Pete replied, ‘Enough about that crazy old man, we are talking about you and your excuses for not communicating with us when we needed you most. I didn’t care, I don’t know about Cassidy but you were the worst to mom. Don’t think I didn’t know mom used to beg you to talk to her and you would just come home eat whatever was there and go to bed in the spare room. Me and Cassidy had our friends but mom had nobody. All she wanted was you and you were never there for her.”
Peter Sr., “I know, I know, it was wrong of me but I just clam up when something is troubling me. I saw my dad beat on my mom and then on me any time he felt like it. Oh there was always a reason in his mind, the supper was cold, I let the screen door slam any stupid reason would tick him off.”
“I never wanted to smack around your mom or both of you so I did what I could, I clammed up or I yelled or left the house.” I thought at the time it would be the way to not become violent like my Dad. I used to go riding around. I was so mixed up in my head it wasn’t going well between your mother and me for a long time. I see now that… that was wrong I am trying…I am sorry for that.”
Pete replied, “Okay okay you said your piece, can we get on with it or I am leaving and this time Debell you can’t stop me.”
Cassidy could feel the tension mounting in the room and she was getting frightened; no longer was it necessary to focus on Mr. Debell’s big nose. She had to force herself to listen to things that were breaking her heart. She saw how both her Dad and brother were in pain, though Pete seemed more angry. Maybe that was just his way of releasing his pain. Maybe that was his way to put all the blame on Dad. Maybe he was trying to find a way to understand what happened to Mom and this was the only way he knew how.
Dad and Pete had a big row when Dad told him the repair of the busted wall would come out of his part time job. Neither one of them talked about Mom. Maybe, just maybe, Peter is more like Dad then he would like to admit? Cassidy knew he was hurting but he just clammed up after that. He paid Dad for the wall and the two of them never spoke since. In fact Cassidy could remember only about 4 nights in the month or so since Mom had been in the hospital that Pete came home. However, he did go to see Mom quite often; sometimes with Cassidy and sometimes by himself.
Debell glanced over at Cassidy’s dad.
Peter Sr, continued, “Okay I guess I have stalled long enough. So I will get to the point and Cassidy I believe things will come clearer for you after I said my piece.
When we were living in Pointe St. Charles we were a young family and we weren’t rich, but we were okay. We were a lot better off financially than most of the families living there. It was a tough neighborhood, I never wanted to live there but I met your mom at one of the neighborhood dances and we fell in love. Helen lived in the area and she didn’t want to be too far away from her mom because her father as you know now suffered from schizophrenia and Helen’s mom had no one else to help her.
So we lived in the area until Pete was about 8 or 9 years old…Now that I think about, more closely Pete had to be ten because you were in the second grade making you seven years old.”
“Peter interjected, “you are stalling again.”
Peter Sr., “Please excuse me Peter I am not used to talking this much and it is very difficult for me, but I will try to sum it up a bit faster.
At first Pete was doing well in school and then he got into trouble with a gang of hoodlums who were between the ages of 8 and 16 I was told. One night the gang decided to rob a corner store. They held up the manager and one of the older boys had a gun. Pete wasn’t even aware this boy had a gun. Pete was told that Gary was just going into to the store to get some cigarettes.
The police were called and social services was called in. I was always used to making the decisions in the family so I took it upon myself to decide with the social worker what would happen to my son.”
Cassidy was wide-eyed and listening to this story. She never knew what happened to Pete nobody would tell her.
Peter Sr., “Helen came with me but she never said a word. I decided that we should move away from the area and I promised I would make sure my son did not get into any trouble again. This seemed fine with the social worker but when we got home Helen got mad at me. She didn’t want to move away from her mother. She found Pointe Claire was just too far way if her mother needed her. She refused to go back to the social worker as long as I carried out my plan to move.
I told her if she didn’t care enough about her son then so be it but we were moving. I know she loved you kids and this was not about loving or not loving Pete it was about her mother. Yet I went ahead with it anyhow. We moved to Pointe Claire against her wishes.
Helen resented the move at first but it seemed that she was okay with it after awhile. I took her down to see her mother every Saturday and if she told me well enough in advance I would take her on other days as well. “
Peter Hollister Sr, paused to take a sip of coffee and to clear his throat. You could see he was very uncomfortable telling his story.
“She was okay, or so I thought until one night when her mother called her. She was hysterical over the phone I was later told. It was the night your grandfather was hit by a car when he was out wandering in the streets. I was not home and I did not have a cell phone in those days. Helen was unable to get me and so she left you kids with the neighbor and she took a bus to her mother’s house only to be told by a neighbor that her mom had gone to Sacred Heart Hospital. Helen hopped on the bus to the hospital but she was too late. Her poor mom was beside herself, her husband had passed away.
Helen never forgave me for that. That was when the drinking began, but even then it wasn’t too bad, it was mostly on Saturday night, the night her father died. I didn’t complain about it, I knew she was heartbroken and I just let her be. I figured she would come out of mourning when she was good and ready.
Peter Sr., looked around the room for support but didn’t see it is his children eyes. He continued his story with his head down.
“Your mother never got back to herself; she got worse and worse. She knew I told the social worker everything so she decided to go to the social worker herself, on her own, never with me. She dressed her best and acted like she never had a care in the world. Nobody really knew how tormented she was. I knew she was two different people; the gay and cheerful mother who went to the social worker and the drunken often times despondent woman who lived at home.”
Pete jumped up, “I have had enough of this you’re just shoving the blame on mom.”
“Pete please let me finish there is more that you and Cassidy must know, I am just giving you the background for what happened to your mother that night when she tried to to…
Pete had turned his face away from the group but he didn’t make a motion to move.
Peter Sr. looked at Mr. Debell for comfort; at least that is what Cassidy thought.
When he was given the signal Peter Hollister continued his sad tale.
“One day Helen went to see the social worker for her appointment, but the social worker was not in that day. The replacement social worker let it slip that Helen’s family social worker, Denise, had been called for an emergency. She had to take her son from the elementary school in Pointe Claire where they lived to the hospital. He injured himself in gym class while playing volley ball. It was just a sprained ankle but it needed to be seen for a proper diagnosis.
Helen came home seething mad, she may have been ill but she was not stupid. She realized that was why I was so adamant about moving to Pointe Claire. I could not hide the obvious Helen caught on that Denise and I were having an affair. She called Denise’s boss and had her fired.
Then she started to go to the new social worker and found comfort in her words I would imagine. But the affair caused a rift between the two of us. Cassidy you are old enough to understand because I am sure you knew already anyhow. Your mother and I never slept with each other after that. You have seen me take the spare bedroom many times and that is why.
I was riddled with guilt I know I was the one who was wrong. I never slept with another woman again and I broke off the relationship with Denise as well. Denise was a single parent, her husband left her years before. She agreed to an amicable parting and felt that she had contributed to our family’s problems. The last words she said when we had that parting dinner was “I was assigned to your case to help you out and instead I have broken up your family. The agency was right to fire me. But it is Helen that I have hurt the most and I can never fix that.
Every now and then Helen would get out of control in one of her drunken stupors and bring up the situation with Denise. It was years since it happened and the night before her hospitalization she started bringing Denise up again. I was tired I had a particularly grueling day at work and I knew the next day would be just as bad. Normally I would just wait till she calmed down and then go to bed in the spare room which was my room by this time. But this night, my nerves were already frayed and I yelled at her to never bring up that name again.
Instead of going to bed I took off in my car. I just drove around all night until it was time to go to work. Maybe if I had of stayed home this big mess wouldn’t have happened. Maybe somehow I could console her although I knew I could never make it better.”
Cassidy was fidgeting in her seat, she knew that Dad was leaving out the part where when they had a row like that he would storm out the door. She guessed he was trying to make it look better for Mr. Big Nose.
Cassidy had a confused look on her face .Mr. Debell asked her if she had something on her mind that she wanted to say.
“Dad I understand about Denise but why did mom call Julie Samuels Denise. Did she really think Denise would come to our house?”
Peter Sr. looked up with red puffy eyes at his daughter and responded. Having Julie there was not that far off from reality. You see Julie is Denise’s daughter.”
“You must be mistaken dad, Julie’s mother is Dorothea, I been to their house many times. I’ve talked many times with her mom.”
Yes, Cassidy Julie’s mother is Dorothea but she never liked that name. All her friends called her Denise. Even before we started going out with each other we knew the two of you would be in the same classes so Denise told her daughter just to refer to her as Dorothea in front of you. When Julie wanted to know why she told her Denise was what she was known to her close friends and everyone else only knew her as Dorothea. She told Julie it was very important to her that her friends only know her by her real name and made Julie promise that her friends call her Mrs. Samuels and if they ever asked her what her mother’s name was, she was to say it was Dorothea. We were lucky that the other kids never asked her what her mom’s name was.
There was a long pause and then Mr. Debell said that the hour was up and asked if anyone had anything to say. Pete still had his face turned away from the group. Cassidy noticed how helpless her dad looked slumped over in the chair and quietly sobbing. She got up and went over to hug her dad. Pete turned his head when she got up and he too got up and put his hand on his dad’s shoulder.
Peter Sr. grabbed his two children and held them as hard as he could.
Mr. Debell waited for a moment and said.
“Time is up folks, I see we made major progress today and I am happy that you guys are going to be alright. Your mom and dad will be coming to see me for as long as needs be and I invite the two of you to come along as well if you need the help. Cassidy I would like to let your guidance counselor know about what happened today if you would permit me. Mrs. Black can follow your case just to check in from time to time or if you prefer you can come and see me.”
Cassidy nodded okay for the guidance counselor to know what was going on. Mr. Debell ended the meeting by telling her to think about which person she would rather speak with and he would make the appropriate arrangements.
The family left the meeting together. There was still a lot of healing to do but they were leaving the meeting much better than the way they came in.
Previously published in Bubblews