He was born to be wild, but we don't know where

August 22, 1998

Terry TalbertMy brother Ralph called home from Ohio about 10 days ago to ask mom where he was born. He needed a birth certificiate for a trip he was taking with his friend Vern to some remote island downwind from Cuba.

Vern and Ralph have decided since they are aging rapidly (my characterization, not my brother's) they will each year do something daring and exciting.

They decided this year to fly to some rocky island in the Caribbean and scuba dive off an underwater cliff. Ralph called to tell Mom and I about it. "It drops off to 7,000 feet," he said.

"God, that means if you screw up or get the bends or something you may just sink down into dark oblivion," I said gleefully.


"Heh, heh, heh," Ralph chuckled. "You should be so lucky."

"What's the name of this island?" I asked.

It sounded like he said "turksdeecakeos."

"Turks de what?" I asked.

"I should have known you would never have heard of it," he said.

I gave the phone back to Mom.

I could only hear her end of the conversation, and it was frightening, considering that I'm living with her now.

"You need to know where you were born?" she said into the phone. A blank look came over her face. "Gee, honey, I can't remember ... Just give me a minute."

Mom laid the phone down, and started rummaging through papers she keeps in a metal box.

"Uh, Mom, you can't remember where Ralph was born?" I asked.

"No," she said. "Isn't that awful. I think it was Huron Road Hospital, but I'm not sure. I know where you were born ... I wonder why I can't remember where your brother was born?"

"Silly question," I said.

She gave me a sidelong glance.

I changed the subject.

"Uh, mom, you do know what day it is, don't you?" I asked.

I didn't mean to insult her, but since she only had two kids, it was hard to believe - even in Ralph's case - that she couldn't recall where she gave birth to them.

Mom got back on the phone. "Honey, I can't find your original birth certificate and I can't for the life of me remember where you were born," she said to Ralph. "What? University Hospital, I don't think so. No, that wasn't it either. You already called Huron Road and they don't have any record of you?"

The conversation ended with my mother asking Ralph to check with the Ohio records bureau.

Later, he called back and told her he was born at some place called St. Joseph's. He just thought she might like to know.

Mom's expression remained blank. "I never heard of the place," she said to Ralph. "Are you sure? Really, they had the records? Well, then, I guess you must have been born there."

The following week, Mom remembered to call Ohio to see how the trip went. (I found that encouraging.)

When I came home from work she told me she'd talked to Ralph. "Your brother got within a few feet of a 12-foot-long shark," she said.

"Yesssss?" I asked expectantly.

"Yes, what?" asked mom.

"It didn't eat him, did it?" I asked, feigning horror at the thought.

"Sorry, honey," mom said.


Terry Talbert is a Herald-Mail reporter.

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