Joliet, Illinois

When I was a kid, I learned that I had an uncle living in Joliet Illinois. At least, I think I did. So much of my family history is a mystery to me - especially on my mother's side.

I remember wondering about that man in Joliet. Who was he? What was he like? Why didn't we visit him when we lived in Chicago?

I imagined a grumpy man. Mean even. He had hate in his heart - or so I imagined.

"Why else would he be so distant from his own family?"

* * * * * * * * * *

My sister had two children before her twentieth birthday. Two daughters, born during a marriage that lasted as many years if not less. My sister was cute, and I'm guessing her daughters are equally so. But I've never met them. I was in the same room once, when they were still infants. Today they are 15 and 16 years old.

They all live near the same coal town in Pennsylvania that I fled so many years ago in search of culture, diversity of thought, idealism and opportunity.

I wanted a better life.

I became the man in Joliet, Illinois.

* * * * * * * * * *

Have you ever had a nice bottle of Champagne? Maybe at someone's wedding, or some sort of celebration? Maybe shared with someone special?

Can you remember the last time you were at an amusement park? I used to love the bumper cars at Dorney Park in Allentown PA. They were at the entrance to the big yellow roller coaster at the very front of the park.

Bringing my family together is like drinking a bottle of champagne while riding the bumper cars. I can't imagine a day when my entire family would be in the same room, and yet it would be quite a challenge to explain why that is.

I once thought time could heal all wounds. My father's suicide occurred twenty two years ago, yet that event is part of what defines my family today. My sister tried to kill herself a few years later. The eighties were such a bad decade for us, and I don't know that the damage can be repaired.

The nineties weren't much better. My other older sister tried to help the family by taking over the mortgage to my mother and stepfather's house. But shortly after my stepfather died, she evicted our own mother. My younger brother lost his mind to drugs (drugs and a two-by four to the head, to be exact). He was once so talented at everything he tried. But now...?

And I'm no saint. A better man might have worked to heal old wounds and bring the family together. Instead, I walked away. There was so much fighting, so much pain. I walked away.

But the distance has been good to me. In my world, the drama ended over a decade ago. In my world, there is peace.

I wonder what the man in Joliet, Illinois, would say about me?

I wonder what he'd say about himself?

* * * * * * * * * *

I must be getting old, because I can't hold a grudge like I used to.

But I don't have to.

I've found peace in my own Joliet, Illinois.

::::: | Sunday, Nov 13 2005 at 12:08 AM
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Raina said:

Wow. I've read a lot of your entries but I'd say this is the best. Very introspective, alot I can relate to.

::::: | November 16, 2005 4:35 AM

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