Time in Willow Creek: 2 weeks, 4 days
On the fifth day….
“Good mornin, darlin,” Harriett said from her book.
Harold grunted and plopped on the sofa in front of the tube.
“My! Somebody ate a bowl of grumpy-o’s for breakfast.” Sarcasm oozed from her lips.
He looked at his wife with a blank stare. “I have grumpy-o’s every morning. What should I be excited about?”
“Well,” she said as she got up, “I’ll make a deal with you. If you’ll go with me to the community garden, we’ll stop by Axel’s on the way home.”
His eyes never left the television. “I ain’t puttin my hands in no dirt.”
“Do you wanna see your son, or not?”
“Fine. But I ain’t puttin my hands in no dirt.”
# # #
The Humphries had another daughter named Hillary. She was their youngest and Harriett’s sunshine through Harold’s turbulent storms. She still lived at home and had just come downstairs for breakfast.
“Well, good mornin, sugar pie!” Harriett threw her arms around her precious child.
“Where are you taking daddy today?”
“Hey now,” Harold yelled.
Hillary jumped at his sudden outburst.
“If you’re gonna stand in front of the TV like that, then you could at least be skinny enough to see around!”
Hillary didn’t think it was possible for her mother’s eyes to get any larger than they already were.
“HAROLD! That’s no way to talk to your child! Apologize right now!”
“I ain’t doin it. She should be sorry for being as big as the house.”
Hillary tried to maintain her smile like she always did. She was a lot like her mother, cheerful and optimistic. When Harold gave her lemons, she tried to make lemonade but sometimes she didn’t have enough sugar.
“I swear, Harold! If I could still be right with the good Lord, I swear I’d leave you sittin right there!”
“The good Lord don’t care about us. Look at what he gave us.”
He pointed at Hillary. Harriett’s mouth hung open while Hillary took the opportunity to get that breakfast she came downstairs for. She was used to Harold being hateful toward her, but sometimes he said things that caught her completely off guard. But, despite how ugly he was, he still held a special place in her heart. Harriett never understood how she became to be such a daddy’s girl. Perhaps she assumed Hillary couldn’t remember those times when she was knee-high to a grasshopper and loved by him. But, she remembered everything. And, in a way, she understood and respected why he treated her that way.
Thirty-nine years ago, Harold and Harriett had twin boys: Axel and Blake. It was kind of an Isaac and Ishmael situation. Harold and Harriett loved the twins, but they each gravitated toward one more than the other. Harold bonded with Blake and Harriett with Axel. Harold used to play the piano and make up songs with Blake. He was kind and loving and an all-around family man–a completely different person in those days. But, he was old-fashioned too. He expected his meals to be hot and ready on the table waiting for him when he got home. Everyone was to gather at the table to dine together. He expected Harriett to keep a clean home, look after the children, and raise them right.
Harold had a desk job and worked in the same department for 55 years. He worked for the government, so they weren’t rolling in simoleons. But, they weren’t broke either. The twins had been begging for a pool, and after a few months of hard work, Harold was finally able to afford one. Those boys lived in that pool day after day after day. Rebecca was about 17 around that time and was more interested in talking to Stanley Reeves than hanging out with her little brothers. One day, the twins were supposed to be doing homework in their room, but Blake had another plan. Instead of doing his homework, he went outside and got into the pool. Axel kept telling him he was going to get in trouble. Blake knew they weren’t supposed to be in the pool without supervision, but he so loved being in the water. Half an hour later, Harriett was about to start dinner and saw Blake in the pool from the kitchen window. He was floating face down. She dashed out of the house and jumped into the pool–stockings, pumps, apron, and all–and dragged him out and attempted to resuscitate him. It was too late. He was only seven years old. The entire family was rocked, but Harold had been reeling ever since. He became paralyzed by grief and was only a shadow of the man he used to be. Anything that even remotely reminded him of Blake became dead to him including the piano.
It took Harriett some time to get over Blake’s death, but she eventually made it to a healthier place. After a while, she wanted to have another baby. Harold wasn’t interested. He didn’t think it was right and thought Harriett was trying to replace their dead child. Besides, she was in her mid-30s by then; it was past time to stop having children. No matter how Harriett packaged it, Harold denied her for 10 years. One day, she found herself in her mid-40s still wanting a baby. It was a terrible idea, but she had to give it a shot. She took matters into her own hands and offered her husband an evening he couldn’t refuse. Between his favorite meal and a warm bath waiting for him when he got home, and some sexy pajamas, he was like a cow being led to the slaughterhouse. Nine months later, they welcomed little Hillary into their lives. Harold tried to be a good father, but it was too much for him.
Hillary never had the opportunity to meet Blake, but she knew of him and understood he was the source of her father’s hatred. When she found herself decidedly low and mired in sorrow, she reassured herself by remembering Harold didn’t really hate her. He simply missed him more.