|Buddy with Amy Peck, Grandmother Laura Peck (with her Bible) and Theodorus Peck. My father Buddy hated this photo, hated the popular sailor suit for boys.|
He left me here in deep shit (Oh, it felt so good to think that word!) and, God damn it, he better haul his ass (another satisfying word) up here. Instead, Helen asked Ma casually, “Where is Buddy, Ma? Isn’t he ‘sposed to help out today?”
Why oh why did you leave me, Dorus? How could you have left me? I don’t know what I am doing, how to do it! Your ma is no help at all, not one bit. I believe I have a fourth child and her name is Laura. Dear Lord, grant me Your wisdom…Amy prayed quietly wanting some sort of an answer, but expecting none.
|Theodorus Peck in Michigan, photo taken by new bride, Amy Nichols Peck.|
|Amy Nichols Peck, bride|
She hammered them once more. Hell if I .... “Hmmmm” were the only sound spoken, but a flow of profanity streamed freely through her brain, all focused on Buddy, none of them kind, none of them speak-able in front of Ma.
Do this, Buddy. Move it over here. Climb up and get that vase. Dust and wash it. Climb up again. A mind-numbing day, and Buddy was locked into a rhythm dictated by Ma and Grandma.
“Move that chair here, Buddy."
I just moved it over there, old woman! Gee whiz! Can't you make up your shriveled brain?
"Oh, my goodness! Won’t you just look at all that dust! Buddy, take that rug outside and beat it, won’t you, be a dear.” Then Grandma Laura retired out to the porch and fanned herself.
Buddy remembered that rug, remembered it well. He and Pa played on that rug and read books on that rug. That rug was where Pa in his coffin rested the night before his funeral.
With a deep groan, Buddy heaved it over the clothes line. Wire clothes line gave its own groan, and sagged until the edge of the rug brushed autumn grass.
The first swat was ineffectual and Buddy swung again. Why the hell am I doing this? Buddy was stunned that he thought that word, but it was somehow comforting. Damn!
A second swat permitted some dust to fly. Buddy looked at the floral design on the rug. Pa, we liked that rose. You traced your finger here, there. Pa, why did you stop doing that? Why did you stop?
Another swat gave dust a chance to break free from rose-bound flowers. Pa, if you were here, you could help me. You would help me. I'm not strong enough, Pa. I can't do this by myself. I can't do hard work, what you did, all alone.
Pa, I'm only nine years old.
Swat swat swat, and Buddy paused to let his arms rest.
"Pa, I hate you!" Buddy hit rose rug with all the strength he could summon.
"I hate you!" Buddy kicked it ferociously. It swung on the wire, back and forth, each time Buddy struck it.
"You left me, you left Ma, you left everybody! I hate you!" Buddy sobbed uncontrollably and leaned over, resting hands on knees.
He kicked the rug beater out toward the outhouse. I could throw this damn contraption into the hole. I could say it was an accident. Knowing Ma the way he did, Buddy knew she would make him climb down into all the crap steeping in the dark.
Buddy began swinging erratically, with each cloud of dust he sobbed and wiped his nose. I miss you so much, Pa.
You coulda gone to see a doctor sooner and he woulda healed you. I know something coulda saved you!
Why didn't you go?
"Why didn't you go to a doctor, Pa?" Buddy asked, quietly.
He dropped Ma's rug dust-covered beater, himself dropping to dried grass, breathing raggedly. He whispered, "I don't hate you, Pa. I love you and you died. If I could run over there where you lay in your box, in that dirt, and climb down there with you, I would. I would!"
Rising to his feet, Buddy continued his job, his face now beet colored with each swing, and then muddy with sweat. Whatever he thought or said was eaten up by sheer exhaustion.
What? Rest? Did that old woman actually say that?
“Why don’t we have more, Buddy? It is a hot day, and you have been working so hard. This time, though, fill that large pitcher on the sideboard. I will find us some nice glasses, that will be more civilized. Then you can relax. You are such an exemplary worker, and could use more liquid.”
Dad told me this story long ago. His sorrow was palpable still after seventy years. This event was probably the first time he allowed himself to actually mourn.