Ingalls Friend for Life
Number of posts : 8836
Location : Helena, Alabama
|Subject: Look Back To Yesterday The Final Chapter Part One Sun Mar 18, 2012 8:33 pm|| |
Look Back To Yesterday
The Final Chapter (Part One)
It was late spring in Walnut Grove and the hills surrounding the valley were bursting with green. Spring was always my favorite time of the year in Minnesota. The bitter cold was gone and life was rejuvenating itself everywhere you looked. The sweetheart tree was bursting with green as I looked down over the town from our room above the restaurant. Mother was making her way across the street from the mercantile for her morning visit.
It was 5:30 in the morning and any minute now I would hear that voice, along with half of Hero Township. “Willie! Where are you! Mother’s here”! How many times had I heard that? Rachel was still asleep. She deserved the rest and I wasn’t about to wake her up. We had both catered a private dinner the night before. The Carter’s entertained visiting relatives until late last night and we had not gotten to sleep until after eleven, which was unusual in and of itself. Their relatives had arrived on the stage over two hours late last night and it was pouring rain. Rachel and I offered to feed them while the rain subsided and it turned into a lengthy affair. Thank God Hester Sue was already in the kitchen preparing for the breakfast crowd.
I went down the stairs to unlock the door for Mother and also to stop that incessant yelling that she liked to do while looking for me. She came every morning to do the books for us. I was never the greatest at math and knew a good thing when I saw it. Mother had always done the bookkeeping at the mercantile and Father always said that she was the best at numbers that he had ever seen. The restaurant was making a profit and I wanted to keep it that way. With Rachel expecting, we would need all the money we could get our hands on. You never knew when the crops would go sour in this part of the country, so it always made sense to me to save as much money as possible should hard times befall the community. No matter what happened, I was determined to take care of my sweet Rachel. She was the love of my life and nothing was going to put that in jeopardy.
The first thing out of Mother’s mouth was a terse question regarding the fact that we were open so late last night. I explained to her about the Carter’s relatives and as usual she seemed disgusted. “Why would you go out of your way for a bunch of dirt farmers and a blacksmith?” she asked. It was at that point that I had to remind her that those “dirt farmers” not only kept me in business, but the mercantile as well, a fact that she had never come to accept.
All my life I had heard the same nonsense from her. Mother was always class conscious and preferred to think of herself as one step above everybody else. God only knows what I would have turned out to be if it hadn’t of been for Father. He was the kindest man that I have ever known outside of Charles Ingalls. I will be grateful for the rest of my life for the influence he had on me. As a child, I was spoiled rotten by Mother, but as I became older I realized what a wonderful, caring person he really was. Someone I wanted to pattern my life after. He was always there when people needed help, and I was determined to be the same.
After telling Mother that staying open last night was a business decision that I did not care to hear her opinion about, she began with the bookkeeping and I went in the kitchen to see Hester Sue. There she was in that bright red apron preparing biscuits for the breakfast crowd. The smell in that kitchen in the morning is something that will stay with me for the rest of my life. Hester Sue’s biscuits were known throughout the county, a fact that I was gratefully aware of. We owed our success to her and I made a point of it to remind her of that fact every day. There wasn’t a sweeter woman in the world. People came from miles around to taste her cooking and it was of great importance to me to make sure she was happy. I had always thanked the Lord that we were able to employ her after the blind school had been taken over by the state.
It was spring vacation and my darling little sister Nancy arrived to work the switchboard. Mother had talked me into giving her the job to keep her busy. I only agreed to it after having the phone company put a block on listening to calls after they were connected. Mother wasn’t happy about it, but I really didn’t care. It should have been done years ago, a fact that my Father was painfully aware of. He was proud of me for doing it.
Of course, Nancy had a new dress on. When I saw her walk in the door, I prepared myself for the same line I had heard for several years. “Do you like my new dress Willie? It came from Paris”. “Yes Nancy, it is beautiful” I said. What else could I say? If I told her I didn’t like it she would have reminded me of how much I hated her. Which I might add, wasn’t far from the truth. Why Mother had adopted her was beyond any reason. Nancy was just plain mean, and it pained me to call her my sister. Nellie was no angel, but there was meanness about Nancy that Nellie wasn’t capable of. I had grown to love Nellie very much as we got older, she had a sweetness about her that emerged the minute she fell in love with Percival. I admired my brother in law for straightening her out, not to mention standing up to mother dear.
It was getting towards opening time and Rachel came down the stairs to prepare for breakfast. Although we had been married for over two years, my heart still skipped a beat when I laid eyes on her in the morning. I loved her with all my heart and thanked the Lord that we were able to be together every day. It would be difficult for me if I had to leave her every morning as most husbands had to do. “Has mother been here?” she asked. I told her that she had come and gone after going over the books. A smile came over her face and she crossed through the tables to give me a morning kiss. The thought crossed my mind to delay opening and go back upstairs with her, but I quickly reconsidered after seeing the crowd outside. I hated being mature sometimes!
It was a very busy morning and Rachel and I hardly had a chance to speak as we waited on tables. Doc Baker and Reverend Alden came in for their normal breakfast around 8am. It was always good to see them. I had grown up with them both and they were like relatives to me. Doc Baker had treated me during my childhood for everything from the measles to cuts, scrapes and bruises. I was always pretty clumsy and it was good that he was there for me. Now he was taking care of Rachel and would deliver my first child. Reverend Alden, who I had come to love, had pastored in Walnut Grove for as long as I could remember. Mother dear had to drag me to church when I was a kid. I would rather have been fishing than sitting in a hot church listening to a sermon. But as I got older, I came to appreciate what reverend Alden meant to us all. He married Rachel and me, and in about 2 months or so he would be christening my first child. Where had the time gone?
Doc Baker was quick to tell me that Rachel would have to stop working in a week or so, a fact that I was well aware of. Rachel was a strong girl, but I had laid the law down to her about working after the seventh month of her pregnancy. I had already made arrangements for a waitress to start next week. Doc Baker was pleased when I informed him of the coming change. He reminded me of her appointment this week and I assured him that Rachel would be there along with me. I never let her go the doctor alone during the last 7 months. I wanted to be a part of every step along the way until our child was born. Of course, Mother offered to go with her in the beginning, an idea that I quickly rejected with the help of Father.
As Doc Baker and Reverend Alden were leaving, Mr. Ingalls and Mr. Edwards arrived. They normally took a break from the mill around 9am and would come in for coffee and some of Hester Sue’s biscuits. I took the opportunity to brag about how our team had beaten Mr. Edwards’s team in a baseball game last weekend. Albert had hit the winning home run in the bottom of the ninth. “We had beaten them, snake ball and all” I exclaimed. Mr. Ingalls had a huge smile on his face as Mr. Edwards started in with the excuses. “Bad call at home” Mr. Edwards said, as Mr. Ingalls began to laugh even harder. Deep down inside, I knew that he was right. Albert was out by a mile, but reverend Alden, who was umpiring, wasn’t about to call him out. Not Albert, not now.
As Mr. Edwards and Mr. Ingalls finished their coffee, Mr. Ingalls asked if he could talk to me outside. I said I would join him out there as soon as they left. He seemed pleased. He was sitting on the front porch of the restaurant staring at the sweetheart tree when I joined him. It was obvious that there was something on his mind. Since he had brought Albert back from Wanaka, you could see the heartbreak in his eyes. His son was dying and there was nothing he could do about it. There was nothing any of us could do but pray for a miracle. It had been two weeks since Andy and I walked up to the Keepsake Tree with Albert and Laura.
That was a day that I would always be thankful for. I had cleared the air with Albert a week earlier, gotten Andy to come from Sleepy Eye, and walked up there with my best friend for what may have been the last time. I was afraid that Mr. Ingalls had bad news and I really didn’t want to face that. I wanted to be anywhere else, anywhere that I didn’t have to look at Mr. Ingalls’s tear filled eyes. And then, a smile came upon his face as he began to speak to me.
“Willie” he said, “I just wanted you to know how much it meant to me when you climbed that mountain with him”.
“You getting Andy here and having that little talk with him means more to me than you will ever know”. “He told me all about it”. “Any doubts about you being a man have been erased for me”. “I want you to know that Carolyn and I love you for it and always will”.
An uncontrollable emotion came over me as I listened to him speak. Here was a man, about to lose his son, telling me how much of a man I was. He had always been a rock to me and everyone else in Walnut Grove. No matter what hardship would befall him, he always had his faith, always was there when anyone else needed him. My Father had told me years ago that if I wanted to base my life around anyone, it would be Charles Ingalls. How right he was.
We hugged before he departed and I asked him how Albert was. “Fine” he said. “He has his good and bad days”. I told him to say hello to him for me and that I would be up to see him this week. I explained to him that I had been very busy and hadn’t seen Albert since the ball game. I had made a promise to myself to see him at least once a week and I was over that time already. It wouldn’t happen again. I watched him walk towards the mill and prayed to God that I wouldn’t ever have to walk in his shoes. Fathers aren’t supposed to bury their sons.
As I went back in to get ready for the lunch crowd, I saw Rachel and Hester Sue sitting near the door. They both had tears in their eyes, and my first thought was that Mother must have slipped in while I wasn’t looking and upset them. I was preparing to walk across the street and straighten her out when Rachel told me that they overheard Mr. Ingalls and I. “He told you what I already knew Willie; you are a man”. All three of us hugged for what seemed to be five minutes.
The rest of the day was fairly uneventful. The normal lunch crowd, but we stayed fairly busy until closing. Around 5pm Nancy emerged and told me that I had a phone call. It was Andy. He told me that he had just gotten off the phone with Albert and that he sounded fine. I told Andy that I was going to see Albert tomorrow and that I would call him afterwards. Andy had come down for the ball game, and I had promised him then that I would keep him informed weekly regarding Albert. I asked Andy how his Pa was and he said he was fine. He had left for a week on business and Andy was in charge while he was gone. After I hung up I was thinking about the fact that we had all grown up.
After we closed, I sent Rachel upstairs and helped Hester Sue with the kitchen chores. I also had a surprise for her. Over Mother’s objections, I was giving Hester Sue a $10.00 a month raise. I knew that with Rachel having to take a leave next week, things would be a little difficult with the new waitress and all. After I told her she was delighted and wouldn’t stop thanking me. “It was her who should be thanked” I told her. I knew that without her, the restaurant would fall apart. I wasn’t going to let that happen, regardless of what Mother thought. Mother could be penny wise and pound foolish sometimes. She needed to stick to the bookkeeping and let me run the business, something that I had to constantly remind her of. Percival knew that and so did I.
I closed the restaurant and went upstairs where Rachel was resting. She was sleeping on the couch and as I looked at her, I made a decision to start the new waitress tomorrow. She was dead tired and I didn’t want her to push it anymore. The new waitress had arrived yesterday. She was staying at Hester Sue’s. I would call her tonight and make the arrangements. Since she was a relative of Hester Sue’s, I didn’t foresee any problem in doing that. Her name was Regina and I was sure she would be of great help to us. If Hester Sue’s cousin had half the work ethic that she had, things would be fine.
Rachel woke up and smiled at me. She was glowing. Hard to explain how an expectant mother glows. They just do. She had never been more beautiful. I reminded her of the appointment with Doc Baker in two days and she asked if I was going with her? “Of course” I said. “Have I ever missed one yet?” She smiled again and I asked her if I could take her out to dinner to our favorite restaurant. She accepted and we went downstairs.
Hester Sue had fixed us dinner before she left. She did that, a lot. She knew that Rachel was tired in the last few months and the saint of a woman would fix us dinner without being asked. That’s what kind of person she was.
All I had to do was heat it up, light the candles, and another romantic dinner was prepared. When we were first married, we had a lot of dinners with Mother and Father at home. But that quickly became old. A little bit of Mother and Nancy in the same room goes a long way. Besides, after a long day’s work, the only person I wanted to see was Rachel.
As we sat down to eat, I could tell that Rachel had something on her mind. She looked at me and asked if I had thought of who was going to be the Godfather to our child. I hadn’t really thought about it until she mentioned it.
I told her that I would leave it up to her. She said she had already made the decision and hoped that I would agree.
I asked her who she had in mind. “Albert” she said without hesitation. I couldn’t believe it. She wanted Albert to be our child’s Godfather knowing full well that he was dying? “He may not live that long Rachel” I said, “and besides, don’t you want someone that will be around while our child grows up?”
“Willie, as much as I hate to say it, you sound like your mother”. “He’s your best friend. His name will last forever if we do this”. “Our child will hold the memory of Albert for the rest of their life, long after we are gone”. After Rachel spoke I felt like an idiot. How stupid of me to even ask the question. Even if Albert wasn’t there for our child in its later years, I would make sure the child knew about him and what he meant to me. I had a hundred stories I could tell about our childhood.
“Done” I said. I told Rachel that I was going to see Albert tomorrow and that I would ask him then. I only hoped that he would accept. The baby was eight weeks away and I didn’t know how he would feel about it. “What about your mother” Rachel asked. That one didn’t even call for an answer.
It was another beautiful spring day in Walnut Grove. As I awoke, I was thinking of going to see Albert while looking across the street at the mercantile. The sun was just over the horizon and I was getting dressed in a hurry so I could get down to the restaurant. Regina was starting today and I wanted to avoid that irritating noise that Mother made every morning. I wanted Rachel to sleep late, she needed the rest.
Regina and Hester Sue were already in the kitchen. I thanked Regina for starting early and she said that it was no problem. She was happy to be with her cousin. They had not seen each other in ten years. Regina looked a lot like Hester Sue and had the same pleasant attitude. They both had a sweetness about them that was rare in people. I always thought it was that southern upbringing. Whatever it was, it was priceless. Regina dove right in and I could tell from the start that there wouldn’t be much of a learning curve involved. She had worked in a restaurant in Atlanta for 15 years. I was sure she could handle this.
I went to the front door and had a cup of coffee while waiting for Mother. She usually arrived around 6am and today was no exception. There she was, crossing the street like she was going to a fire. She held on to that ledger like it was gold. When it came to money, Mother dearest was all over it. She saw me sitting at the table through the window, so my efforts to avoid her yelling for me had paid off. How nice the quiet was. I had a nice surprise for her this fine morning, one that I had been looking forward to for a long time.
I invited her to sit down with me the minute she entered the restaurant. “Mother, I have something to tell you. You remember the agreement I had with you and Father concerning the ownership of this restaurant?” “Of course I do” she replied. I knew that she kept meticulous books. Rachel and I had been making payments to her ever since we took over the restaurant. I knew what the balance was before I asked her, but I posed the question anyway. “How much do we still owe before the restaurant is ours?”
“Willie” she said “it is a large sum, one that I do not think that you should think about now, especially with the baby coming.” “How much Mother” I said. “It is $400.00 dear, which you should be able to pay off in four years including the interest.” I reached into my coat pocket and pulled out a check. It was $400.00. I had never quite seen a look on my mother’s like the one I was looking at. I really didn’t know if she was going to faint or throw up.
“Mother, I would like the deed to the restaurant by the end of the week”. Probably the sweetest words I had ever spoken. “Where on earth did you get this Willie?” she said. “Mother” I said, “I do not recall you EVER giving anyone information about your finances, even Father”. “I intend to carry on the tradition”.
Little did she know that Nellie and Percivel had sent Rachel and me an anniversary gift several months back. In it was $400.00. They expressed their regrets about not being able to be there when I presented it to Mother. Mother never knew and I always loved Percivel for allowing Nellie to do that for us. Rachel and I never forgot it. Although I was running the restaurant, I always had that cloud hanging over my head with Mother. Now it was gone. I told Mother that I would like to retain her as bookkeeper for a salary of $10.00 a month. And the surprise of the century came! She said she would do it for nothing! “Consider it a gift Willie, a gift to you and Rachel”. How noble of her, after charging interest for two years! At any rate, I told her how much I appreciated it. Anything you could get out of Mother when it came to money had to be considered a victory.
Mother finished up the daily receipts rather quickly that morning. She couldn’t wait to get to the bank to deposit my check. We opened to the usual crowd for breakfast and everything was as smooth as silk. Regina waited on tables like no one I had ever seen before. She told me that day that she was accustomed to having 20 tables in Atlanta. And I was worried about a learning curve!
I was relieved that Regina was doing so well. I could leave for a while today to see Albert. I went over to the mill to ask Mr. Ingalls if I could borrow his horse to ride out to Laura’s around noon. It would save me some time, not having to hitch up the wagon. He told me that Laura was fixing him and Mr. Edwards’s lunch, and that I was welcome to ride with him. He would be there about an hour and a half which would be perfect. They would pick me up at the restaurant at noon.
I went back to the restaurant and found Rachel in the kitchen. She was washing dishes! I could see that it was time for us to have a little conversation. I gently took her by the arm and told her I wanted to talk to her. We went out the back door to that hallowed spot of Laura’s rumored first kiss. I put my arms around her and told her how much I loved her. I also told her that I did not want her working anymore until after the baby was born. If she loved me, she would honor my request. She looked at me with those big blue eyes and said “OK Dad, but with one condition” she said. “I have to come down to the restaurant just to see if everything is running right. I will sit down and not do anything physical. I can’t stay upstairs all day long without going nuts”. I told her that would be fine.
It was eleven thirty when I saw father walking across the street. He came in the restaurant and sat at a table nearest the door. I went over to greet him and could tell that he something on his mind. “Willie my boy, we need to have a private conversation” he said. I felt like I was in school again. I had heard that same expression many times when I was in trouble, and the result wasn’t usually very pleasant.
“I just spoke with your Mother” father said. “I can’t tell you how proud I am of you. For you to save that amount of money in that short of a period of time is admirable. You have turned out to be quite a man and I just wanted you to know how I felt”. It goes without saying as to just how I felt when Father said that to me. He had always encouraged me to do the right thing and work hard in everything I did. He would never know how much I appreciated and loved him for saying that to me. “And one more thing Willie” he said. “I have calculated the interest that your Mother added to the loan. Here is a check for the entire amount. It will make a good start for my grandchild’s college fund”. I couldn’t believe it. I asked him if Mother had agreed to this and all he said was “She doesn’t have to know about it”. That was my father, plain and simple. Quiet kindness was his middle name.
It was noon and down the street came Mr. Ingalls and Mr. Edwards in the wagon. You could hear them the minute they got in the wagon. Mr. Edwards singing Old Dan Tucker all the way down the street. How he loved that song. Whenever you heard it, you knew who was around. I always understood why Laura was so close to him. He was tough as nails, but could be as sweet as a lamb when the occasion called for it.
I climbed into the wagon and we headed towards Laura’s house. I asked Mr. Ingalls what the special occasion was at Laura’s. He and Mr. Edwards usually brought their lunch and it was kind of unusual for them to go home for it. “Albert caught a whole mess of fish yesterday and Laura wanted to cook it for lunch today” he replied. “Nobody cooks fish like Laura” he said. Mr. Edwards was smacking his lips just thinking about it. I jokingly told Mr. Ingalls not to let the word out; it was bad for the restaurant business. He laughed and promised he wouldn’t.
As we approached the house, you could see that some cooking was going on. Smoke was pouring out of the kitchen vent. I was beginning to get that uneasy feeling again, the feeling I got every time I was about to see Albert. I was always afraid I would say the wrong thing or do the wrong thing. After looking back on it, it was probably a fear of losing it in front of him which I did not want to do. Albert didn’t want sympathy or anyone goggling over him just because he was sick. That’s just the he was and I was determined to respect that.
As we were walking up to the house, my mind couldn’t help to go back to the time when Rachel and I lived there right after we were married. Laura was very kind to us during our short stay. She had opened it up as a boarding house, and at the time, we thought that it would be good to get away from Mother. It was a lovely old house that Laura had inherited. The travel back and forth from the restaurant had become too much, so we decided to move back to the hotel. We would never forget how kind Laura and Almanzo had been to us during our stay.
Albert was sitting at the dining room table when I walked in. I was glad to see that he really looked good. He still had that smile that couldn’t help but make anyone feel good. That was the smile I remembered in the school house when we were kids. As l looked at him, I could still see him walking up that Winoka street for the first time, with that shoe shine box slung over his shoulder, wondering how he was going to make enough money to eat that day. He was a survivor then and he was a survivor now. He would be right up until the end.
“Hey Willie, how are you? Hi Pa, Mr. Edwards. How are you?” He sounded great, and if you didn’t know it, you wouldn’t think that there was a problem. “I caught a mess of fish yesterday Willie, so many in fact that Laura had to cook them for breakfast this morning. Probably have some tonight for supper. And the funny thing is, I caught them at our secret pond. You remember where that is Willie?” “Of course I do” I replied, “I haven’t gotten that old yet”! Albert looked at me and told me we should take a day and go out there again. “We’ll do it” I told him as Laura began to serve lunch.
After lunch we were all sitting at the table and I told Albert that I needed to speak to him about a personal matter. “Anything you want to talk about Willie, you can pretty much say it in front of my family” Albert replied. I hoped that he was right. “The thing is Albert, Rachel and I have decided who we want our child’s Godfather to be”. “That’s great Willie” Albert replied, “Who’s the lucky person?” He is a person I have looked up to all my life, a person that set the kind of example that I would want my child to follow. “OK Willie, don’t keep me in suspense any longer, tell us who it is, Pa has to get back to the mill.”
“You Albert, You” I replied. There was dead silence in the room. Mr. Ingalls eyes welled up and Laura began to get a little weepy as well. Mr. Edwards just smiled. Albert looked away from me for what seemed to be about thirty seconds. When he finally looked back at me there were tears rolling down his face and he was smiling. Still the silence, so I decided to ask him again. “Would you do us the honor of being our child’s Godfather Albert?” Albert finally spoke. “You know Willie, there is the possibility that I might not be around?” “Nonsense” I said, “I won’t even think about that. The baby is due in just under eight weeks and I want you there. I have already planned it with Reverend Alden.”
“It would be the greatest honor of my life Willie” Albert said. “Then it is done” I replied as I reached across the table to shake his hand. “Just don’t go talking about me as a great example too much” Albert laughingly said as we made our way outside. “I was far from perfect; Pa and Laura will tell you that!”
We pulled up in front of the mill, and as I was getting off the wagon, I saw Doc Baker walking toward the mercantile. I walked with him as I made my way back to the restaurant. “Don’t forget Rachel’s appointment today Willie” he said. I assured him that we would be there and told him that I had just seen Albert out at Laura’s place.
I remarked to doc Baker how good he looked. “Yes he does” he replied. “That’s the awful thing about that horrid disease, he can be full of life and then the end can come, without warning. I truly admire Albert’s attitude and how he is coping with this thing. He seems to be doing everything he wanted to do since he came back to Walnut Grove.”
Doc Baker’s words rang in my ears as I left him and approached the restaurant. “The end can come without warning”. I prayed to God that Albert could make it until the baby was born. He simply had to. If he didn’t, it wouldn’t be for lack of prayer. Rachel and I would see to that.
As I was entering the restaurant, I suddenly remembered that I had promised to call Andy. I asked Nancy to place a call for me and then went to look for Rachel. Hester Sue had told me that she had gone to the mercantile and would be back shortly. It was good to see that everything was under control while I was gone. The restaurant was busy and everything was running smoothly. Hester Sue and Regina made quite a team.
Nancy came out from the back and told me that she had Andy on the line. I went back to the switchboard, picked up the telephone and heard Andy talking to a customer at the freight company. “Andy” I said “Just wanted to call and let you know that I was out at Laura’s today for lunch. Albert boy caught a whole mess of fish and it was great!
He looks wonderful and you would never know that he is sick. I wanted you to know.” Andy was glad to hear the news. “Say hello to your PA” I said . “I will” replied Andy, “he is due back any day now and I sure will be glad when he gets here”. As I hung up the phone I noticed that Nancy was standing at the door.
Nancy looked at me with that familiar smirk on her face and said “It seems to me that there sure is a lot of fuss over Albert. It’s not like he’s your Brother or anything. I’m getting kind of tired hearing about it.” Rachel was standing right behind her. “In that case Nancy, I will relieve you of your duties here so you do not have to hear about it anymore!” “Go home to your Mother and maybe she will give you a job in the mercantile!” That was the first time I had ever seen Rachel lose her temper and to be quite honest, I loved her for it. Nancy looked at both of us and said “You both hate me!” She wasn’t far from the truth!
I looked at Rachel and asked her who was going to run the switchboard. “Me” she said. “It is a sit down job and it won’t be a problem.” I knew that we would get a visit from Mother, and frankly, I didn’t care. Mother owned the switchboard and collected fees on the calls every month. I knew what I was going to do about it.
I went back out into the dining room, and sure enough, there was Mother and Father crossing the street. Mother looked at me with that distressed look I had seen so many times and asked me how I had the nerve to tell Nancy to leave. “Mother” I said, “Not only do I not want Nancy in here anymore, but the switchboard has to go too! Nancy is simply bad for business. She has a terrible attitude and I DO NOT want her in here anymore! This business is hard enough to run without putting up with her all day.” “You are the one getting royalties from the telephone calls, I think you should move it to the mercantile and hire someone to man it”. “That way, you can have your investment close to you!” “All I want is a phone for the restaurant and hotel. It is either that or you can pay rent if it stays here.” “That will allow me to hire someone to run it.”
“Willie, how could you do such a dreadful thing to your mother after all I have done for you?” “Strictly business Mother, I learned from the best!” Father looked at me and smiled. “Come along Harriet” he said. “The boy is right.
Willie, we will make arrangements to move the switchboard this week and have a phone installed in here”. Mother looked at me and reminded me that there would be charge for the phone. I let her know that I wouldn’t have any other way.
The next month brought heavy rains to Walnut Grove. It was a good thing. The spring planting had been done and the rains would ensure a good crop. Rachel was due to deliver in three to four weeks and Doc Baker was pleased with the outlook. Albert had a few setbacks in the last month but generally was doing well. He had lost a few pounds and had some sporadic nose bleeds, but all in all he looked pretty good. I had kept Andy informed every week and I kept on schedule with visits to Albert’s every week. Rachel and I were pleased to see him in church every Sunday with Mr. Ingalls and Laura.
Mother and father had been insisting for the last few weeks that Rachel and I come to dinner. It was Saturday and Rachel and I wanted to do something different, so we finally accepted the invitation. We closed at 5pm and got ready to go have dinner. We knocked on the door and Nancy came to greet us. Another new dress! Lord how Mother spoiled that brat! We greeted Mother and Father and sat down in the living room to talk awhile before dinner.
As we made small talk, I couldn’t help but think of Nellie and me coming down those stairs every morning dressed for school. It was breakfast, a quick raid to the candy counter and then off to a day of learning. Or in my case, standing in the corner! I missed those days, playing baseball and swimming or fishing after school with Albert and Andy. You don’t appreciate how wonderful that time of life is until it is gone. I was determined to make sure that my child did.
Father had prepared roast beef for dinner. I was relieved that he did the cooking. Mother was a horrible cook and I didn’t want to spend the evening lying about how much I enjoyed it. Father always enjoyed cooking. It was a real blessing. If we only had Mother to do it, we would have starved to death.
We were having desert when Rachel suddenly doubled over in pain. Mother screamed out for someone to get Doc Baker! “My God this couldn’t be happening now, she has four weeks to go” I exclaimed. I ran out the door to get Doc Baker, all the way praying that he was there. He wasn’t in his office so I went out to the street and yelled up to his window above the office. Thank God that he poked his head out of the window and asked what on earth was wrong. “It’s Rachel” I said, “I think the baby is coming”. “I’ll get my bag and be right there”. He raced down the stairs and we both ran to the mercantile as quickly as we could.
When we arrived, Rachel was upstairs with Mother. As Doc Baker went up the stairs I could hear that awful screaming. I wanted to go up there, but Father wouldn’t let me. “Stay here son and let Doc Baker handle it. Rachel will be fine. She is in good hands.” It went on for an hour and all I could think about is that I wasn’t up there so I could hold my Rachel’s hand while she was going through this ordeal. Mr. and Mrs. Brown arrived and sat down in the living room to wait. To her credit, Nancy had run out to their place to let them know what was happening.
All of a sudden it stopped. I had been afraid during the whole ordeal. Now I was frightened to death. Was Rachel alright? Was the baby healthy? 100 things must have run through my mind before Doc Baker got to the bottom of the stairs. “It’s a boy”! He said. The baby is fine and so is Rachel. I had never seen two grown men cry before, but that was the case with Father and me on this night. I hugged Mrs. Brown and then embraced Father and Mr. Brown. The grandparents were already dotting and even Nancy came over and gave me a hug. It was the happiest day of my life, outside of marrying Rachel. “You can go up now Willie, your mother is up there with Rachel and the baby”.
I got to the top of the stairs and there was Mother with tears flowing out of her eyes. It had been a long time since I had seen that sweetness on her face. “Thank you Mother” I said as I wrapped my arms around her. “Your son is beautiful” she said. “He has his Mother’s blue eyes and your thick head of hair”. “One month early and you couldn’t tell it by looking at him. Go see them now, they are both waiting for you” she whispered.
I opened the door and there was Rachel, with our son in her arms. “I love you Rachel Brown” were the first words out of my mouth. A more beautiful sight I had never seen. “I love you too, Willie Oleson” Rachel replied. Nothing was said for ten minutes while I just held my son and wife in my arms. I was at that moment, the happiest man on the face of the earth.
Rachel looked at me and finally spoke. “We need to name our son” she said. I looked at her and reminded her of what we had agreed on months earlier. I asked her if it was what she still wanted. “Of course it is” she said. Our son’s name would be Mark Albert Oleson.
I went back downstairs and told the grandparents that they could go up and see their grandchild. “Willie” my mother said, “My grandchild needs a name”. “He already has one mother” I replied. It is Mark Albert Oleson!
Mr. and Mrs. Brown said that it was a fine name. Father agreed. Mother didn’t say a word. I knew Mother well enough to know that some comments were coming. Doc baker was making out the birth certificate so I repeated the name for him before Mother could speak. “Got that Doc Baker, Mark Albert Oleson” “It’s a fine name Willie”
replied Doc. Mother could tell that I wanted the subject dropped and she never said another word. Nancy looked at me with that “look”, but knew better than to say anything.
Mother insisted that Rachel stay there for the next couple of days which I agreed with. Father fetched a cradle from the mercantile and said it was their gift for Mark. I loved him for that. I knew that Mark and Rachel would be in good hands. Grandmother and Grandfather Oleson would see to that. Mr. and Mrs. Brown offered to help in any way before they left for the evening. The Browns were fine people and I was grateful that I had them as in-laws. I hugged them both before they departed and told them that I would see them tomorrow when they come to town.
It was around 7pm and I was busting with anticipation to tell the world the happy news. It was Saturday night and I suspected that the Ingalls would be up a little later than usual. I asked Father if I could hitch up the carriage and he helped me get it done. I raced through town and out towards the Ingalls. I wanted Albert to know that his God Son had been born!
As I approached the house, I saw Doc Baker’s carriage in the front. My heart skipped a beat when I saw it. “There can’t be anything wrong tonight, not tonight” I thought. I raced towards the house and could make out Mr. Ingalls sitting on the porch. Mr. Edwards was with him. “Why is Doc Baker here?” I asked. “He’s up there with Albert” he replied. “Albert had a bad day today. The nose bleeds have gotten worse and I thought it best that the Doc look him over”. “Michele is with them and it shouldn’t be much longer” Mr. Ingalls added.
“I just came out to give you some good news Mr. Ingalls” I said. “Good Son, I could use some tonight, it hasn’t been a good day”. “My son was born tonight sir” I replied. Both of their faces lit up when I told them the news. Mr. Ingalls called for Laura to come outside and she appeared shortly along with Alamanzo. I could tell that Laura had been crying because of her swollen eyes. I repeated the news to them and they both began to smile.
“His name is Mark Albert Oleson Laura” I exclaimed. Laura wrapped her arms around me and hugged me like I have never been hugged before. “That’s very sweet of you and Rachel, Albert will be pleased.” Mr. Ingalls and Mr. Edwards were very happy with the news. I was glad that I could bring some happiness out there on that Saturday night. I sat down to wait for Doc Baker to come down.
Doc Baker finally came out the front door about 30 minutes after I had arrived. I asked him how Albert was. He told me that he had a bad bleeding episode while he and Michele were walking through the woods down by the creek. “The bleeding has stopped, but he is not feeling that good. He has the sweats, but it should subside with some rest. Michele is with him. You can go up now Willie, but only for ten minutes”.
I made my way up the stairwell to see Albert. I was thinking what a day it had been. My son was born, and now I was going to see my best friend, who in all likelihood was near death. I tried with all my heart to get those thoughts out of my mind. I refused to accept this, I couldn’t. I would only think of Mark Albert while I was in that room. Only him and Rachel and how much I loved them.
The door was half open to Albert’s room and I walked in. Michele was sitting at the side of the bed with a cold rag and a basin of water on the table next to the bed. Albert seemed to be asleep. He was soaking wet along with the pillow. I could see the beads of sweat rolling down his face and neck from across the room. I hadn’t seen him look so bad since he had that bout with morphine a few years back. Albert beat that and I knew he would beat this episode, just like all the rest. I couldn’t fathom anything else from him. He was always a fighter, no matter what the odds.
I spoke to Michelle in a low voice. “Hi Michelle, how are you two doing?” “We are fine” she said, “we just had a bad day. You know Albert; he wouldn’t stay at home today when I came to visit him. He insisted on having a picnic down by the creek. Everything was fine for most of the day and then he had an awful nose bleed. I couldn’t stop it!
Last edited by Davetucson on Fri Mar 30, 2012 4:22 pm; edited 2 times in total