The Locker (7)

April 17, 2020

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Unfolding the letters again, you remembered their secrets. You were surprised your father had shown no interest in reading them, even after you told him what they contained: that his mother (her name was Mary) had unrequited longings for Jack’s brother, Harry. In notes to Harry, dated earlier than ones written to your future Grandfather, she flirted and pined with him. Though modest by today’s standards, you could tell something was going on. Harry had refused her. You have his letters too. And she ended up marrying Jack.

Upon telling these things to your dad, he said only this: “My father always hated his brother.” That was all you got. Your father changed the subject and never returned to it. You knew not to push.

You consider the estrangement with your brother. Wildly different reasons than with Harry and Jack but the result was the same. You met your uncle once maybe twice and have no memory of it. With each passing month, now years, it seems very possible your daughters will forget their uncle as well. The ridiculous feud with your brother upsets your dad. No doubt he draws parallels to the animus between his father and uncle. Maybe the analogy of a chain is a poor one. At times, it seems your family isn’t connected by anything at all.

Placing back the shoebox, you must reconsider your Grandparents as more than old antiques. They were from a simpler era. Things were easier then, cut and dried. Yet, on this hot afternoon, in this crappy storage locker, you uncovered a truth: Jack and Mary had longings that turned into secrets and eventually became lies. Just like you and just like everyone else.

To be continued…

The Locker (5)

April 10, 2020

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You carry in the latest load, one piece at a time, careful not to strain your back. Even with all the work you’ve done in the gym, lifting and hauling boxes was perilous. The only thing worse than doing this task would be hurting your back while doing it. You place a stuffed reindeer on top of the highest ornament box, a mighty stag overlooking his domain! You place a pair of small, antique lamps in a section devoted to miscellaneous items. The nicer of the two once resided on a mission style desk in your home office, in the Victorian you and Sarah proudly rehabbed in Chicago. The beloved room became a nursery when Remy was born. Much as your ‘66 Mustang convertible became a Honda Odyssey. You’d given all that up willingly, as any father would.

The shoebox nearly topples on your head. You recognized it instantly. You had first discovered it while helping your father go through his mother’s belongings just after she died. It contained bundles of letters between your Grandmother and Grandfather, many from before they were married. Inscribed almost a century ago, her delicate script resembled what one sees on historical documents. The “J” in “Dear Jack” reminding you of John Hancock’s iconic signature, sweeping and florid yet elegantly true. Grandpa Jack’s penmanship was cruder. Understandable for a depression-era shopkeeper, yet still a far sight better than yours or most any other man that you knew.

To be continued…