie’, which has evolved into simply ‘Nan’) tearfully begging her to stay home from school. My young mother had to force her own mother to allow her to actually go off to learn. This is something that Nan continued to do to her grandchildren whenever she visited us. Sometimes we’d take advantage of it, others we wouldn’t. It depended on our mood.
My mother eventually went off to school at Central Bible College to major in Sacred Music, with ambitions of being a Music Minister.
That eventually happened, but first she gained another title: Pastor’s Wife. David and Robin Tayman were announced as Husband and Wife for the first time in August of 1978.
Now, my father had felt like he’d been drawn to Foreign Missions. He had images of church building in exotic, warm and tropical vistas running through his head.
However, The Powers That Be were looking for a church planter for Nantucket Island, Massachusetts, and my father – whose beard that he had at the time made them think he looked like a Fisherman – was chosen for that particular Mission Field. It was not what he was looking for, but prayer confirmed to him that that’s where he needed to be. So they, along with their young Lhasa Apso puppy Christy (full pedigree name Countess Christmas deRobe Tayman), moved out to the small former Whaling Capitol of the World to begin a new life.
Before I was born, my mother suffered a miscarriage. But then finally, in 1981, something happened – she thought she had a stomach ulcer. It ended up being me. Take that as you will, folks. But when the diagnosis was cleared up, you can be sure that it was a pleasant surprise.
Not surprisingly, I don’t have too many vivid memories of my life on Nantucket. I certainly don’t remember being held in the early church services that were held in a small annex to our little house. The only real Nantucket memories I still have include dressing up as Oscar The Grouch for Halloween, and ‘helping’ my father paint the house. I was only dipping the brush in water, I knew that, but what I didn’t know was that I wasn’t really helping. I didn’t understand, but I somehow thought that my coat of water was helping in someway. I of course didn’t know what ‘primer’ was, but I may have figured that this is kind of what I was doing – preparing the way for my father’s paint.
On my Third Birthday, I was on a cruise to the Bahamas. My Maternal Great Grandparents (my great grandfather was a well to do President of a corporation) were paying for a family cruise, and since I was the first (and at that time, currently only member) of the 4th Generation, I came aboard as well. I remember vividly a moment when on the beach, my mother went to walk into the water and I, unknown to her, had followed behind her. She began walking deeper, and I suddenly stepped into a sinkhole, plunging myself underneath the water. I was immediately pulled out by a lifeguard, and set down by my mother on a beach blanket, where she gave me a coke to drink – this was a Big Deal for me, because I was never allowed to have Coke. For the first couple years of my life, my mother was VERY stringent about what she allowed me to have. She wanted a really healthy kid. To this day, I refer to this event at the Bahamas as the time I ‘almost drowned’, which my mother hates. “You didn’t almost drown, you were perfectly safe,” she says.
My family left Nantucket and went to live with my maternal grandparents for a short while – who had moved to Hyannis, Mass, several years beforehand to Pastor a church there.
The house across the street soon became available to rent, and we moved in there – albeit for a short time only. It was while living in this house, in October of 1985, that my sister was Born.
I remember lying in my grandparents’ Bed, and being woken up in the middle of the night to tell me I had a new Baby Sister. Now although I don’t specifically remember the next part, I have it on good authority that my reaction was: “It’s what I always wanted.” – and my sister, Jillian Elyse Tayman, has NEVER let me forget it.
Within a couple of months, my father had landed a new Pastoral position in Hanover, Pennsylvania. Hanover is where many of my earliest memories lie. The first house we lived in was this little Yellow thing, of which I honestly don’t have too many memories of. Actually, strike that. I do have my early memories of learning to read. My parents raised me on Dr. Seuss, and would read them to me daily. There came a point where my parents had thought that I had memorized the books, and given the appearance of reading them. This changed when we visited a Gettysburg Battleground Memorial. I had been sitting by a memorial gravestone or statue (I don’t remember which) when I asked my mother who a particular person was. My mother had looked incredibly confused until she realized that the name I was asking about was the name that was written on the grave marker right next to me. I could read. I was 4 years old. They had me take an IQ test of sorts, and apparently I was a pretty smart kid – and they quickly placed me into Kindergarten, a year earlier than normal. I went to a private Kindergarten, where my mother eventually got a job at as a music teacher. One of my most vivid memories of Kindergarten is my First Fire Drill. I had overheard a teacher saying that we were going to have one, and I became frightened, and not knowing what the ‘drill’ part meant, and immediately commenced in telling all the kids that the teacher said we were going to have a fire. I actually believed they were going to have us kids run through real smoke and fire. But my fears (and the general panic among the other kids I had caused) was quickly belayed when all we did was run through the door under a sheet which represented smoke. It was a relief, and somewhat disappointing after all the buildup. Booksmarts I had – streetsmarts? That was something I had to work on.
First Grade I don’t remember much of, apart from a few assorted crafts, and the fact that sometimes my teacher (Mrs. Hoffman, I believe) would give me a book and have me read to the class for storytime while she graded papers. My advancement in reading was quite a convenience for her.
Then, for a short while, our family stayed in an apartment as we had a house being built. It was a Duplex, but my parents had purchased their own side. It would be the first house that they owned. I DO have some scattered memories of the apartment (one case in particular – I had locked my door because my toddler sister had kept wandering in my room and pounding on the walls, which had annoyed me at the time. There had been a knock on my door. “Who is it?” I asked. No answer. There was another knock. “Who is it?” I asked again. Suddenly the knocking was even louder, and I finally answered the door. My mother looked a bit annoyed. I shrugged, and said “I thought it was Jill.” “I came in here to be nice to you,” my Mother responded, before putting some clothes down and leaving the room without saying anything else.)
The first friends that I can remember having were had during my stay in the Blue Duplex. The person who became my ‘Best Friend’ in Hanover was a kid named Sam. His mother’s name was ‘Tammy’ and had what, in hindsight, I realize is a bit of a Minnesota/Fargo-ish accent. I always remember her giving me Graham Cracker bears, and thinking the way she called them “Grahammy Bears” – pronounced “Greeammmy Beeers” was kinda funny. But I didn’t know why.
In Second Grade, my teacher’s name was Mrs. Baum – something I can remember joking about often. “Mrs. Bomb, always getting ready to explode.” – I remember that myself and another member of the class, whose name was also David, would leave class sometimes for some ‘advanced learning’. I remember many of those sessions were spent playing “Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego” on the Computer. I also remember David having a bit of a vocal impediment – his voice was very deep and throaty. I didn’t know what was wrong, and I never thought to ask. All I knew was that it didn’t sound ‘normal’.
There is a bit of an embarrassing memory from life in the Blue Duplex, further proof that I was booksmart and not streetsmart – and a little bit of a rotten kid. The first person to introduce their self to me on our New Block when we moved into the Duplex was a young girl, a couple years older than me. I remember her giving me rides in my Red Wagon. She was such a nice and kind person – and it saddens me that the only name I remember her by is “Bucky”. The girl did have prominent bucked teeth, and I soon learned that other neighbors whom I soon became friends with called her this. And I, not thinking at all of the effect it would have, did the same. I wasn’t trying to be mean – to me, it was just a nickname. The thought hadn’t crossed my mind that I was hurting someone’s feelings. This girl’s neighbor’s name was Bruce, and all I remember about him was that he had a Sega Master system, and was a fan of the Oakland As, when I had been raised an Orioles fan. To this day, I think he stole my Don Mattingly personally-autographed baseball that I had obtained at an Orioles/Yankees game at Memorial Stadium. It kind of irks me.
Across the street from Bruce was a family who had moved from England, in which there were two brothers I hung out with, Matt and Jonathan. The only thing I remember about them, apart from being rather big kids and the coolness factor in that they introduced me to CONTRA and the Konami Code, is that my third grade teacher, Mrs. Coover, came to their house to tutor them in Phonics.
Two more Duplex Memories – going Trick-Or-Treating with Sam. He wore a Ghostbusters costume, complete with full store-bought accessories. I, wanting to be clever, made my own costume: I went as Link from The Legend of Zelda, and used a metal cross-pipe as my sword. When people answered the door, Sam and I would call out “Zap or treat!” – we thought we were being hilarious.
The last Duplex-related memory involves me, and a bike. I was out riding alone, when I stumbled upon a patch of gravel. I started to lose control, so I overcompensated with the steering. I started to lose even MORE control, so I turned in the other direction – that didn’t work either, and eventually the bike went sliding out from under me, and I fell to the gravel with a CRUNCH. My head was filled with pain, and without thinking, I let instinct kick in, and ran right home, leaving my bike on the side of the road. I ran to my back porch, and tried to open my glass sliding door, which I found was locked. So I pounded on the door to let me in. Some loud music was playing, and my parents couldn’t hear my knocking. So I pounded louder, and pressed my face against the glass, causing bloody smudges to appear. I was yelling and pounding, and finally my parents answered the door with looks of shock on their faces.
“What happened? Are you okay?” they asked. I stammered out what was probably a barely-comprehensible story, but ended by telling them that I though I had cracked a tooth. After looking into my mouth, my father asserted that no, I hadn’t.
But I knew my mouth. “Yes, I did. I broke it.” “No you didn’t.” “Yes I did!” “No, you didn’t” That was the moment I chose to spit the broken-off bits of teeth out into my hand. My father then conceded that yes, I had in fact, cracked some teeth. This was later fixed by caps and bondings at the dentist, and my bloody chin ended up needing stitches.
You may notice that I haven’t mentioned too much about Sam. That’s because…I don’t have all that many memories of our time together. I mean, I know we did spend a ton of time together, I just don’t remember much about it. I do, however, remember our last meeting vividly.
My father had reached a point where he had felt he had done all he could do for that particular Church at this time, and he had felt a release from it. A Church in Stroudsburg, PA was in need of a Pastor, and my father had applied and presented himself before the congregation, and it was made final. We were moving.
I don’t remember having any real feelings of sorrow for leaving. But I do remember saying goodbye to Sam upstairs in my father’s office, and him not reacting well. He seemed angry, and didn’t want me to talk about it. I didn’t understand at the time how different people handled sorrow. Now that I think of it, I do remember having some feelings of sadness for having to leave Sam. And being confused at why he didn’t seem sad – just mad.
I’m not the kind of person who has a huge resource of vivid childhood memories. I see things mostly in splotches, in scattered images. I know I had good times, and I know I had great loving parents. You see, apart from a few more vivid memories in addition to those given above, my childhood is filled more with impressions. Thoughts of comfort, happiness, joy, and being content and loved. These are the impressions I’m left with for the first eight or so years of my life. The next decade would be the real decade of Change for me. Almost all of where I am today I can trace to individual events starting in Stroudsburg.
But I never would have reached those points and reacted the way I did if I had not had the childhood I had.
For this first stage of my life, I can say that I was lucky to have a perfect childhood. I had parents, grandparents, and grandparents who loved me very much. I was never mistreated or abused. I had friends. I never suffered from debilitating sicknesses or diseases. I was smart. I did well at school. I grew up in a loving Christian environment, where the members of my father’s churches seemed to love me as their own son.
My childhood was almost too good to be true. In a piece of prose fiction I wrote, I stated a line which read, “Some people look back on the Good Old Days, and wonder where their childhood went. I look back, and wonder if I ever even had a childhood.” Sometimes, because of the lack of full, cohesive, adventurous memories of this period, I wondered the same question. Did I have a ‘real childhood’?
But then I realize that I did. And I was extraordinarily blessed to have the childhood that I did, that it would create a foundation for my life that would be vital in everything that was to come – that without this firm foundation of love and support, I could easily have become a wreck after later events in my life.
I am thankful for my childhood. And yes – it WAS perfect. Perfect for me.
quote: describe the date of my birth – November the Sixteenth, Anno Domini nineteen-hundred-eighty-one
Same birthday as my oldest son (except his was 1985 instead of 1981). It was sunny and warm the morning I went in the hospital to have him, and snowing the hour I came out (Kansas weather in November).
Taalcon, print your landmark out and seal it in something that will preserve it. You've written a treasure beyond measure for your grandkids. Seriously. Do it now. Today. When you write your memiors as a very old man (and you'd better!), make sure this peice is in there. It's lovely, and real.
Posts: 5948 | Registered: Jun 2001
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Dave, for some reason this reminds me of your first post on the original (and now lost) Dear Diary, Dear Bob thread at "olde pweb"...even though, if I recall correctly, you wrote about a later period of your life in that post.
Dave, that's a great landmark, and a fabulous childhood. Your family sounds wonderful, honest, and loving, but then, they'd have to be, wouldn't they? It was...simply splendid meeting you at WenchCon.
Do we have to wait like 1000 more posts for the next installment? That's no fair! You don't post fast enough. Go on and do the whole series now. You can do something else for the next landmark.
Posts: 5509 | Registered: May 1999
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