Keith, the sixth child of Ma and Dad, came along a little greater spacing than the first five. I was ten years old when he was born and immediately became the little mother to him. I remember lugging him to my fourth grade class when he was about six months old for show-and-tell. (Yeah, my show-and-tell entries were rarely predictable, and probably my teachers should be given halos.)
All of us protected Keith from the ravages of our abusive parents. He would often toddle into my bedroom at night, wanting to sleep with "Wet." (He could not say Beth.) That continued probably until he was nearly four years old. Perhaps somehow even as a toddler he felt the need for protection.
After I left home, Willie and Rollie watched out for Keith. While Keith did not escape the demeaning theatrics and dangerously heavy hand (and fists/feet) of Ma as much as we all would have liked, he did not experience the extent of sexual abuse from our uncle that Willie and Rollie did for they warned him, hid him, and otherwise did want they could to keep him of of the clutches of our sexually avaricious uncle.
Dad died when Keith was a young teenager, yet it was Keith who stepped in and managed the family's finances when Ma displayed unique incompetence for this sort of work. While Katrina flew home and took a semester off from college to show Ma how to write checks, pay bills, and balance the checking account, the training did not take. After Katrina left, it was Keith who took over the functions that Katrina had tried to teach Ma. The insurance paid off the farm and there was summer income from the crops. Nonetheless, with five children still at home, Ma ended up on welfare rolls. Keith made sure that everything balanced out.
Keith remained at home after graduation from high school. The little girls were still there and still capable of being abused, and Ma had already chased Rollie into the woods and away from home. Someone had to watch out for them. He got a job in the Naval Yard about an hour away, working on submarines.
Over time, Keith became a foreman at the shipyard, and he has been able to travel to various ports, including San Diego, which brings him to California to see us although we are quite a bit north of San Diego. It has also taken him to Scotland and the more banal Connecticut.
Keith, like Katrina, never married, and they often spend holidays together, Katrina driving down from New York to stay with Keith. Ever jovial and easy going, Keith is a beloved uncle (as is Rollie) to my children. And, to me, he is still the little brother I lugged to show-and-tell many years ago!