tagRomanceKaren Pt. 05 - Conclusion

Karen Pt. 05 - Conclusion


They were the eyes of a natural born killer. In a few short months he had honed his craft to a razor's fine edge and five men were now dead, a testament to his skill. How many more would fall? The steed, itself, flanks streaked with its own black, life's blood, had been pushed to the very limit of its endurance, the absolute breaking point of its existence ...yet both had returned once more. As with the medieval knights, the instrument of death and its master were now safely in the hands of the good earth once more. In times such as these, many would duel in the skies and many would die. It was a game.

There he is I thought, the old man himself. Five confirmed aerial victories and the coveted title of "Ace", bragging rights for life. The photograph had been taken only minutes upon his return that day, strong drink and good cheer had soon followed among gladiators. The Mustang, itself, would see an engine replacement before dawn struck again. The huge Merlin Rolls-Royce had carried him to victory that day but in so doing, had given up the last of its gallant strength. The bombers were safely home and one more Luftwaffe pilot now lay dead - A toast to our departed and to the Fatherland, be not of sad heart, good friends, for tomorrow is another day!

How, I had so admired him, worshiped him as a knight of the air, a warrior! As I child I had cherished the photograph and felt pride in his accomplishments and the fact that he was my father. Then sorrow, at his contempt and rejection of us and his blatant disdain toward my mother. I had later experienced fear and then anger toward him and finally hate. Now I felt nothing...

He had moved his beautiful young bride into the new house six months after her twentieth birthday in the year nineteen forty seven and she had lived there for the next seventy years. "Stony Brook" had been developed as a postwar subdivision, created ideally for the lucrative market of returning Servicemen and their families or soon-to-be families. The subdivision had, at the time, lain on the outskirts of Seattle and been a predominately blue collar neighborhood. The unpretentious two story tract houses were all identical and each located on a quarter acre parcel of land. New homes could be purchased with aid from the G.I. bill and the postwar economy offered many good paying jobs to Veterans.

Over the many years that followed the subdivision slowly began to evolve from an enclave of countless postwar prosaic dwellings into that of a more sophisticated neighborhood, now within a metro area. As additions and improvements were slowly added to each home the houses began to become more distinctive and personalized in their appearance. Stony Brook began to feel like home and it had proven to be a good place for a kid to grow up. Ricky and I had made a lot friend in school as well as the neighborhood itself. Our family had its share of problems, the same as anyone else's but Ricky's and my experiences were mostly happy. "Stony Brook, a neighborhood with the family in mind." At least it was according to the nineteen fifties brochure which was still someplace in Mom's possessions.

Apparently it had become blatantly obvious to many in the neighborhood, as early as the late nineteen fifties, that the old man no longer had any interest in Mom. He had reportedly been, seen by many, in the seedier downtown areas of Seattle in the company of several different women and his drinking was becoming an issue with employers and friends alike. The old man hadn't tried to hide the fact that there were other women; if anything he flaunted the fact as if it were a badge of honor somehow. Many of his friends who were also combat Veterans began to distance themselves from him then and there began to be long absences of him from home, it was said.

I speculate that the marriage stayed together because of the arrival of Ricky and I in the nineteen sixties and perhaps the couple decided to begin love anew and start over then. I don't think the old man's philandering stopped but there were obligations for him now and for several years he apparently made some sort of effort to be present and accountable at least in regard to being a provider. Knowing the character of Mom and her strong sense of family values, the knowledge of his escapades must have hurt her deeply, at least initially. Yet Mom was as resilient as she was beautiful; I had always had great admiration of her courage and perseverance and had leaned on her strength many times, growing up.

Eventually Ricky and I grew up and started our own lives and careers and moved away. Mom stayed in Stony Brook even though it was well below her financial means by then. She loved the neighborhood and its people. "Why would I need a larger house? This one's just fine and my friends are here." She had always insisted, and so it was. Somehow it was always a bit charming to hear Mom's friends say "Lovey lives in Stony Brook." By then Mom was long divorced which Ricky and I were thankful for. I believe that there were a few gentlemen in the neighborhood which Mom had shown some interest in, not serious relationships - Mom was done with those, but "Gentlemen friends" that she enjoyed socializing and outdoor activities with. There was never a shortage of gentlemen callers but Mom was very selective in who she would allow into her life. The ones that she did "date" were gentlemen of the first order. Mom was human and as Ricky would say to me periodically "Mom needs to get laid sometimes, too, Tim." Ricky and I did befriend a few of Mom's male friends but realistically, none were ever really more than platonic friends or rainy day lovers, I don't believe. Mom could play her cards very close to the vest at times and this was one such part of her life that she was intentionally vague about and really it was no one else's business, including Ricky and I. As long as Mom was happy, then Ricky and I were also.

During the mid-two thousands the census bureau declared that Mom had lived in the neighborhood longer than any other resident and that hers was one of only a handful of houses left in Stony Brook that was still inhabited by its original purchaser. Even though she was, by now, retired she was still very active within the community by engaging in volunteer work and a full schedule of social events within her circle of friends, Mom was going someplace all the time it seemed like and one year she even went on a Caribbean cruise with three other ladies. By the time Mom turned eighty six she had slowed down considerably and although active in her garden, preferred to entertain guests within her home as opposed to travelling abroad or being about town. "I'm starting to grow-up a little bit, I think" she would say to friends. Mom read a lot and slept more but was healthy and happy so Ricky and I were happy as well. She had a dog now and spent time on the internet posting on teachers blogs and developed a following there, eventually meeting some of the other teachers that also posted.

In two thousand and thirteen we had been notified by Seattle city officials that the neighborhood, an eight block area, was destined to become the site for one of Seattle's new waste water management plants and that everyone would have to relocate no later than the year two thousand and eighteen. Each home owner would be paid slightly above fair market value for their homes and properties and also given moving expenses comparable within the State of Washington. The neighborhood then slowly began to reinvent itself and evolve once more - into decline. Since many of the residents living in Stony Brook were either retired or close to that of retirement age, the city's land reclamation actually provided a natural springboard for many of them to purchase their long sought after dream homes in sunnier climates with slightly more equity than they would have had otherwise. Moving vans began to gradually appear in the neighborhood streets, sporadically at first, and then more and more frequently as the years began to drift slowly by and the City's clock continued ticking onward. Possessions were loaded into trucks, windows were covered with plywood and good-byes were said to life-long friends ...people moved on.

The lush outlying wooded areas which had surrounded Stony Brook during the nineteen forties, fifties, and sixties, that Ricky and I and our friends once played in, had also experienced a slow metamorphosis over the decades. The wooded areas were transformed into large warehouse and shipping container yards throughout the years as a result of Seattle's change in zoning laws and increased number of large wholesale outlets within the Seattle area. Later, tough economic times along with the introduction of certain street level drugs caused property value to suffer within the vicinity and many of Stony Brook's inhabitants had sadly conceded that the neighborhood had lost much of its charm. Many felt that the City's reclamation would, in the long run, prove to be a Blessing in disguise for many of the Stony Brook residents.

The neighborhood, which was one of Seattle's oldest and once located on the outskirts of Seattle, now found itself perched on prime industrial real-estate within Seattle itself. In essence, the land assessment associated with Stony Brook deemed the property more valuable, for the overall good of Seattle, as an industrial center than the antiquated neighborhood that it now was. Stony Brook was also plagued with slightly questionable water quality and a few other minor environmental issues which, it was said, caused concern among some. Stony Brook, it was declared by the city council, had to go.

"...Oh, and there was the time they got caught siphoning gas out of the police commissioners car in Phoenix, ...I think Lovey told me that she was sixteen at the time and neither of them could afford any gas to get home because they'd spent all of their money buying clothes and silk lingerie at Garlands's. Your mom and Aunt Elsie were always in cahoots together on something!" Mrs. Parker had said laughing.

Jack and Ollie Parker had moved into the neighborhood, directly across the street from Mom, during the nineteen seventies as a young married couple. Ollie, being a school teacher, had instantly struck up a strong rapport with Mom and the two had become close friends over the years, often spending time together engaged in recreational activities and social outings together. Mom and Ollie had often spent time in each other's homes and Ricky and I were well acquainted with the Parkers. After the reclamation announcement Jack and Ollie had purchased a small condo further inland to Seattle's hub while using their former house in Stony Brook as a temporary storage unit for their possessions. The couple was now retired and spending more time in tropical climates during much of the winters yet they still had grandchildren within the Seattle area that they spent much of their time with also. My chance meeting with the couple in the now, abandoned neighborhood had led us to conversation and recollections of the past, shortly after Mom's passing.

"We're just retrieving a few chairs and a table today from the house that we want to take to the condo, Tim." Ollie had explained.

"She loved you Ollie." I had said.

Ollie's demeanor had changed immediately from being a brave, gregarious front to that of sentimental upon my statement and she had wiped a few tears from the corner of her eye then. We had been standing within a once busy intersection the whole time of our conversation and I think the stillness of the empty street and now abandoned Stony Brook had somehow affected Ollie very much as well.

"I know Tim, Lovey and I shared many secrets together."

The three of us had continued talking for a few minutes longer, before bidding each other good-bye with neighborly hugs and handshakes. The couple had then proceeded to drive away, whereupon I had returned to the task of boarding-up the windows of Mom's house, with Ricky and placing a lock and hasp on the front door. As with most people from the neighborhood, no mention of the old man had ever been made during my conversation with the Parkers. It was as if there had been an unspoken rule that he wasn't to be mentioned, as if he had never existed. Even the World War Two Veterans that had lived in the neighborhood, and there had been many while Ricky and I were growing up, had avoided talking about him whenever possible.

His drinking and morose had steadily become worse over the years and, as it did so, his demeanor had deteriorated with it. It was made bearable at times with his long absences from the house but he had always eventually returned. To his credit, he never raised a hand to my mother but as his alcoholism progressed so did his verbal abuse of her. Ricky and I had often been batted aside with an open hand but never severely. All of that had changed one summer day when I had been seventeen. It had been a typical hot and muggy Seattle afternoon as he had sat drinking beer and watching television in the living room which I now stood in.

He had been especially vicious in criticizing Mom that whole day over money issues and I had finally had enough. After Mom had walked out of the room, for the sanctity of her garden, I had told the old man to shut his fucking mouth. To my surprise he had been much quicker in reflexes than I would have imagined and I was soon on the floor being choked. Ricky, having heard the commotion, had come into the room and grabbed a chair from the living room table and hit the old man over his back with such force that it broke the chair into pieces. Ricky was strong but he was soon being knocked around and when he finally did hit the floor the old man had poised himself to begin kicking Ricky. There had been an audible clicking sound then and all movement had suddenly ceased. All eyes then went to Mom as she held the old man's pistol - cocked. My father scared me but the look in my mother's eyes terrified me. The look in her eyes was primordial, there was no fear shown in her face and the gun was steady in her hands.

"Leave, LEAVE NOW!" she had hissed.

With intense eye contact, between them, some unspoken communication between Mom and the old man must have occurred in the stillness because Mom had then slowly and deliberately shaken her head from left to right as if saying "Don't even think about it." The old man had calmly raised his hands slightly as if showing a sign of surrender and left. That was the last I ever saw of my father. Mom later explained that he had seen horrible things in the war and that he was not to blame. I think she carried some kind of guilt and feelings of somehow being responsible for many of his words and actions. I had no such inclinations.

With the back of my fingers I tipped the photo off of the mantle and let it fall to the masonry below, the glass breaking into a thousand pieces. My mother wasn't there to set the photo back onto the mantle any longer.

"Tim ...are you all right honey?" Andrea asked.

"Just some ghosts from the past, Andrea, I'm alright." I said softly.

As Andrea and I walked farther from the open entryway door now, I clicked on the flashlight and we began making our way farther into Mom's house, where Ricky and I had grown up. There had been many happy times here and Mom had been a wonderful homemaker. Now there was no electricity and the house was darkened from the boarded up windows, the smell of mildew and stale air were also present as well. Without Mom's presence, the house was noticeably empty; it was dead like the neighborhood itself now.

During Mom's final years the house had fallen into considerable disrepair yet Mom had insisted on staying there and living alone, Ricky and I had wanted her to do as she wished. The Parkers and several other neighbors, all of whom had loved Mom, kept tabs on her and often stopped in on her for social visits. This, Mom had welcomed; her home was always open to friends. Mom had her cell phone and Yogi had been there as well so Ricky and I never worried about Mom.

Looking through the mostly empty rooms with the flashlight now, I was satisfied that we had pretty much gotten everything out of the house, within the last year, and nothing would go to waste, Mom hated waste. Brenda had commandeered most of Mom's photos and antique furniture and all of Mom's handmade quilts and blankets. Many of the other sentimental things associated with Mom had been given to her church, neighbors or friends throughout the community. Everyone that knew Mom, loved Lovey and we had wanted each of her cherished friends to have something which had belonged to Mom, to remember her by.

Growing up, I had collected HotWheels cars and had built up quite a collection over the years, many of which had since become collector's items. Stepping into my room, I began collecting them and placing them in a cardboard box to either give them away or try and sell on the internet. There was also a taped video series that several teachers, including Mom, had produced in the nineteen eighties entitled "Time In The Classroom" which dealt with teaching methods for kids with dyslexicia and other learning challenges. I wanted to box up the entire series and hopefully have the video tapes transferred to thumb drive or CD in the near future and possibly have Brenda put the series on her YouTube channel. There were about ten video tapes in all and many of them were interviews with Mom and the other teachers face to face. It would be a good way to remember Mom and some of her close friends were also interested in my transfer of the tapes as well. Other than that my room was about empty, save for some wall shelves and a skewed window blind.

"Tim! Can I have this?" Andrea asked excitedly from another room.

I got up and found her in Mom's bedroom; Andrea was using her phone as a flashlight and preening over Mom's small white, antique vanity.

"Can I have this?" She asked again excitedly.

"I don't see why not, Andrea, the whole neighborhood is going to be demolished in a few weeks and the vanity along with it. Obviously Brenda doesn't want it or she would have taken it by now. Sure you can have it." I said.

The vanity was a Victorian piece that Mom had possessed long before I was born and I wasn't even sure where she had gotten it. It may even have been her mothers. I was sure the vanity was well over one hundred years old and it had sat exactly where it now was, my entire life.

"Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you, it's so adorable!" Andrea exclaimed.

She then jumped up and down with joy several times and kissed me on the cheek. I opened the drawer closet to me and looked inside; there were some of Mom's cosmetic supplies along with an assortment of inexpensive jewelry and a few old Al-Anon meeting schedules. Combs, hair brushes and various other things women keep were also present in the drawer beneath it.

"You can have anything that's in it too. Take the drawers out and we'll take it downstairs and load it before we go. Ricky will let us leave it at his place until we can come back again with a truck and get it on our next trip to Seattle." I said.

I received another kiss on the cheek and Andrea got to work removing the drawers of the vanity. By the time I had collected everything from my room, that I wanted to keep, Andrea had the vanity drawers loaded into Ricky's truck. After carefully removing the heart shaped mirror from the back of the vanity Andrea and I began to move the piece towards the stairs. Ricky and I had boarded up the windows to Mom's house the year before so Andrea and I took great care in taking the antique vanity down the darkened staircase but the piece wasn't heavy and we soon had it loaded into the cargo bed of Ricky's old Ford. We then carefully tipped the piece onto its back, atop of some cardboard. I then started back towards the house for the heart shaped mirror.

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byThickAsThieves© 8 comments/ 4090 views/ 10 favorites

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