I was thinking about grandpa as I wandered around the house. I never met grandma as she died before I was born, but I could see the pictures of her with grandpa hanging on the walls and all around the house. The house was filled with pictures of them and their children Ida and Susan(my mother) growing up. I was fascinated by the pictures of my mother as a young child. Aunt Ida pointed out the pictures of her and told me when they were taken and where. It was like walking through an old museum with ancient artifacts. Some of the older photos were in black and while and were yellow and fading. There were even some old photos of my great-great grandparents with their children(my grandparents). It was strange to see this history in front of me. Like taking a step back in time.
I was standing there lost in thought when Uncle George came up behind be… “So what do you think of this old place?” uncle George said; “I wasn’t sure whether we should take on this old house, but your aunt has always loved it since she grew up in this house so I thought we would try to keep it in the family.” “I like it.” I said. “Especially the pictures of my mom and grandpa.” “I really like the library Uncle George.” I said. “Well you are more than welcome to read any of the books you want in the library John.” I have always felt that a book isn’t worth much unless it has been read.” “Just be sure and ask us first before you start pulling down some off the shelf, some are really old and need special handling.” “Your grandfather was an avid reader, he collected all the classics, Yeats, Poe, Hemmingway, Frost, and numerous others. He read just about every subject you could think of.” Your aunt has collected the more recent books. She especially like murder mysteries and adventure novels. There are some really nice old classics Like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and To Kill A Mocking Bird. It’s nice to have someone that appreciates a good book. Too many kids are starting to watch the television and filling their head with garbage instead of knowledge. I didn’t say anything when he mentioned television was garbage. I really like watching television, especially my favorite western programs. I didn’t see what the harm was. I always got my schoolwork done first and I got really good grades. School was actually boring for me. I think that is why I found books so interesting. It’s like they opened a whole new imaginary world to me. It was my own private escape into different characters, exotic places, wonderful adventures. While I was deep into reading I found myself transported into a different dimension of the mind. I found I was that character in the book. And for a while I could forget about what my life was really like. Little did I know that my world was about to change.
Far away in a different part of the house the phone rang. My aunt picked up the phone. I heard a muffled conversation. I could not quite tell what was being said, but I could tell my aunt was upset. She sounded like she was arguing. Uncle George was by now looking through some of the books. You could tell he was looking for a book to read while he settled down into his favorite chair to read and smoke his pipe. He didn’t seem to notice the phone conversation or maybe he didn’t hear it. My Uncle George was quite a bit older than my Aunt. He was well into his 50’s. I slowly crept down the hall and tried to listen in to the conversation. I knew it was wrong, but I wanted to know if my mother was on the phone. I thought I heard my name mentioned and something about my aunt saying she couldn’t do it. And saying what was she supposed to tell him? By the time I got a little closer she stopped her conversation and she called out to me. “John! John!” She said loudly. “Your mother is on the phone!” I was so excited I ran down the hallway and turned the corner toward the kitchen. Ida handed the receiver end of the phone to me. In an excited voice I said: “Mom, mom, what is going on, when can I go home?” “I miss you mom.” She said “I miss you too honey, but I can’t pick you up just yet, I just wanted to call to tell you how much I love you and that everything is alright.” She said: “Your dad is very stubborn, I know he loves us, but this is very hard for him, you know how he is” “It is hard for people to try to change, but I am trying to do so for your sake John, just remember he really does love you, he just doesn’t show it all the time.” I said: “Love me? Love me Mom? I don’t know if he does, all he knows is how to hurt you and make you cry.” “Please don’t John, he does love you.” I could hear her voice start to crack as she was fighting back tears. “Mom, can’t you just come get me and just make him stop drinking?” “I’s more complicated than that son.” “He needs help” “We both need help.”: she said. “In the meantime I want you to stay with your aunt for a while and remember whatever happens know that I love you. I know you will do well there you are smart so you know when I tell you this that this is necessary and you know it is not safe for you to come back home right now, not until we get things worked out with your father. So son mind your aunt and thins will work out for the best I promise.” Then her last words were: “John my beautiful bright young boy, I love you from here to the moon and back don’t you ever forget that.” And then she hung up.
I sunk to the floor with the receiver still in my hand. “Mom!, Mom! Are you there?” The line was silent except for a faint hum. My eyes started to well up a bit, but I gathered myself up. Aunt Ida came over and knelt down to and gave me a big hug. I didn’t really mind. We both just sat there in silence for a while. “Okay, we know she is giving it her best John.” Ida said: “We just have to give her some more time, just more time.” Ida’s voice trailed off and she turned away… Her voice seemed oddly different. Not the jubilant outgoing confident person that I had met at first. This scared me to the pit of my stomach. Was my aunt hiding something. I was afraid to ask. “Alright John.” Ida said and a few seconds of silence. “I think it is time we went out, all three of us.” “George!” She said loudly: “It is time we took this boy out to see the town a bit.” “Go out?” Uncle George said; “Why I just barely settled down to read a bit?” “Never mind” said Ida: “We are going out!” Uncle George grabbed his car keys and fired up the old Chevy and off we went.
We all headed down the road and towards town. I was not familiar with Spokane as I grew up in Seattle. It was quite a bit smaller than Seattle. Not a real pretty town. Ugly really. Old ratty looking buildings and an ugly old rail yard next to downtown. We diverted from the downtown area and we headed up to the Southern part of Spokane up to the South Hill. I asked where we were going. “We are going to Manito Park John.” “Manito Park?” I said: “Yes” she said: “It is very pretty there and I think we could all use a nice walk.” We went up this steep winding road up to the entrance of the park. It was pretty and green. We parked and we all piled out of the car. We walked through the park and down garden paths. The flowers were in bloom all over. It was beautiful! My aunt held my hand as we walked. She was very silent. Uncle George was talking all about the history of the park and who built it and about the master gardeners that maintained the massive park. I was listening, but mainly I was staring up at my aunt and looking at her vacant stare. She was looking straight ahead and not even looking at me at all. This went on for what seemed forever until we came to the duck pond. We walked over to an inviting bench and sat down. It was a perfect June day. The sun was shining and it was a comfortable 78 degrees. I watched with fascination at the pond and the ducks swimming lazily back and forth. Some of them hovering at the edge of the pond scrambling for the bits of bread that people were throwing them. “Can we feed the ducks Aunt Ida?” Silence was the response. I looked at her and asked again: “Aunt Ida?” “Can we feed them?” After a minute or two she finally stopped staring and looked down at me. She smiled and her eyes had crinkles in the corners. “I’m sorry John, I forgot to bring bread with us.” “We will just have to come back again to feed them.” She said. “Okay” I said. “Can I go down to the pond and watch them feed the ducks?” “Yes, you may” said Ida. I ran down the path towards where a family with their kids, much the same age as I was, were standing at the water’s edge throwing bread to a very hungry group of ducks.
Uncle George stared at Aunt Ida who was watching me from the bench. “Ida, is there something going on, what is it, you have been acting strange?” Ida replied: “George I don’t know what to say, I have to think.” “I talked to Susan about John and she asked me to do something for her and as much as I love my sister and John I don’t know if I can do it for her. She was so upset, she begged me to help her.” “Oh George, I don’t know what to do.” With that Ida started to cry and George held her close.” “Don’t worry honey, we will figure it out.” “The important thing now is to focus on John.” “Yes” “You are right George” Ida replied. Ida dabbed at her face with her lace handkerchief she had in her purse and gathered herself together.”
I was so busy playing and helping this family feed the ducks that I did not see my aunt and how upset she was. For now I was happy and having fun. I was being a normal 7 year old boy. Full of piss and vinegar as my father would say. We stayed at the park for the rest of the afternoon. My aunt and uncle took me to the playground where I played on the swings. We went through the Japanese Garden which was breathtaking. I wandered around on the paths following the Koi fish that were in the pond as they swam lazily back and forth under the bridge. And to finish the day we stopped by one of the vendors on the way out and we all got ice cream. It was so good!