I have this recurring dream that I am running. Not so much as running from something as…just running. Richard John and Lillian Francis met sometime in the early ‘20’s. Most likely at school, at least that’s what the clearest memories of the people who are involved in this story can recollect. He liked sports, she resented her middle name being spelled like a boys, an “i” where there should have been and “e”. Theirs was a deep and abiding passion right from the start. Lillian sends love letters wisped with the mild essence of lavender water.
The very letters, dripping a weight of affection. They would be caught in the back seat of a car kissing passionately. Parents would come to agree that instant marital union was the best choice to ward off any dangers. A boy of rigid Swedish mid-western upbringing and a staunchly raised Irish red-head would tie the knot before their eighteenth birthdays. Life would begin hard, and fast. They would have a Christmas baby before their first anniversary, Anna. Nancy, Patricia, Richard Earl, and Jerry would be added before the brood was full. The man would serve his country in France and Germany during World War 2. The woman would become a sales woman at Yonker Brothers department store. The husband would come home and drive an ice truck in the summers and a coal truck in the winters.
He would have an affair.
It would break her heart.
They would stay together, the dirty little secret tucked away in the far corner of a long lost forgotten house of memory. He would give up his job and move to Washington State to work for the school district in Seattle, his son Jerry would follow in his footsteps after a bout with diverticulitis and depression. She would slip into an ever deepening madness so that now her children and their spouses call her “boss”, the name Lillian now being confined to work where she prefers “Lily”. He would develop a love for music, being able to read music on sight and translate them to an instrument, his sweeping tenor voice breaking the air with song. She would take up smoking, and make him feel guilty for being talented.
They have grandchildren they would go visit. Grandmother would complain, grandfather would dole out pieces of beef jerky while smoking a pipe packed with cherry tobacco. They would live out of the travel trailer for months at a time. The stale, bitter smell of tobacco and resentment lingers in the air.
They would make their peace.
Retire in quiet.
Someplace peaceful, where you can only hear the wind rustling the leaves on the ground while a warm sunset glow fills in the edges between the trees. He would be diagnosed with cancer while his grandson was playing in a national high school basketball tournament in Milwaukee. She would start to drive to the bitter edges of her own sanity. The husband would die a month later of stomach cancer, having never wrapped his arms around his children in love. His funeral is attended by immediate members of his family still surviving. She would live on 8 years more. Never fully coming to grips with her life and the loss of her husband. She would smoke three packs a day, sneak in candy, and steal sweets from the food cart meant for other patients. She would die withered and fragile with no mind left, cremated. Neither, as much as the sources can recall, ever showed affection. She never said “I love you”, or “I’m sorry” to her eldest and dearest daughter. They would live three thousand miles apart till her death.
They now reside in a small piece of earth in a rural area south of Seattle, their ashes in cardboard boxes, buried next to each other. No one except the youngest son knows the whereabouts of the graves. No markers. I met them once when I was 6. These are my grandparents.