Dear Chloe and Lola,
As the year draws to a close I find myself wondering where the time went. The days themselves seem never ending, but looking back at the previous year it does not seem possible that so much time has passed. I wish I could say that I am enjoying my retirement, but with an empty nest, and Kitty gone, the days are long and tedious. I find myself writing to you almost every week out of habit. The stack of returned letters in my desk continues to grow, yet I continue. I think this process has, as of late, become more of a therapeutic tool for me rather than a concerted effort to find you.
With the waning year comes the frenzy of activity surrounding the holidays. I do not know if your mother raised you to celebrate the Christian holidays, but no matter how you celebrate whatever you celebrate, I hope you find much joy and peace. Every year, before Kitty’s death, we spent the holiday season traveling. Instead of indulging in church sanctioned consumerism, we pack our bags and headed for the open road. Because of this, our kids have seen and done many things that their friends never will over the whole of their lives. We always thought this was a greater gift to our children than expensive toys and games that would be abandoned in a few weeks time.
Even though the Christmas holiday was not observed in our home, Thanksgiving has always been a big deal. Kitty would plan for weeks for our Thanksgiving dinner. Every year, around the time of Hallowe’en, the flurry of activity would begin; meal planning, shopping, decorating, making sure the in-laws had a ride to and from our house. In addition to the traditional Thanksgiving bird, Kitty would prepare one dish for each member of the family. A week or two before the big day Kitty would ask each of us what dish we wanted her to prepare. On Thanksgiving Day each dish we requested would be on the table. This made for some very interesting dinners, the most unusual being that year that Lazlo request sashimi, a Japanese raw fish dish. We had many wonderful Thanksgivings together. None, however, were quite as memorable as this past Thanksgiving – and may we never have another one like it.
The past few years, Thanksgiving has been a rather lousy imitation of what it was when Kitty was here. The boys and I are always together for the long holiday weekend and somehow we manage to cobble together something vaguely resembling a Thanksgiving meal. This year, the boys came home from LFT, though Vidcund made his appearance under protest. I suspect that threats were made to prevent Vidcund from skipping this holiday and holing up at their little house on campus.
I understand Vidcund’s desire to spend the weekend alone, but that does not mean I would have been okay with it. While Pascal and Lazlo have been doing well in their studies and socially, Vidcund has been having a rather rough semester. It is all his own doing, and I am inclined to not have much sympathy for him, but I do worry for him. His reluctance to participate in the holiday probably had a lot to do with him not wanting to face me. After his poor performance last semester, Vidcund was placed on academic probation. Naturally, I was furious with him. It is so difficult to watch your child, one you know to be exceptionally intelligent, flounder in his studies due to his own lack of effort. Another reason for his reluctance may have been due to the dissolution of his relationship with his long-time girlfriend, Circe Salamis. The breakup was extremely difficult for him. His brothers informed me that they hadn’t seen Vidcund in such a bad mental state since the death of their mother. Apparently, Circe finally reached her breaking point after he made a spectacle of himself at one of the many parties they attended together. I understand that drinking and partying is somewhat of a right of passage for college kids, but there is a point where some of them cross the line from being party animals to full blown addicts. Vidcund, I fear, may have crossed that line some time ago. I never cared much for Circe, but I don’t blame her for not wanting to watch him destroy his life and certainly hers if she had stayed with him. What angers me, however, is the fact that she wasted no time in becoming involved with someone else. From what I understand, Circe broke off her relationship with Vidcund the morning after his performance of fighting with Loki Beaker, puking on her, passing out, and wetting himself. (I don’t know about anybody else, but the puking would have been enough to put me over the edge.) Later that same evening she was seen finding comfort in the arms of the same Loki Beaker. Pascal told me that during the time that Circe was at university, and Vidcund was still here in Strangetown completing high school, she and Loki were “very close”.
Despite his desire to crawl inside a bottle and hide, Vidcund arrived home, with his brothers, the day before Thanksgiving. It was wonderful to have the house feel alive again. Pascal and Lazlo were glad to be home, and had many visits from old friends also home for the holiday. Jenny and her son visited one afternoon, much to everyone’s delight. Even Vidcund seemed to break out of his funk for a while. The entire weekend, none of them left to spend time with their friends. I believe that they convinced their friends to come visit at the house, so they would not have to leave me. I was touched by this, and I suspect that I have some remarkable kids.
This year’s smorgasbord was to have been barbecued chicken, grilled vegetables, mashed potatoes, and a store bought pumpkin pie for dessert. Thanksgiving Day, Lazlo, Vidcund and I set to preparation of our pseudo feast. Lazlo, the only one of us to have ever shown an aptitude for cooking, sent Pascal out to the market in search of whatever he could find to compliment our meal. Pascal left around eleven to get to the store before its early closing time. Meanwhile, Lazlo, Vidcund and I prepped our ingredients and set the table. After an hour Pascal had still not returned. Rather than wait, we put the chicken and vegetables on the grill, and set the potatoes on to boil. After another hour, Pascal was still missing in action. Our meal sat on the table and grew cold as we wandered around the house, got under each others feet, and got on each other’s nerves. We waited, worried, and speculated. Pascal was the responsible one. Something must have happened to him for him to have been gone for more than three hours on a trip to a store that was a five minute’s drive away. Lazlo suggest that the old car might have broken down, but knowing Pascal the way I do, he would have found his way home by calling a cab, or even walking. Either scenario would have gotten him home a lot sooner. As the third hour of his absence passed into the fourth, I found myself assuming the worst. Finally, after four and-a-half hours, the phone rang. I answered it, my heart in my throat. It was a police officer. He was with Pascal and wanted to know could I come down to the hospital and collect him. He assured me that Pascal was fine, but the hospital would only release him into my care. I wasted no time getting to the hospital. I found him in the emergency room. His face was battered and bruised. Despite this, he was resting comfortably on a gurney, having a casual conversation with the police officer sitting at his bedside. He looked at me sheepishly as I was greeted by the officer and asked what had happened. The officer informed me that there had been an ‘incident’ at the Area 52 Shopping Center parking lot. Pascal had suffered a concussion and was brought to the hospital unconscious, but was going to be okay. The other party involved in the ‘incident’ had suffered a broken nose and multiple contusions, but had decided not to file assault charges against my son. The officer then left us in order to inform the hospital staff that I had arrived to collect Pascal. I was relieved and furious at the same time. I looked at him, bewildered, and simply asked him, “assault charges?” He didn’t answer me immediately, but scratched the back of his head where he had received half-a-dozen stitches. He told me that he didn’t want to talk about it. I told him that I didn’t care what he wanted and that he had better start explaining. After a few minutes argument about it being or not being a big deal, he related the story to me. It started with him leaving the market and walking to his car. On the way to his car, Pascal was approached by an old schoolmate, Buzz Grunt. For no reason known to Pascal at the time, Buzz got in Pascal’s face and started yelling at him. Pascal lost his temper and punched Buzz, resulting in Buzz’s nose being broken. After Pascal got in his one good shot, Buzz had proceeded to beat Pascal senseless, resulting in Pascal hitting his head on the pavement, rendering him unconscious. I have seen Pascal lose his temper before, but I have never known him to resort to violence. I asked him what he had been thinking, what Buzz had said that made Pascal think the only course of action was to punch him in the face. Pascal was reluctant to tell me, but after a few minutes of badgering, he relented. He sat up in the bed, looked at me quite seriously and said, “Dad, he called Lazlo a faggot. He got in my face and told me to ‘tell that faggot little brother of yours to stay the fuck away from Lyla’”. (Lyla Vandermorgan, Lazlo’s high school girlfriend, had been at our house the previous day.) He then sat back on the bed, crossed his arms over his chest and stared me down. Nothing else was said between us from that moment until we arrived back at the house. I just didn’t know what to say. I should have told him that I understood.
When we got back to the house, Lazlo and Vidcund were naturally curious as to what had happened. I told them to leave their brother alone, that he would talk about it when he was ready. Pascal went straight to his room and locked the door. Our uneaten dinner had been packed away in the fridge and nobody was feeling very festive. We eventually conceded the day as a loss, and went to bed.
I found it impossible to sleep that night. After a few hours of tossing and turning, I gave up. Around three a.m. I went to the kitchen. The barbecued chicken that had been packed away in the fridge now seemed like a good idea. It wasn’t until I saw Lazlo at the dinner table, gnawing on a chicken leg that I realized that none of us had eaten the previous day. I sat down next to Lazlo, peeled back the plastic wrap from the plate of chicken and took a leg. Neither of us spoke while we finished our chicken. Lazlo licked the barbecue sauce from his fingers, wiped his hands on his pajama pants, and finally spoke. He said that Pascal had told him what had happened. He then asked me if I knew why Buzz Grunt had said the things he did. I told him I did. I had known for quite some time that Lazlo liked to play both sides of the field. He thought for a few minutes as he fiddled with the plastic wrap on the chicken. When he finally asked me if I was okay with it, and if I was disappointed in him, I though my heart was going to break. I realized that I had failed him by not having ever said anything to him. All this time he had been fearful of my disapproval over something as trivial as who he chose to share his bed with. I put my arms around him and held him close to me, painfully aware that he was a young man. I could still remember how he had felt in my arms on the day he was born. I buried my face in his hair and kissed him. I told him that he had never, ever, disappointed me. The events of the day, lack of sleep, and knowledge that I had failed my son were too much for me to bear. I wept and told him how sorry I was. Lazlo indulged me in my misery for a few minutes before he asked me if I thought that Buzz had gotten as much as he had given, and I laughed. I remarked that I thought maybe he did, and that I wouldn’t ever want to be on the receiving end of one of Pascal’s rages. Lazlo agreed and for a few minutes we laughed over what Buzz’s face must have looked like when Pascal hauled off and socked him. We both agreed that we would have paid money to see it. We cleaned up the chicken and Lazlo returned to his room and quietly shut the door behind him.
Instead of going to my own room, I went to the end of the hall and opened the door to Vidcund’s room. Vidcund was sitting up, reading a book. A half empty vodka bottle was sitting on the nightstand. He made no effort to hide it from me. He looked up at me as I entered the room, but immediately went back to his book. I sat next o him on the edge of the bed. I told him I was sorry about Circe, and that I knew she meant a lot to him. He didn’t even look up from his book when he told me not really, and it was her loss. I was at a loss for what else to say to him. Vidcund had always gone to his mother for support. It was hard to believe that this stoic young man was once the same boy I had taught to play football and ride a bike. I tried to think of what Kitty would have said in the situation. I told him that if he ever needed to talk, ever needed anything, ever wanted help, he could come to me. I wouldn’t judge him, and I would help him in any way I could. He nodded and went back to his book. Frustrated and about to give up on getting through to him, I put my hand on his arm and gave it a squeeze. I told him I loved him, rose from the bed and walked to the door. I was closing the door behind me when Vidcund finally spoke. “Dad,” he said, and I stepped back into the room. He looked at me with those piercing blue eyes of Kitty’s and said “I love you too”. He closed his book, placed it on the nightstand and turned off his lamp. I took this as my cue to leave and closed the door behind me.
The following morning, Pascal came out of hiding. He joined me at the dining table for a cup of coffee. I took this moment, before his brothers were awake, to tell him I was proud of him. I think he tried to smile, but the swollen and split lip he was sporting made it painful. Neither of us said anything else, but we didn’t need to. When the boys left a few days later, he hugged me harder than he had ever hugged me before. At that moment I knew that after everything that the four of us had been through over the past several years, my boys were going to turn out okay.
In retrospect, it was not the best Thanksgiving we had ever spent as a family, but it was one of the most important. While I would not want to relive the experience, I find myself longing for the closeness we shared over the last two days of that weekend. I don’t know how many more Thanksgivings we will have together, and even if this was the last, I know that my boys will be there for each other after I am gone and they will be okay.
I apologize for having rambled on for so long. As I explained before, this practice of writing to you has recently become more about me than you. I don’t know that any of these letters I have written will ever come to you, but I find some solace that some day someone will read them and they will know how much I love all of you.
Your Loving Father,
Author's note : This was a very difficult letter for me to write as it will be Glarn's last. I have really enjoyed writing these and loved delving into the boy's childhoods. I'm a little sad to be writing the last one of these, but I think their usefulness as a plot device has come to an end. I have come to care for all of these characters so much, and I hope I have effectively depicted how they appear in my imagination.
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