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JR From Dallas Used to Babysit Me

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LARRY HAGMAN JR EWING
TNT

Since I was reluctantly put on this earth, no celebrity has died that has made me stop obsessing over myself and think sadly about their departure from this planet. Obviously it's horrifically tragic when most people die, but I've never been genuinely upset when somebody famous has passed away. All the writers and musicians I adore were all dead by the time arrived on Earth. I'm not saying I'm into dead people, life just panned out that way. But when Larry Hagman died on the 23rd of November, I was genuinely sad because JR from Dallas used to babysit me when I was a kid.

There are nine kids in my family, well nine that we know of. People always think that it must be so exciting coming from a big family, that it must be blissfully entertaining. But it wasn't all showbiz. Not everyone would co-operate on our Sibling Song-time Saturdays. Once I tried to arrange the harmonies for The Beach Boys Good Vibrations. Some were getting excitations when they should have been picking up good vibrations. It was a musical nightmare and I know I stopped loving at least two of my siblings on that day.

My brother Padraig couldn't handle the tension on these Saturdays so he went off and perfected The Righteous Brothers You've Lost That Loving Feeling all by himself. In our pyjamas mesmerised, he introduced us first to Bill Medley. As we sat there swaying with dirty faces, clutching bowls of cereal in our hands, we were truly gob-smacked when he brought Bobby Hatfield into the musical equation, in all his high pitched glory. We couldn't believe our sleep encrusted eyes. The way he switched between these two men effortlessly singing so deep and then so high, we wondered if he was really our brother any more.

So nobody in town wanted to babysit us because the quantity was just too great. A few people at first treated minding us like some sort of challenge, like climbing some dangerous mountain barefoot and blindfolded. But they failed spectacularly and the town folk started talking about us like we were some creepy family from a Stephen King novel. "Why I hear one girl got the bends babysitting those Tobin kids, unheard of in most towns above sea level." "Why rumour has it Old Ned's son Timmy lost his mind minding those kids, he hasn't been the same since poor Timmy, spends his days now talking to sweeping brushes." But we weren't really that bold or dangerous. It was just the harmonies that people couldn't handle. They would send dog's running out in front of cars and could make bats fly into windows.

Every Saturday night my parents went dancing. Or so they told us, they didn't look like the dancing types. A neighbour told me that they just drove to a car park in their fancy attire and cried. But I liked to believe that they went dancing and that they enjoyed it so much that it made them cry. That at least explained the make-up down my mother's face and my Dad's red salty cheeks.

So my parents told us that we were to mind whoever was under us in age. The eldest was old enough to babysit, so we were safe in a way. They also got the television to help out. It was eighteen years of age so it was technically an adult.

We wanted fun cartoons to babysit us but my mother figured that we needed adults on the TV to keep us safe. So Dallas was put on to mind us, a show full of responsible adults. This glamorous show, set in a country we didn't know or care about, made us increasingly hyper with all its glitz and the glamour. Eventually, after a few weeks, some of us would pee ourselves as soon as we heard the theme tune. It was like we had struck oil. Giving Dallas to us kids was like giving sugar to us kids. It made us dance, sweat, talk gibberish and walk into walls. The girls started stealing mother's jewellery to feed our habit of wearing jewellery, so that we could look just like Sue Ellen. We perfected her lip quiver. We smashed wine bottles and felt misunderstood. The boys pretended they were wearing cowboy hats as they nervously rode pretend horses. Sometimes they would pretend to be JR's desk, proving that they totally missed the point of the show.

One day during the peak of our Dallas obsession, my siblings told me that I was adopted. As I scoured my parent's bedroom looking for adoption papers, I fantasised about seeing the words "JR from Dallas" on these documents. Maybe he couldn't afford to take care of me and now that he was a successful businessman, he would come looking for me. But he never came and now I suppose he never will. Larry Hagman has always reminded me of these simpler and better times. May he rest in peace.