|Going Home Is Not Easy
Author: Edward George PM
Going home can be rewarding, fun, meet people you haven't seen in years. Going home can also present its own brand of problems. The Bennett brothers, with their families head back east to deal with a family situation not of either's choosing. You can visit, but you cannot stay.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Family/Drama - Words: 5,366 - Published: 07-04-12 - id: 3038805
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Going Home – Is Not Easy
Going home can be rewarding, fun, meet people you haven't seen in years. Going home can also present its own brand of problems. The Bennett brothers, with their families head back east to deal with a family situation not of either's choosing. You can visit, but you cannot stay.
The call came at two o'clock on a Wednesday afternoon. Dave stood in the middle of the kitchen, the kitchen phone cord stretched across the counters. Maryann sat at the breakfast bar watching her husband's facial expression. At times like this she could read his body language like a book. Maryann felt concerned about his sudden shift of attitude. She knew he had a cold side to him which he kept suppressed for her. His brother Eddy had a cold side too that was as hard as Dave's.
"Okay, Mom, we're still recovering from the fires out here. Yeah, I know …We have to put the horses up on another ranch and the dogs in a kennel."
The back door banged open and two young blonde twins stopped seeing their father with the telephone as he paced around the kitchen, occasionally taking a sip of sweet tea, nodding his head up and down.
"Who's Daddy talking to?" Mary asked as Teresa took the jug of sweet tea from the refrigerator.
Maryann put her arm around the girl. "Grandma."
"Who?" Teresa said pouring them each a glass of tea.
"You've never met your Grandparents from your father's side of the family." Maryann let it drop there for now.
David sighed as he said good bye and hung up the phone. Maryann waited a minute seeing her husband had a tough choice to make.
"I can get Jerry to take the horses that week and Doc Williams has the kennel section for room and board for small animals…"
"Where we going, Dad?" Teresa asked watching her father's concerned look. She and her sister could tell by his expression he was not too happy about something.
Dave looked down at Maryann a moment.
The phone rang a second time. Dave glanced at the caller ID. "Eddy. I knew it."
Late that afternoon the two bothers paced around Eddy's ranch yard discussing the
situation. The twins had dozens of unspoken questions about the grandparents they had never met.
Connie and Maryann sat on the back porch of Connie and Eddy's ranch house watching the brothers. Eddy was all hands and arms where David tended to keep his hands folded and use verbal language to describe his thoughts.
"I'm glad I am not the one making that decision," Connie said watching the two men as they leaned across the back of a truck.
"I was always wondering why he never went back east to see his parents before this. He's been out here since nineteen-eighty two."
Connie took a sip of her iced tea. "All I know is something happened a long time ago while Dave and Eddy were in the service and Dave – sort of the leader, swore he'd never go east of the Mississippi again."
The two girls sat with their mother and aunt listening to the discussions.
Teresa glanced over at her mother. "Daddy never said why?"
"I guess we'll find out later."
The two families left out of DIA in Denver flying non-stop to Philadelphia International. That was the first time the girls had flown commercial. They had flown dozens of times in private air craft with their father or uncle.
The trip east the two brothers were silent about their feelings on going home; it was not easy to go back to the place where they once grew up. Dave and Eddy had to keep their tempers in check with the women. The girls wanted to ask questions but Maryann and Connie told them they would have to be patient and watch and wait when the time came. Dave hugged his daughters as he attempted to keep his own doubts in check.
When the families reached Philadelphia, rental cars waited for them at the arrivals gate where Red Hat Porters loaded their bags in to each car.
Dave and Eddy finished the paper work with the rental agents then Dave shut the trunk of his car, he asked: "Remember how to get there?"
Eddy nodded his head. "Yeah, one never forgets."
They pulled out of the airport going north through King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. Dave was silent most of the trip as he drew nearer to home. The girls especially sensed their father's reluctance on making the trip to begin with.
For David and Eddy the drive north was long and tedious. They wished there was a way to get from Colorado to home and back and forget the in between part.
David was almost home. To break the ice between him and the women he named off certain landmarks and towns. Maryann noticed that was his way of loosening up. She was afraid that he would want to do something irrational.
They crossed the Delaware River into Lambertville, NJ.
"And that's the mighty Delaware River, girls. When they touch on George Washington crossing the Delaware in US History in school, tell `em you saw the so-called river and Washington and his men could have easily walked across instead of using a row boat."
"That's the Delaware?" Teresa said trying to see the river as they reached the New Jersey side of the river.
"What's so great about it, Dad?" Mary asked just as curious.
"I don't know I'm still trying to figure that out myself."
Maryann sighed in relief. David was somewhat back to normal now. He was talking about the familiar.
David drove from Ringoes to Flemington to Whitehouse and turned right onto Readington Road. Maryann could tell he was almost on automatic pilot as he drove home.
As David reached the last hill before home he slowed taking his time on the final hundred feet before reaching the driveway. Eddy followed slowing as his brother did. Dave turned into the driveway; the only sound in the car at that moment was the ticking of the turn signal.
He noticed a black Saturn Ion occupied the lower driveway. A Chevy Equinox was parked near the barn. The machinery and a tractor set on the far side of the barn – rusting.
Eddy stopped beside David looking the farm over with an equally critical eye.
David drew in a deep breath then got out of the car. Eddy and Connie got out to look the farm over then looked toward the house. About this moment Mom looked out from the kitchen window seeing two strange cars pulling in to the driveway. She stepped out the side door then let out a yell the neighbors must have heard; she went about went nuts as the two men got out of the cars standing in the driveway a moment.
David walked around the car to help his wife out then the twins.
Their mother started to run across the lawn to meet them. Suddenly she stopped, waving her hands about in excitement she turned to rush over to the other side of the old farm house where Keith the third brother and his wife Darlene lived to let them know David and Eddy was "home."
"Keith … Keith! David and Edward are home …!" Their mother kept yelling running down the sidewalk to the back of the house.
A minute or so later an elderly man appeared at the door. At first he seemed a bit
confused as to what all the commotion was about and seeing two strange cars in the driveway he appeared surprised. Two men with two women and two identical teen-age girls standing in the driveway looked around as if assessing the place.
"I thought …" the elderly man began to say as he stepped out the door with a walker
to shuffle across the lawn to meet them. "What brings you back east?"
David and Eddy crossed the driveway and lawn to meet their father.
"You," said David patting his father on the arm.
Eddy reached out to touch his father's arm also. "Hello, Dad."
Keith and Darlene followed Mom to the end of the walk. Keith stopped and called out: "Hey, bro's what's happening?"
Keith rushed up the drive to his older brothers to grasp their out stretched hands. For the first time since he was five years old tears flowed down his bearded face. Neither David nor Eddy recognized their own brother for a moment. The last time David saw him grown was at Fort Knox, Kentucky as a young tank commander and he as a senior NCO finishing the Master Gunners Course; Eddy was serving at Fort Hood, Texas.
David turned holding his arm out to Maryann. "Mom, Dad, Keith, and Darlene, I want you to meet my wife Maryann and my daughters – your granddaughters, Mary and Teresa."
Eddy drew Connie closer to him, the girl was unsure of herself. "My wife, Connie."
Mom threw her hands to her mouth. "David - daughters! Edward – you're married? When?"
She looked back at David with an accusing eye.
They walked across the lush green lawn to the rambling farm house entering the cool interior. Maryann and Connie with the girls seemed to follow with a sense of reluctance.
They settled in the living room, the girls sat at their mother's feet. It was obvious seating was limited.
Mrs. Bennett began: "David – Edward, to put this simply we need to know what we're going to do now that Dad and I are along in years. I know both of you live out in Colorado now. But this will be too much for your brother to handle. We've talked it over with your Uncle Mike about what to do with the farm. He's like Dad, getting on in years too. I think you boys need to take some of the responsibility of the decision."
Keith said: "Darlene and I will be moving to Pennsylvania next month, the Point Pleasant area."
David and Eddy listened silently as their Mom talked, their Father adding a few words which they found unusual. Years before it was the other way around, he talked, she listened.
Maryann and Connie listened to the exchange knowing there would be a further discussion between the three brothers later.
David brought up the fact: "I'm not a lawyer by any stretch of the imagination. Sure we can help but the point is you need a lawyer, Mom – Dad."
"We do," their father said resting his arms on the edge of the walker. "Your cousin
David gave his brothers a glance. Maryann and Connie did not miss the look.
"Elaine is a lawyer?" David was surprised. "Since when?"
"Ten years ago."
"Figures," Eddy muttered.
Mom served a light supper, Maryann and Connie helping. Talk around the table turned to the wildfires of Colorado which tore up the state. The girls, proud of their father and uncle brought up the fact they led the volunteers in fighting the fires. David and Eddy could only feign embarrassment.
Late that night Maryann found her husband sitting outside on the porch staring at the lights on the distant hills. Maryann took the lawn chair beside him sitting beside her husband for now was comfort enough.
"If I smoked like I used to, I'd be smoking right now."
"Thinking about tomorrow?" She asked pulling the robe tighter about herself. She was not used this climate anymore and noticed the slight chill on the air.
"Well you don't need Connie and me along."
"I do. The extra ears will help as we talk." David took her free hand in his. "Leave the girls with Mom, besides, they need to get to know their Grandparents."
Dave and Maryann went to bed late but David unable to sleep. Checking the time he noted it was close to six in the morning. Reminded him of old times and a couple years ago in the Middle East; he probably averaged four to five hours of sleep per week the whole time he was over there. He just got out of the habit of sleeping in past 6 am.
He tried not to disturb Maryann as he got up and dressed in the dark.
He recalled in some conversation that he had with Keith the old General Store which was probably on its sixth owner now should be open. The New York and Philadelphia newspapers would be in by now. And best of all, still had the short order grill and served a decent breakfast.
Eddy was still asleep, Keith he wasn't too sure of, he said the heck with sleep and headed in to town. Whitehouse, even at six in the morning was all but devoid of activity. Colorado Springs or Denver on the other hand is about as close as one will find to towns that never seem to sleep.
Pulling up in front of the store he saw the blue neon sign was showing Open. Dave got out and walked inside. Well, Dave had to admit the store was keeping up with progress: State of the art grill. However, the newspapers were still stacked by the door and cash register. Then I looked over the new stools at the counter; a new counter replaced the one of the 50's; magazines still in the back, but in all new metal racks not the old wooden ones when he was a kid. The one thing that stood out was the old wooden telephone booth at the very back was gone: modern times – BYOP (Bring Your Own Phone).
Dave grabbed a New York Times laying his Stetson on a stool and sat at the counter spreading the paper out. The woman behind the counter turned to look Dave over as he tossed two dollars on to the counter for the newspaper. Her staring at him made him feel self-conscious until he looked up and their eyes finally met and after a few more uncomfortable seconds she said: "Dave?"
The woman appeared to be of middle age maybe in her fifties, she was average height, dark hair and brown eyes. Although she was showing some weight she was still good looking.
"You don't remember me? I am Maryann."
Huh? Dave managed to say after digging for last names: "Givens? Maryann Givens?"
"Was. Raymond. I heard that you were home – after how many years?"
"Yeah." Dave had to think and do some quick calculations. "Twenty some years. Maryann is my wife's name too."
She smiled, the dimples at the corners of cheeks showing as he always remembered.
"Your brother and Dad said you've been around the world several times by now."
"Middle East a few years ago."
"Oh! Coffee?" She turned to get the coffee pot and a hand full of creamers and sugar packs.
"Thanks but hold the cream and sugar."
Maryann looked at David with mild surprise. "Black?"
Dave allowed a broad smile. "Black as the old slate boards in school – better yet,
burnt thirty weight drained from the pack of a Detroit diesel prime mover in an M60A3 after one hundred and ten miles movement to contact."
Maryann made a sound of disgust.
"Before I go home remind me to teach you how to make good tankers coffee."
A tall man with salt and pepper streaked hair, a stained white apron, Harley-Davidson T-shirt and Yankees baseball cap stepped out from the small kitchen and grill area. He said: "Don't ask dear. Hi, I'm Bob Raymond and you have to be Dave Bennett?"
"A class mate of mine," she said proudly.
Maryann seemed to attract tall men as Dave recalled – Dave was tall. Bob Raymond and Dave shook hands.
"This is an honor, sir. Congressional Medal of Honor winner. I was in the National Guard for a few years," he related, "that's how I knew how tankers coffee is made. You don't want to know, dear."
Maryann tossed her husband a look of "thanks" then looked at Dave again.
Turned out, as they talked Maryann gave up on her aspirations of a music career after she and Bob were married and then somewhere along the line they had a chance to buy the old General Store, keeping it pretty much as it was when they were kids.
A young girl came out from the back who looked like Maryann when she was in high school. They small talked as she took care of customers and he ate breakfast. Looking at the time he bid them good-bye and headed back to his parent's place.
David arrived home and walked into "first-day-home" pandemonium. The girls were not happy, Maryann was not happy – where was Connie?
He glanced at the box of cereal, the adult version of a diet cereal.
"Does it look like we need a diet cereal, Dad?" Teresa asked pointing to the box.
"No dear. You're just fine the way you two are."
"Good. Tell that to Mom," Mary said in a low voice.
Maryann was standing by the sink with a dark look on her face that told Dave she was far from being in a good mood that morning. "That's all your Mother has."
Dave gave her a soft kiss then looked around for the coffee pot. He remembered his father drank instant coffee which in his mind was worse than the instant coffee the Army and Marines used.
"Where have you been?" Maryann asked, frowning at her husband.
Dave knew that look all too well.
"Downtown at the old General Store, which incidentally still has a grill."
Maryann tried to cheer up but seemed to be having a bad hair day already.
Dave drew in a breath, pulled a chair out to sit across from the twins. "Okay, girls this is what is about to happen today, your uncles and aunts and mother and I will go into a town called Flemington see a cousin of ours by the name of Elaine. You two will have to stay here with your Grandparents. And …" he held up a hand stopping their protests before it started, "you'll have to deal with it today. This is adult business we have to sort out. No place for kids. Besides, you need to get to know your Grandparents."
Pouting they said in unison: "I suppose."
"And like it." He said with a forced smile, then more seriously, "This may be the only time you'll see your grandparents."
Connie and Eddy finally came down to the kitchen a few minutes later.
"What's the game plan for today?" Eddy asked looking around. "No coffee pot?"
"No. Don't you remember Dad used that instant stuff?"
Eddy made a face.
"About ten we're paying our cousin Elaine a visit."
They went back upstairs to change. Shortly the four descended the stairs to the living room. Keith and Darlene walked in then, Keith's jaw opened. Maryann and Connie were stunningly dressed in western cut outfits. His brothers were dressed in western cut suits with their good western riding boots.
"Do you all want take separate cars or Eddy, Connie, go with Maryann and me?"
They shrugged. Eddy said. "Let's go separate, that way we're not all tied together."
By nine thirty the three brothers with their wives left for their Cousin Elaine's law office in Flemington.
Dave and Eddy still couldn't believe their favorite cousin was a lawyer. Her office was in what was once a Victorian era house on South Main Street near the Flemington Borough Library. David promptly took his Stetson off as he entered the building.
The three couples walked in to the office on the second floor, a converted suite of offices and were promptly greeted by a young paralegal.
"Yes, sir?" she asked as they filed into the office stopping by her desk.
"Miss or Ms. Bennett – I'm her cousin, David, my brothers and our wives."
"Oh, yes." The girl was baffled as she stabbed at a speaker phone. "Ms. Bennett, your cousin, his brothers and wives are here to see to see you." She turned back to David: "Have a seat, sir she'll be with you in a moment."
The door to the inner office suddenly swung open. A stunningly attired woman stood in the door staring at the group.
He played with the rim of his Stetson as he and Elaine exchanged knowing look of the past. Elaine was the image of the successful female lawyer in a dark blue woman's suit, black pumps, her hair looked as if she had just stepped out of the beauty shop a half hour ago.
Her jaw sagged when she came face to face with David. "David…" She looked at the other brothers and their wives, she knew Keith well but she turned back to Eddy and David.
"Hi, cuz. Need some answers to some questions."
She again glanced toward the others seeing the women especially wanted to stay out of any confrontation between the two cousins.
"Where have you and Eddy been? I haven't seen you two since eighty-two?"
"So, what do you need answers to?"
"For one, the family inheritance, the other, the estate plan."
"What makes you so sure I have all the family secrets?" The question from David gave Elaine the impression this was definitely to be a family matter.
"Dad let it slip you're the…" he held his fingers up wagging them in the air, "family lawyer."
Elaine sighed heavily. Her paralegal looked to her for an answer.
"I suppose I have to be the family crisis center also. Come on in. Tracy – hold everything," she said as they walked into her office. Dave gave her a quick kiss. Elaine closed the door as Dave turned three-sixty looking her office over.
"Thanks. Nice place, Elaine." Then he turned back to her tossing the Stetson onto another chair. "It was either this or do it the hard way – on-line search."
"Always the sarcastic one."
Keith grinned. Elaine gave the others a puzzled frown then motioned toward a conference table. "Please."
Dave took one end of the table, Elaine the other, the two facing each other the others ranging themselves down either side of the table.
Dave introduced Maryann and Connie. She sat back twisting a pen in her fingers looking the length of the table at David. She glanced at the three women then turned back to David.
She held the pen firmly in her hand. "You know Uncle Steve disinherited you?"
"I heard something about it from Keith a couple years ago." David could have cared
less at that point.
Keith nodded his head.
"According to your mother you and Uncle Steve had a feud going on."
"We did?" he replied: "Okay, if she says so. If I recall – a big if here – I stayed in Colorado after I retired from the Army. I didn't feel up to moving back home or moving period. You know, moving every thirty-six to forty-eight months whether you're ready to or not, you tend to get burned out after awhile."
"So in other words, we're cut out of the inheritance?" Eddy asked lifting his hands a moment.
Elaine nodded her head.
"If I may ask, where does it go? Just curious."
Tossing the pen on to the table, Elaine said leaning on the table: "You know who the executioner of the will is then?"
Dave pointed a finger at Elaine. "You."
Again she nodded her head then said: "My father. It's all been placed in a tax deductible trust fund."
The twins stood on the front porch watching the three cars pull out of the farm yard.
"What do we do now?" Teresa asked her sister.
"Well we don't have any horses to go riding or bicycles. Maybe go see what there is around here."
The screen door opened and the walker was shoved out the door. The girls stepped over to help their grandfather out the door.
"So what are you two planning to do now?" he asked as he settled himself into a chair.
They admitted: "Not sure."
"Ah, when there wasn't farm work to be done, your Dad and uncles always found something to occupy their time."
"What did they do?" Mary asked now just as curious as her sister.
"Well, in the fall they'd go hunting. They'd each bring a buck home, that'd see us through most of the winter, the spring and summer they go fishing. That stream back there, see that streak of silver?"
They looked. They'd missed seeing the stream when they first stepped outside earlier.
He went on. "It was better back several years ago when they were younger. They'd get some good catches from that stream."
The screen door opened again. "Oh here you two are. Grandpa entertaining you with stories now, huh?"
"You had a dairy farm then?" Teresa asked looking toward the barn.
Grandpa got a wistful look in his eye as he seemed to study the old barn. "Once, yes."
"All these farms you see were once part of a large family holding."
The twins listened as their grandfather talked about the farm and what their father and uncles did to help feed the animals, run the machinery, milk the cows, put up the hay in the summer.
The girls realized that they were hearing stories their father never told them. Some of the richest dairy land was right here."
"What happened, Grandpa?" Mary asked.
"No one to take over the farms."
The meeting lasted most of an hour. Elaine and David did most of the talking. The others listened as they unraveled family affairs.
David glanced at his watch. "How about lunch?"
Elaine reached back to her desk to pick up parts of a legal document. "This is lunch."
"Take a break. Talk cousin talk and family business." David stood the others stood.
"Yes, we do have that to cover." She stood pushing the documents aside. Elaine looked David square in the eye.
She looked to the others a minute.
David said, "My treat."
Maryann could not feign surprise as took her and Elaine by the hand.
Elaine looked back at me then said with a sigh: "Yeah, let's go. I need to get out of
here for a while anyway."
"Anything special?" I asked as I stood.
Elaine smiled as Dave led her from the office telling her paralegal they would be out for a while. The others followed down the stairs and outside.
They stood outside in front of the converted house a moment. "Where to?" he asked.
She shrugged then said: "Oh yeah, you haven't been around with all the changes?"
"No. Not since eighty-two. I seem to recall the Spread Eagle Restaurant at Turn
"Ryan's Inn now."
"Why am I not surprised?"
The group started across the street passing the converted old CNJ railroad station that was now a bank. Dave considered: Not bad, they did a good job restoring the building. The Black River & Western Railroad had a pair of diesels parked just up the track near the old freight station.
As they passed the bank heading up Railroad Avenue he had Maryann on his right and Elaine on his left arm. The three walked shoulder to shoulder, Dave giving Maryann a guided tour of the area.
They reached the restaurant; the hostess seated them and laid down menus for them.
Elaine looked down at her menu then said in a quiet tone, "Maybe I should have said this sooner, but I didn't."
Dave glanced at her as the waitress came back to take their order.
Elaine looked around the table lowering her head. "Besides the disinheritance, there is no inheritance."
Dave glanced to his wife. Maryann in turn raised her brows in question. He looked to his brothers for comment.
Eddy asked: "So the whole thing is bust?"
"Yes. Except the tax deductible fund which has a whole two thousand dollars – plus or minus in it."
Giving the whole situation some thought, Dave said drolly: "Even Uncle Mike, your Dad is out then?"
Elaine nodded her head. She felt like it was her fault. Dave leaned on the table smiling. "Except for the two thousand and he'll probably use that to pay off a credit card."
"Okay, nobody gets anything…" he turned back to his cousin, "who is paying the retainer fee?"
"He's not." Elaine was still feeling embarrassed by the situation. Dave was too calm about the whole thing. She glanced at Maryann for a sign that Dave was about to lose his "cool" over that piece of news.
Still thinking, Dave looked from the others back to Elaine. He realized the poor girl felt as if she put herself on the spot. Dave finally asked: "So who gets the inheritance?"
"Really nobody. It's not even worth the paper I printed it on."
Dave smiled as the meals were brought to them. Maryann was puzzled that Dave did not go off the "handle" as he thought he would.
Ha took a fork full of mashed potatoes and asked: "Okay, you're not doing this pro-bono, Dad has to pay you somehow?"
Dave and Elaine looked down the table at Keith.
She took a couple mouthfuls of her meal. "The farm, I get the farm in exchange."
Elaine looked up at Dave looking for some reaction then glanced again at Maryann. She asked: "You're not mad?"
Dave smiled. "You need to ask Keith that question."
She looked down the table at Keith. "Are you?"
Keith shook his head. "Darlene and I need a chance to find a place in Point Pleasant, Pennsylvania is all."
"No problem." Again she looked at Dave for an answer. "So what's your take on all this?"
Dave commented on the food that it was still as good as he remembered it to be.
Dave gave her question some thought. "I can't be mad about something that doesn't exist, cuz. I suppose I should be mad about the fact nothing was done on this a long time ago. But that's the way Dad was. Nothing I can do about any of that now."
All during lunch Elaine, knowing Dave waited for some comment or explosion that she was getting the farm.
They walked back to her building. Dave leaned down to give her a kiss. "The farm is yours, little one. Maryann and I have a ranch in Colorado."
"And we do too," said Eddy hugging Connie. "And what are we going to do with a farm here in New Jersey and a ranch in Colorado?"
Elaine gave each a kiss. "Thanks guys for not being mad about this. It helps me a lot."
"We're family, Elaine. This is what we do best."
Maryann touched Dave's arm. "We need to rescue your parents from the twins."
"Twins?" Elaine brightened up.
"They're good," Dave assured her. "They don't have the things we have in Colorado – namely a couple horse to ride."
"I must see them before you leave."
The plane touched down at DIA Saturday evening. Dave wanted to cheer, they were home. Before him lay a familiar wall of rock – the Rocky Mountains. # # #
She shook her head again as I quickly stepped around the desk to help her stand up. "Come on, cuz take a break. It's not every day we get to talk like this."
"Client's this afternoon?"
"No. Most of them I try to do in the morning and leave the afternoon open for the