The embers are still warm.
The fire is still capable of flaring up, but it doesn’t always.
It isn’t only the bad I remember.
I remember the excitement of going somewhere with Dad. Just me. Not all of us. Just Dad and I.
Many times we would head over to his parent’s house. Seeing Grandma and Grandpa Yates was always a good thing.
Underneath, though, the threat lingered.
We were not to do anything that would cause us to be disciplined at home.
It was a silent threat.
It was a look. It was a feeling. It was always present.
We would stop at In‘n Out Burger on the way to Grandma’s house sometimes. Dad and I would enjoy a shake; sitting out at the picnic tables in a shaded area, the sounds of the cars rushing by on the freeway behind us, watching the cars file through the drive through.
It was a rare treat and one I always hoped for when we drove past.
Grandma would usually give us a quarter to spend while we were there, either at the little store at one corner or at A & W on the other. Balsa wood gliders were a favorite of ours. We would run back from the store and play in the back yard, setting the little planes off into the sky hoping they wouldn’t go over the fence into the alley behind or the rubber bands that spun the propeller lasted as long as our time there in the yard.
As we got older and Grandpa was gone, we would go over for a visit bringing along our big dog Dad had saved from the pound one year. He was a huge German Shepard mix with a huge head and an even bigger heart. He would bound out of the van and run into the house, then gently go behind Grandma’s chair and around until he was sitting next to her where she could pet his giant head. He would sit there, with Grandma’s arm laying on his back for the whole visit, her hand stroking his fur while talking to Dad.
I never knew what my Dad and my Grandparents talked about. It wasn’t for me to know. Sometimes Grandpa and Dad would sit out on the patio, talking and having a beer. Sometimes it was Dad and Grandma in the house talking. It never occurred to me to wonder what they discussed. It was their time.
We were to be seen and not heard. Don’t speak unless spoken to.
My time with Grandma alone was not often. Most times we would tell her about school; about our grades and our time in band. My oldest brother played the clarinet, the other, the drums. I would play the flute later. My favorite thing to do, though, was to go to the secretary desk in the alcove by the front door. Grandma would fold down the lid, shuffle through a drawer or two and bring out boxes of photographs. I would sit entranced as she pointed to this person and that person and tell me all about them, how she knew them, who they were related to.
One day I asked her why Dad was always angry.
She sat quietly for a moment and then looked me in the eye and said,
“When he was a boy he would throw a fit when he didn’t get what he wanted and it seems that he is still doing that.”
I honestly cannot say what I thought of that statement at that point. It wasn’t until much later that I thought, ‘Well, why didn’t you do something about it? Don’t you know what he puts us through?’
Anger and alcohol were the legacies of the Yates family.
I just never knew the extent of it.
How long was this legacy tended and fed?
Was nothing good enough for my father’s father?
What did he go through as a child; the youngest of five children.
When were the embers lit in his childhood?
I will never know.