It was a nasty winter that year, with ice taking over the Grand River. The level of water and ice flow was so high that it came right up over the back of the property, over the decks, and up to the back door. It was a difference of about twelve feet, which really put Danny’s construction skills to the test, since it was him that helped Bruce build the deck. It was an impressive show of force from Mother Nature but not one board was disturbed. The river was a sight to see, especially downtown Grand Rapids where Julie worked as an accountant for Hunt Construction.
The project was tearing down the old police station and replacing it with an Expo Center. This was located right across the street from the U.S. Post Office, which is next door to the Seniors Housing building. The seniors had all been forced out onto the street. No one seems to care about family like on The Walton’s anymore, so they knew there would be little to no backlash to fear. There was a short-lived stink, and life went on. Just like the scandal over the VanAndel Arena- a short-lives stink, mostly due to the fact that the guy who had balls enough to make an argument about it in the Grand Rapids Press, vanished. When local taxes are being used, you have to hold a public bid for the work to be done but the deals were all done behind closed doors. No public bids were held. It was all left to cronyism and nepotism. What an outrage, a shameful travesty. It was my boycott references about that situation that coincided with my grief at the time of my seeming demise on September 3rd, 1996. Coincidence, I wonder…?
Anyway, right in front of the Hunt/Expo project, a remarkable display of nature could be seen as the ice floes moved unhindered, like Glaciers. Bridge pillars stoutly cut through the massive floes of ice, leaving a spectacular sight. Long, deep gouges and lengthening trenches in the frozen mass like nothing I had ever seen. Come spring, when the ice melted and the water levels went down, a landmark boulder would be gone- removed by the glacial-like force, never to be found that I am aware of. Certainly, it was a terrible winter to be on the streets.
One morning, it was snowing pretty hard, and having a vehicle once again volunteered me to pick up the slack of negligence by taking Casey to school. I didn’t mind. I felt like I was there to help. Having a few minutes to work with, which meant no hurry, I decided to take the scenic route along the Rogue River, instead of getting on the North bound portion of Highway131. The route along the Rogue River was a winding road through the hills and valleys, east of US131highway. At one point, where I would get on, and at that time of morning, traffic was the last minute rush. The winds had picked up and a whiteout blizzard with heavy wind gusts struck. In a flash, it was impossible to see, causing a pile up of many, many vehicles- around sixty. It was the worst pile-up in the area, ever. I would have been right there in it. I was so thankful for my choice to not get on the highway that morning, for having not been involved, especially with someone else’s child. The guilt of that would surely have been too much for me but it’s possible my being there interrupted a more serious supernatural force. Maybe they were supposed to be in that accident. Julie would have been in a rush. Had I not been there, I would never have been there to be used for the option of driving her to school, and someone else would have been in charge of Jeans estate and the trust fund from Julies father. But then again, it’s possible that I was supposed to be there. A Guardian Angel- one of their deceased fathers maybe?
As for Danny, the Gezon building had been put up for sale some time ago, which meant that the days of the loft were numbered. Our hopes were that whomever took it over would keep the studio occupancies but we knew that was an improbability. It seemed that no one was really interested in purchasing the place or at least not the building. The property was the only thing anyone wanted. Dan had made a For Sale sign for the owner to hang on the side of the building only he was going to put “Fer” Sale instead. We’d laugh and laugh about that.
He was dividing his time between his friends and his mother, whom now resided in a condominium type apartment community of elderly people. Since she was not driving much, he had use of her Saab and taking her to Marz Hill Church for services every week. “Love Wins”, was the mantra. It was on the bumper sticker in the window.
Bruce let him stay in the guest house that he called the “Sugar Shack”, located behind the house but there was also a tree house across the river that he would go and stay in, built by Rick Todd, a friend who often hung out at Bruce’s.
And then there was Julie Wickman’s place, he stayed there too, walking her dogs while she was busy with working from her home office. Danny was all over town, and now with me living where I was at, he could stay there too.
My own time was being divvied up between my mother’s, Julie’s, and Danny’s, while working on the various projects, that were going on with all involved. Julie’s project was trying to take care of her adoptive mother, Jean.
Jean, having developed Alzheimer’s, had been declining in health and left widowed by her husband, Dick, whom died from A.L.S. a few years back. The local news featured him and his disorder that, once recognized, crippled him very swiftly and severely. A.L.S. had taken away his motor skills and ability to speak. This disease took his life by storm. It was a very sad situation to witness, which I did by way of the VHS tape copy of the news program, and through the various notepads that he had used to communicate with.
Julie would check on her mother once a week, in her home of forty plus years. It was off of Plainfield and Jupiter- back behind the old Witmark's store. This was only a token visit to say she did. She needed to be more attentive because the wolves lurked everywhere around Jean since Dick died. One sold her a brand new Saturn Ion even though she couldn’t remember what she was doing at the dealership. Another sought out more frequent tithe requests. And then there was Julie, waiting to sink her claws into the substance with all the guise of a faithful daughter, following the requests of her adoptive father, to take care of Jean. He was a rare man, loving his wife as if she was the only woman on Earth. Not able to have a child of their own, they finally adopted. Thank God, only once.
Of all the Evil, maybe I was there to buffer the Demonic forces, to add a bit of supernatural guilt that would deflect some of the negative somehow, somewhat. But I was no angel, not by any means. My motives were of the flesh and convenience, and of resentment. My rationalizations justified my actions, the good with the bad until the bad could be stamped out. My awareness of what was going on was becoming more and more, and it had a very negative impact on how I felt about the living situation and what I had become involved in. My drinking became more constant. Although I tried to curtail it, my sadness over the truth, and the reality that I kept finding in life, only seemed to give life right back to the beast that I fought to take life from. Everything was messed up but I continued to deny it by leaning on my Faith and Hope that there was Goodness to be found somewhere amid all of the chaos.
Julie had gotten into a lot of trouble as a teen, finding her way into the carnival circuit where she learned to refine her skills at deception and manipulation, becoming a con artist. She played me out well too, speaking with an air of sophistication in the English persuasion with Casey feeding into the charade as best supporting actress. It seemed like it was all in playfulness but it was just part of a larger deception. Sometimes she would mention researching to find her lineage before being put up for adoption but even she speculated that she was descended from criminals. She had suspected gypsies because of her black hair.
She had an injury to her throat, sustained in a car wreck when she was seventeen, that required the routine use of a Teflon tune-up in the form of an injection from time to time. This was to help her speaking, since she had a hoarse ugliness that rattled the glass panes, chasing even the most incapacitated man away. I felt sorry for her. Her boyfriend and a couple of their friends were heading toward the west coast to do some “work” in the adult movie industry. She slept in the backseat while they were coked up and speeding down a dark stretch of highway. Somewhere, between wrong and right, they were in an accident. Who was to blame wasn’t going to change the fact that people were killed, including her unborn child. She was the only one to survive, and wouldn’t learn of her pregnancy until many days later. Her body was nearly severed in two, receiving massive amounts of care and hundreds of sutures and staples, leaving her badly scarred around her abdomen. Her throat was deeply lacerated, damaging her vocal cords. Teflon could only take the scratch off of the surface. Secretly, I felt a joy of sorts over the loss of that child, an uncontrolled voice of the ego, maybe, or was it that someone had escaped an undeserving hell of this family’s reality? This partly explained how she ended up in the carnival, maimed and disfigured, damaged goods and starved for attention…. Even if it was from a man who’s interests were purely superficial.
Jean went downhill fast, requiring someone to be appointed responsible for the finances. Julie was made executor of the estate, which was made into a trust fund, all the while letting her own home go into a state of delinquency as an effort to get out from under the debt. On the surface it appeared as though she was preparing to consolidate households due to her mothers caretaking needs but in reality she was just moving back in with mom. She put her moms house on the market and searched for a house that was big enough for the four of us. It had to be on a bus route. And it had to be in Rockford School district. Casey insisted on staying in that school but I had reasons to believe that the school could have done without her.
An impending sense of urgency created a hostile environment to which Kenny did not help. While I am at work, Kenny is sneaking underage girls over to have sex with. He knew his mother was at work, and that I was working. It was impossible to take them to his father’s house, and the cost of gas limited his driving, so it only made sense to take them to his mother’s.
Casey had tried telling her mother about Kenny’s perversions- that he had been trying to fondle her, and molested her in the past. Whether true or not, I cannot ascertain. There was so much untruth and manipulation that I could only observe and wonder. My concerns blew up when it was ME that was in the house, and in a position to be the responsible party in the home. I feared being the one implicated with accusations that any man fears. Thank God I didn’t get caught up in a bad scenario involving a statutory rape case with an irate father of a teenage girl who needed a good excuse why the school had called saying she wasn’t there. What a nightmare.