"He spent it all on drinkin', Grandda," piped up Les. "He went to the pubs on the weekend as soon as he got his paycheck, and then came home and beat us, and sometimes he beat up Ma, too."
Marie simply nodded her head.
Grandda looked at me with a questioning look on his face, as if he thought I would deny what they were saying, but I could not.
He bowed his head in abject sorrow, muttering something under his breath. Then he sent us in and did not return to the house for some time. I think his heart was breaking even more. I knew there was little I could do about it at the time. Somehow, I realized he felt the responsibility for my Da's behavior. What a terrible truth to lay on him just now at the time he was grieving the loss of my Grandma.
We went into the house quietly, only to be greeted by the sound of laughter. It seemed some of the men standing around in the kitchen were telling some funny anecdotes of when my grandparents were younger.
"You should have seen her chasing that old bull out in the road, trying to get him into the field! It was clear she didn't know what she was doing. Pretty soon, it had turned around and was chasing her. I never laughed so much in my life!"
"What finally happened?"
"Oh, I took pity on her and helped her get him cornered and through the gate. Shane drove up about that time and boy, did she give him an earful!"
I realized they were talking about my Grandma. Say, these stories could really turn out to be interesting.
"Yeah, he was about three sheets in the wind, and she let him have it with both barrels. Their little boy, Sean, came running out the back door crying about then, and Shane gave him a swat with the back of his hand."
They looked around and saw us then and all at once, the laughter stopped. It seemed they were embarrassed at the turn the story had taken, and it wasn't so funny any more.
I had gotten a picture of why Grandda had sent us back into the house. I really felt bad for him, but it helped me understand my own family a little better.
"Say, Ms. O'Hanlon, do you have any more of that chocolate cake sitting around?" asked one of the men who had been standing around talking.
"Sure. I'll cut you a piece of it. How about I freshen that cup of coffee you're holding?
And so, the moment passed and pretty soon, they were talking the past again. After about thirty minutes, Grandda came in and greeted them affably, welcoming them to the home, and thanking them for coming. One would never guess the agony he had been going through out in the barn.
As for me, I was glad that his life had changed for the better, and I knew he was as well. My eyes were getting droopy and I could hardly keep them open. Looking over at Marie and Les, I saw they needed to be in bed. Ma looked at the three of us and sent us to bed.
I had a lot to think about. When we had crawled into our beds, Les asked me, "Zeb, what about our Christmas? We didn't have any, did we?"
(To be continued)