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When I was about 4 years old a friend of my grandfather had his stock car parked in the barn of our Maine farm. The men would gather around and work on the engine getting it ready for the next big race. Of course I was curious.
I wanted to climb up into the driver’s seat and sit behind the wheel. I wanted to bounce up and down and go “Broooooom! Broooooom! Broooooom!” while pretending that I was driving the car. I never made it. Instead, when doing my best to climb into the vehicle, I leaned on a chemical fire extinguisher that was mounted behind the seat. The safety pin was removed so in case of a fire the driver would have the extinguisher handy in an emergency.
The fire extinguisher blasted chemicals designed to put out gasoline fires, directly into my face. I fell back onto the wood barn floor clutching my head as the chemicals burned into my eyes.
My grandmother was carrying a basin of dishwater out after supper in order to dump it. She saw the whole thing and poured the dingy soap water directly onto my face. I was screaming. The world had become a blur. I couldn’t see.
My grandparents rushed me into their car and we headed off on the long trip from the small town of Washington, Maine to the city of Augusta. All the way my grandmother sat in the back seat with my head on her lap. She had water and a washcloth and continued to rinse my eyes during the hour long trip to the hospital.
Along the way she would ask, “Can you see outside? Can you see the motorcycle at the stop light?”
The doctors were unsure how things would turn out. I had burned my corneas and done extensive damage to my eyes. The water my grandmother had applied to my burns was the best luck I had that day. The rest was up to time.
I was blind for days seeing nothing but blurry movement and contrasting shapes. Light hurt my eyes so they left me to rest in my room with curtains drawn.
Over time I regained my eyesight and needed to be fitted for glasses. Without UV protection from the sun, my lack of corneas made it difficult for me to deal with bright sunlight. I would get headaches and migraines during the daylight hours for the rest of my life. Aspirin was my breakfast of choice each day. I discovered Excedrin and then BC Powder as my daily drug of choice.
Here I am forty-six years later and light still kills my eyes. I am nocturnal, a creature of the night. This is my story. This is how I became Vampire Dad.
So I’ve been typing my guts out this long harsh winter of 2015. My family and I returned to Maine after living in California for so many years. Been here almost two years now, and one of the reasons I moved back home was to get in touch with a story I’ve wanted to tell my whole life.
It’s my unauthorized autobiography that has been sitting there on a shelf in my mind all this time. No matter what has happened to me over the years I’ve put it into context in this manner: does this make it to the book or not?
I have found my nonexistent book got me through the toughest of times, because I could say to myself, at least it will make a great chapter in that book I’ll write some day. To get me there I have drawn comics, made toys, and used these items to workshop my ideas.
Whether playing with plush Swamp Boggers on the floor with my wee one, or making resin toys of the silly Yupapotamus, it was all a path to the story I want to tell titled, Snotgrass. This epic Maine adventure is over 50 years in the making. I can’t wait until I write it.