Monday, July 11, 2011

Memoir: Chapter 34: Visiting Grandma and Grandpa Wilson and little Uncle Bill and playing Chinese checkers

I would go down once in a while to visit Grandma and Grandpa Wilson.  Grandpa, little Uncle Bill, and I would play Chinese checkers.  Bill was doing better in Salt Lake than he had in Boulder with the kinder gentler people in Grandma's ward in church who were more like she was, with lots of patience which slower kids need. Grandma had told me the Boulder kids made fun of Bill and Ben both. Ben was his best friend who lived just a block away, and their insults made Bill feel bad.  As for as I knew, this was the main reason Grandma urged Grandpa to sell the small ranch, so they could  take Bill back to the city. 
Boulder was a more dangerous place for kids, I thought, too.  Ben, Bill's friend, was already deceased from a hunting accident he sustained when he went duck hunting with a bunch of eager kids.  A kid in his excitement at seeing wild ducks fired a gun before he had entirely raised it up, and a slug went into Ben's head and killed him instantly.
Just a few months before I happened to have gotten in on another accident Ben had with his dad's runaway team.  I was driving a herd of cattle up the road to the mountain on Sorly when the team and wagon went thundering past.  I saw Ben clinging to the hay pole on the wagon the team going so fast he could not jump off.  I turned Sorly around and chased after them not knowing if I could do anything to prevent Ben getting hurt.
Just as I about caught up to him, the wagon broke in two pieces and when the yoke fell to the ground, it slowed the horses down enough Ben was able to turn them off the road and jump off.
I turned Sorly around and raced back up the road to catch up with my cattle for fear they got lost before I had driven them up on the mountain as far as Daddy said to take them.
Ben was only twelve when he was killed.
I had always worried about Grandpa buying a rogue Jersey bull when he was in Boulder, which he had to keep chained to a post as this bull would try to charge anyone who came near him.  Grandpa had been able to get him cheap probably because he was mean, but he was hoping to expand his herd of pure Jersey milk cows which gave the thickest cream.  Food loving Grandpa naturally loved delicious rich cream.
But I had nightmares about that bull somehow breaking loose and killing someone.  He could have killed Grandpa when he was trying to handle him, breeding him to the cows. I had never seen such a mean bull.  He had it in for humans.  And the more he had to live on a short chain the more dangerous he was going to get.
I just did not think city life that I had witnessed so far was as dangerous as country life. But every time I saw little Uncle Bill, I could not help but think about his best friend laying on the couch in his mother's house, cold and dead, after he had been shot.  I recall her holding his feet and saying, "but his feet are so cold, they are so cold."
His mother was my friend Barbara's oldest sister.  I don't think there is any more raw grief than that of a mother who has lost her first born son.
But I was glad Mother had decided to park me at her grandmother's house instead of at her own mother's and father's.  I am sure she remembered her dad's bad temper as she had often complained about it to me, and somehow did not want her own daughter to be exposed to it.  And Grandma would have insisted I go to church.  She would never have been able to tolerate me ever staying at home, as young as I was, if I had lived under her jurisdiction.  Although their son Kent, who was now in his first year of medical school, had fallen away from the church.
Kent had gone on a mission like his other brothers, but I always got the idea his heart really was not in the church.  Now he told his mother he was too busy to attend anymore and besides, his wife, a nurse, was from back east and did not belong to the faith.  He had met her in the service.
Grandpa and Grandma loved Kent's wife who was helping put Kent through medical school by working full time.  Their contribution was a free apartment.  He was also using his G.I. bill from his stint in the navy. He was a poor boy who was being helped by a lot of people to realize the impossible dream of becoming a doctor.
I was very curious about Kent who I had not been around very much while growing up.  He was so popular in medical school he had been elected the president of his class.  I thought he was very good looking although he was starting to go a little bit bald like Grandpa. He had written letters to Mother when he was on his mission and in the service that were very amusing, making fun of all he saw.  I thought he had the most sophisticated sense of humor of all of Mother's brothers.
I visited Uncle Kent and his wife, Emmy,  a time or two and they were very nice to me, but once when I went down to Grandpa's, I knocked on their door and Kent was home alone.  We had not talked  long before I started feeling not only affection but a very strong attraction to him as he did for me, but I felt uneasy, as I knew this was not what I should want from a relative.  He was probably more than a dozen years older than I was. 
So I went home determined to keep a very tight rein on myself so that nothing could ever happen between us that should not.  I knew I was very lonely, but I was only fifteen, and anything going on between us would be incest as well as a violation of his marriage.
The next time I saw Kent I was prepared to be distant even though he greeted me with anticipation.  When he perceived the change in me, he immediately backtracked and was never that nice to me again.
Mother's family was extremely sensitive to slights, so now he was reading rejection in my demeanor. I just could not be too friendly.  I simply could not stand another molesting incident in my life. I had to be distant, not because I did not need love, but because I had to be able to trust.   
I had always thought that Kent was somewhat disturbed, and that he might have been Mother's only brother to have experienced marked attention from both sexes.  I wondered if he had succumbed.  If that was the meaning of his rather indifferent attitude toward his faithful wife and willingness to explore other possibilities so readily.  Some of Mother's family crossed forbidden lines easily. It was sometimes hard to tell why.
I did not know if Grandpa Wilson had been the bad influence there. I knew that Grandma had always fretted about his possible womanizing after she found evidence that he was having an affair when Mother was about 12. She opened a letter addressed to him. Mother also searched the house until she found the letter and read it, too.
Proof of the affair had a very profound influence on her, I know.  When she was tempted I figured she might have thought straying was in her blood and she could not resist going down the same road.
Kent had always been an extremely attractive young man and such young men are often exposed to temptations from every direction.  I wished I had been able to talk to him very frankly.  We could have had a deep relationship if that had been what he valued.
Didn't he realize I was too young for any manifestation of desire from him? In the first incident neither one of us had crossed the line, but when he greeted me the second time with the implication that we should go ahead and explore the possibilities of our attraction, I was somewhat disillusioned.
Mother and her people could not take any implied criticism when they did not check their emotions.  And now I was never going to be special to Kent again. A handsome charismatic Wilson male who was intelligent enough to aspire to be a doctor did not like to be rebuked however subtly I tried to do it.   
Oh well, such was life.  Mother's most restrained brother Crae had been killed in the war.  Her brother Guy was very busy with two jobs trying to earn a living for his wife and four children.  He had to get married while he was still in high school. Mother would take me to see him, sometimes, too when he was running up and down refereeing basket ball games, another part time job he had.
Guy seemed rather reckless.  Using up his life force running day and night, even when he was not working.  I don't know when he ever got any rest.  He was perpetually sleep deprived and I thought he he paid for it by developing stomach cancer when he was 34 just as Great Grandma did when she was a young harassed widow with eight children to raise alone.  Only not surprisingly in his case there were no miracles.  His brother Kent, a doctor just barely in practice a year, helped operate on him and thought he only had a couple of months to live and he was right.

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