Too Good To Be True

As Dad and Dorothy sat in the kitchen yapping away, I searched high and low for Toots, but there was no Toots anywhere.
“Dorothy, where is Toots?”
“She went shopping with Jane and Donna.”
I really missed Toots, and I know before long she would be going back home. If all went according to the plan, I would be staying with Grace from now on. Dorothy soon took my mind off Toots when she produced a plate full of goodies: Twinkies, Ho Hoes, chips, and more. What a good day this is turning into. I helped myself to the snacks and went outside to enjoy my sugar feast. After I wolfed down the snacks, I made my way back into the house where Dorothy and Dad were having a conversation.
“Why are you so happy, Terry? I haven’t seen you this upbeat in years.”
He laughs.
“I have some good news. Grace has agreed to adopt Joey, and
all we are waiting for is for June to sign the paperwork.”
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WHEN THE DUST SETTLED
“You mean to tell me that you are giving up all of your rights to Joey?”
“Hell, yeah. June is with that loser Tyrone, and we all know how Tyrone abuses Joey physically and emotionally. Since I am not in a position right now to take care of my kids, this is the next best thing.”
“Joey have a seat, I’m making a call to June to find out what is going on with your mom.”
“What do you mean, Dorothy?”
“I can’t believe your mom is just going to give you up to your Aunt Grace!” I sat down as a terrible thought began racing through
my mind. Why is Dorothy ruining all of our best-laid plans?
It wasn’t long before Dorothy was on the phone, dialing up Ma. Dad had a real sick look on his face that didn’t sit well with me at
all; maybe he knows something I didn’t.
“Joey, go into my bedroom and pick up the other phone, so you
can talk to your mom,” Dorothy demanded. I walk into the bed- room, not knowing what I will hear on the other end of the phone.
“Hi Ma, how are you doing?”
“Good, how are you?”
“Good, having fun with Dad and Grace.”
“Hey, Joey, is Toots there? I need to talk to her.”
“No, June, she isn’t here, you simpleton!” Dorothy screamed
from the other phone in the kitchen.
“Oh, hey, Dorothy, I didn’t know you liked to listen in on other
people’s conversations.
“Shut your yap. What is this crap about you giving up your kid?” “Joey is going to live with Grace. Things just have not worked
out. I have tried everything with him.”
“Sure, June, why don’t you just admit it—Tyrone hates him, and
he has convinced you to ship him off. That is your child, you little tramp! I don’t care how bad things may be right now—you don’t throw your kids away. You better not go through with this adoption thing, or I will make a trip down there to knock some sense into your head, simpleton!”
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CHummy TImES
I am standing here in utter disbelief. I just wanted Ma to say anything, anything at all, to shut Dorothy up. I am so ready to stay in Dubuque with Grace, but now, things are a little dicey.
“June, what’s wrong? Cat got your tongue?” Click. Ma hangs up. Thanks for nothing, Ma, as usual. This is her way of saying “screw you.” Don’t worry about what I am doing or was it that Dorothy struck a nerve, and she is reconsidering her opinions?
Time would tell.
After our short phone conversation with Ma, Uncle Jake asks
Dad and me to stay for dinner. I could tell by the way Dorothy was acting that she didn’t want us to stay. The tension in the room is high. I thought the phone call really caused everything to inten- sify. Dad and I pass on dinner and head back over to Grace’s place. I can tell he is devastated by the turn of events that transpired at Dorothy’s; it is written all over his face. Up until this point, I thought becoming Grace’s adopted son is as good as done, but I have a sick feeling in my stomach that things are about to change.

Too Good To Be True

As Dad and Dorothy sat in the kitchen yapping away, I searched high and low for Toots, but there was no Toots anywhere.
“Dorothy, where is Toots?”
“She went shopping with Jane and Donna.”
I really missed Toots, and I know before long she would be going back home. If all went according to the plan, I would be staying with Grace from now on. Dorothy soon took my mind off Toots when she produced a plate full of goodies: Twinkies, Ho Hoes, chips, and more. What a good day this is turning into. I helped myself to the snacks and went outside to enjoy my sugar feast. After I wolfed down the snacks, I made my way back into the house where Dorothy and Dad were having a conversation.
“Why are you so happy, Terry? I haven’t seen you this upbeat in years.”
He laughs.
“I have some good news. Grace has agreed to adopt Joey, and
all we are waiting for is for June to sign the paperwork.”
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WHEN THE DUST SETTLED
“You mean to tell me that you are giving up all of your rights to Joey?”
“Hell, yeah. June is with that loser Tyrone, and we all know how Tyrone abuses Joey physically and emotionally. Since I am not in a position right now to take care of my kids, this is the next best thing.”
“Joey have a seat, I’m making a call to June to find out what is going on with your mom.”
“What do you mean, Dorothy?”
“I can’t believe your mom is just going to give you up to your Aunt Grace!” I sat down as a terrible thought began racing through
my mind. Why is Dorothy ruining all of our best-laid plans?
It wasn’t long before Dorothy was on the phone, dialing up Ma. Dad had a real sick look on his face that didn’t sit well with me at
all; maybe he knows something I didn’t.
“Joey, go into my bedroom and pick up the other phone, so you
can talk to your mom,” Dorothy demanded. I walk into the bed- room, not knowing what I will hear on the other end of the phone.
“Hi Ma, how are you doing?”
“Good, how are you?”
“Good, having fun with Dad and Grace.”
“Hey, Joey, is Toots there? I need to talk to her.”
“No, June, she isn’t here, you simpleton!” Dorothy screamed
from the other phone in the kitchen.
“Oh, hey, Dorothy, I didn’t know you liked to listen in on other
people’s conversations.
“Shut your yap. What is this crap about you giving up your kid?” “Joey is going to live with Grace. Things just have not worked
out. I have tried everything with him.”
“Sure, June, why don’t you just admit it—Tyrone hates him, and
he has convinced you to ship him off. That is your child, you little tramp! I don’t care how bad things may be right now—you don’t throw your kids away. You better not go through with this adoption thing, or I will make a trip down there to knock some sense into your head, simpleton!”
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CHummy TImES
I am standing here in utter disbelief. I just wanted Ma to say anything, anything at all, to shut Dorothy up. I am so ready to stay in Dubuque with Grace, but now, things are a little dicey.
“June, what’s wrong? Cat got your tongue?” Click. Ma hangs up. Thanks for nothing, Ma, as usual. This is her way of saying “screw you.” Don’t worry about what I am doing or was it that Dorothy struck a nerve, and she is reconsidering her opinions?
Time would tell.
After our short phone conversation with Ma, Uncle Jake asks
Dad and me to stay for dinner. I could tell by the way Dorothy was acting that she didn’t want us to stay. The tension in the room is high. I thought the phone call really caused everything to inten- sify. Dad and I pass on dinner and head back over to Grace’s place. I can tell he is devastated by the turn of events that transpired at Dorothy’s; it is written all over his face. Up until this point, I thought becoming Grace’s adopted son is as good as done, but I have a sick feeling in my stomach that things are about to change

At Long Last

would not be around when Dad showed up.
at long last
During breakfast the next morning, Sissy began to bark as someone walked through the front door “The bad penny has returned,” Dad said as he entered the kitchen.
“Dad!” I exclaimed as I bolted from the table and into his arms. I could smell the cologne he had on. It was the same smell I remem- bered as a little child.
“Hi, Joey,” he said with a big smile on his face.
“Hi, Dad. I love you. Hey! Toots is here; she is at Dorothy’s.” “Okay, well Frank is going to lend me his jeep, so finish break-
fast and we can go.”
“Okay,” I said. I finished my breakfast in no time flat. My grand-
parents seemed as excited as I was by the look on their faces. They knew how much I missed my dad. In fact, I was certain I drove them nuts inquiring about his whereabouts on a regular basis.
Frank showed up a short time later. He motioned for Dad to come into the living room where he was standing. There he gave Dad some instructions about the jeep, and then we were off. Dad drove all over Dubuque on this beautiful August day. The first place we went was Eagle Point Park. It was so pretty. The park overlooked the Mississippi River. After an hour of taking in the sights, he drove downtown to my favorite spot—the elevator on
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WHEN THE DUST SETTLED
Fourth Street. Dad had taken me here once before. This time was more special. I hoped this day would never end.
Near the end of our trip, Dad asked, “So what do you want to do now?”
“I don’t know, Dad; I just want to spend time with you!” I replied. Dad seemed a little rusty at the wheel; I could tell he was nervous about driving. In fact, when we were turning right at a red light, Dad did not yield. A huge semi almost creamed us.
“Look out!”
“Oops,” was his only response.
“Joey, do you want to go somewhere for dinner?”
“Yeah, I’m starving like Marvin.”
“Okay. We will just go to Don’s Tavern for dinner. They have
good burgers.”
“Isn’t that the bar Grandpa goes to with all of the weird animals
mounted on the walls?”
“Yeah, but don’t worry, kid, Grandpa won’t be there. This is our
time. Don’s is one of my favorite places in all of Dubuque.”
Up until this point, Dad had not even once asked about Toots,
Marty, or Greg. I was confused by that behavior. After all of the time apart from his kids, I expected him to ask me a lot of questions. Maybe I was wrong about this, but since Dad never developed a bond with the youngest children, he had the mindset of “Out of sight, out of mind.”
Once we arrived at Don’s on the south end of Dubuque, Dad wasted no time as he made his way up to the bar. He ordered a beer. I sat down next to him, eagerly waiting for him to order us lunch.
After Dad drank his third beer, I asked him.
“Can I get something to eat, Dad?”
“What do you want?”
“I’ll take a cheeseburger and fries, please.” Dad summoned the
bartender and placed the order, but he forgot to order for himself. “Dad, you forgot to order something for yourself— aren’t
you hungry?”
“No, I am going to play the jukebox instead.” Don’s had a
jukebox that had seen better days. Dad was a huge Elvis Presley
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baD PEnny
fan. Once he found some Elvis songs on the jukebox, all the patrons were in for a treat.
Content with his musical selections, he walked back to the bar just as my food arrived. Dad really liked beer. I began to eat my food when I sneaked a look at Dad.
“Do you want some of the food, Dad? I can’t eat all of this.” Dad was snapping his fingers in time with the music, oblivious to me. I tapped him on his shoulder to get his attention. He looked at me with the same look Mom had whenever she got drunk.
“Joey, I told you before I am not hungry. Let’s move over to a booth so I can be closer to the jukebox.” I followed Dad over to the only table near the jukebox.
Dad was spending more time at the jukebox than visiting with me. Some of those songs he selected revive memories from when we were all together as a family. Tom Jones, Johnny Cash, and others were played repeatedly back in those days. That music was a big part of who Dad was. We did not have much materially, but we were together. I realized even though our family was torn apart, he still had this music he enjoyed so much. It seemed to ease his pain.
I became concerned about Dad’s behavior. He had become very loud and rude toward me.
“Dad, can we go home?”
“We will leave when the bar closes, son.” He reached into his wallet and retrieved a one-dollar bill.
“Go to the bar and buy a soda. I am going to play some more music.” Instead of buying a soda, I asked the bartender for change to make a phone call. I found a pay phone and called Grandpa.
“We are at Don’s. Dad is drunk. Can you come pick me up?” “I will be right there. Don’t let your dad drive!”
“I won’t.”
I had grown accustomed to being around Mom and Tyrone when they were drunk. It was different with Dad, but I knew I must get him home before something worse happened Within ten min- utes, Grandpa walked into the bar. He made a beeline to our table. Dad was too busy drinking to notice the visitor. I studied Grandpa’s face as he walked toward us. He looked very mad. I have never seen Grandpa mad about anything. He usually had a smile on his
37

“Joey, go outside and get in my truck”
WHEN THE DUST SETTLED
face. He was not as talkative as Grandma, but I loved spending time with him. Dad staggered once again to the jukebox.
Grandpa stood between him and the jukebox and said, “Is this what you planned to do with your son who you have not seen in a very long time? Give me the car keys!” he snapped. Dad turned away from him and came back to the table. There were two full beers sitting at the table. He proceeded to slam one and then the second.
“Okay, Joey, let’s go! It’s time to take you back to Grandma’s” I was getting really scared.
“Is Dad going to drive in this condition?”
“Terry, you are not driving anywhere! Give me the car keys!” I watched as Dad reluctantly handed over the keys.
“Okay. Bye, Dad,” I yelled as I rushed outside. I looked back at Dad as I ran out through the door. He was slumped over the jukebox. Grandpa was telling him something, but I couldn’t hear it over the music.
Once I found the truck, I climbed in the passenger’s side. It was a gold Ford F100. Grandpa was a steeplejack by trade. He painted church bell towers, water towers, and practically anything that no one else wanted to paint. It was a very dangerous job, working hun- dreds of feet in the air. It sounded really scary to me, but he seemed to love it. In the back of his truck were all the tools of the trade: ladders, paint, paint rollers, and so on. I loved this truck because of whose it was. When I climbed into the passenger seat, there was a strong order of cigar smoke. It was weird, but I liked it. Grandpa finally walked out of the bar. He appeared to be crying. I had never seen this side of him before. As Grandpa got behind the wheel, I watched for Dad to show up as well. Grandpa started the truck and began to pull out of the parking lot.
“Is Dad coming?”
“No, honey, he’s not. I need to get you home.”
Once home, I took a bath and went to bed. I tossed and turned for hours worried about what Dad was doing. Was he still at the bar or in jail? I finally decided to go downstairs where Grandpa was watching TV with Grandma.
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baD PEnny
“Is Dad going to be okay? Is he coming here tonight?”
“No, honey, hopefully he will go to the Mission. I need to get in touch with Frank. His jeep is still at the bar,” Grandpa said. “Why won’t you let him stay here?” I asked.
“We are too old to be dealing with Terry’s drunken antics, honey,” Grandma said.
“Don’t you love my dad? What if something bad happens to him out there?” I asked through the tears.
“Honey, he will be fine. I am sure he will be around once he sobers up,” Grandpa said.
“I am going to bed.” I laid in my bed crying my eyes out. Before long, Grandma came up to check on me.
“I am sorry, Joey. Tomorrow will be better; get some sleep.

A Promise Kept

When I arrived home, I walked into a real mess. Mom was
passed out drunk on the couch. She had a beer in one hand and
a lit cigarette in the other. I carefully took the cigarette out of her
hand and disposed of it in the ashtray. It was 8:00 p.m., and none
of my brothers were around. I walked upstairs to see if they were in
their bedrooms. To my relief, they were all fast asleep. I went back
downstairs to help Mom to bed. As I grabbed the half-full beer from
her hand, she woke up. BLAM! She hit me with her haymaker. I
staggered backwards. She stood to her not-so-steady feet.

“Where the hell have you been, loser?” ‘You know I have reli-
gious class every Monday night. It’s been this way for the last

six weeks.”
“Well, those classes can’t help ‘stupid.’ You are such a moron!
Why don’t you live with him? You work out with him every day.
If he is such a great friend, live with him!”
“No, this is where my brothers are. Don’t worry, I will be out
of here in a short time.” She charged toward me sticking her finger
in my face.”
“Well, moron, when you get kicked out of boot camp, you can’t
come back here!”
“What do you mean?”
“You won’t pass boot camp. You don’t have what it takes. Just
remember once you leave you can’t come back here.”

WHEN THE DUST SETTLED

228

She walked away from me and into the kitchen. I began to walk
to the basement when I felt something hit the back of my head. I
turned around to see what it was. It was the ashtray.
“What is your problem? Why do you hate me so much?” I felt
the back of my head. I could feel the blood running down my neck.
I looked down at my hand. My fingers were covered in blood. This
was too much. I began to cry. Not because I was hurt. It’s because
I was trying to make something out of my life. At every turn, she
had done something to hurt me.
She was standing there with a fresh alcoholic beverage in her
nicotine-stained hand.
“I am going to bed.”
“Yeah, you do that, idiot!” I began to walk down the stairs. I
remembered I had an invitation for my ceremony. I walked back
upstairs. She had retreated to the living room.
“This is for you. It’s my ceremony at St. Mary’s.” I was standing
in front of her, trying to hand her the paper. She wouldn’t take it.
Growing impatient, I said, “I will put this by your purse. I want
you and the boys to be there.”

Hustleman

One day, after I walked home from school, I decided to stop by to ask if I could get a job. I mean maybe if I could earn money, I could help Mom buy food. I was determined to at least try.
I walked through the front door. Behind the counter was a teenage girl.
“Hey kid, can I help you?”
“Yes, I am wondering if I can get a job here?”
“Hi, I am Babe. I am sorry, honey, but you are way too young.” “Okay, take care.” I said as I turned around and walked out. Just
as I got to the sidewalk, I heard a voice behind me.
“Hey, kid, wait!” I turned to see who hollered at me. There was
Babe with an older man.
“Hey, kid, do you need a job? I need someone to pick up my
parking lot and sweep it. If you do a good job, I will pay you well.” I made my way back to where Babe and the older man were standing.
“I will do it. Can I work every day? We need the money.” “Let’s start by telling me your name.”
“My name is Joey.”
“Nice to meet you, Joey. I am Bob. I own this joint. How
old are you?”
“I am eight, sir.”
“Very good. I will show you what I need you to do every
Saturday. I will pay you two dollars each time.” I was so excited to have a job.
Bob walked me through the duties in no time flat. After he showed me where I could get the supplies, he gave me a can of soda. As I sat across from him at one of the tables he said.
“One more thing son. This job will not help much with your family’s situation. You are just a child; it is not your place to be con- cerned with this matter. What this job will do for you is give you a little spending money to buy something you want. I am impressed with your attitude and commitment to this job. If you do good work, I will give you a raise,” he stated emphatically. After I drank my soda, I made my way to the door.
“Thanks, Bob, and thank you, Babe. I will see you later.” “Tomorrow, kid. You work tomorrow. It is Saturday,” Babe said.
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WHEN THE DUST SETTLED
“Oh, yeah. I will be here; bye.” Not only did I have my first job, I was in love with Babe. She was gorgeous. She had green eyes, brown hair, and was tall. I made it home, daydreaming about my future as a Sandwich Factory employee and maybe even Babe’s boyfriend.
I woke up the next morning. Instead of joining the other kids for our ritual of cartoon bonanza, I made my way to my job. I told Ma all the details. She was okay with me doing this. After all, it may lead to a longtime full-time job. I was surprised, to be honest, that she was so easygoing about it. Now there was nothing to i

All or Nothing

2020 has been a very rough year for us all .That goes without saying. But for some it has been a year they can’t seem to escape. Months of lock down, job loss, death of a loved ones. The list can go on forever I do believe. In Spite of all of the hard knocks I have endured, this one thing is for certain. While I dont have all the I want as long as I have Jesus that’s all I need. What about you? Do you have a relationship with Jesus? We like to complicate so much. When it comes to a relationship with Jesus it is so simple. Even a child can understand.

I implore you to exaime the claims of Christ.You have nothing to lose and everything to gain

Strange Days

I remember the days when our elders were respected. I was always eager to listen and slow to speak when they had the floor. Most were very wise to the things of the world and not so naive.I readily took their advice .More than that I helped them in any ways I could. How things have changed.Today they are viewed as a burden to the younger generation. You don’t believe me? All you have to do is go to the grocery store. gas station etc My point is this. Treat people the way you like to be treated.Especially the elderly population.