A Weekend in Indiana

May 14, 2008
By Lawrence Cassar, Clarkston, MI

It was a mediocre Indiana morning and the sun gently beamed regardless of slightly dark colored clouds and a swift current of wind. The fact that I was stuck moving carefully packaged boxes out of my cousin’s house on a perfectly decent Saturday was only further exaggerated by the fact that the first 6 hours of the day were spent in a vehicle with a seat incapable of reclining. I had never thought moving a family out of a house could be awkward, I always thought it A as a new delightful experience, but today was an exception. We were only moving half of the family out; in a sense we were aiding the removal of one man from a family. I pondered the name of this man, because of the divorce was he still my uncle, or should I call him by his first name, or was that disrespectful? I came to the conclusion that I could avoid calling him by name for while; I never expected to avoid talking to him for the next few years. He took the box in a quick and busy manner purposely dodging eye contact and waiting for me to continue the process of hauling carefully packaged boxes from the living room into the van. He was a tall skinny man and always had an easy going look on his face, like he was just waiting for things to string them selves along, like everything in life was just fine, but today he looked out of place.
Of the 5 people in my former uncle’s family, he was really the only one who made the visit awkward. There was never a relationship between me and my cousin Amanda, so there was no conversation to be expected. Alex, a year younger than me found it fitting to discuss upcoming releases of video games almost ignoring the elephant named divorce casually lounging about the room. Although he was 15, he still talked as if he was 8, as if he never matured after they moved away four years ago and just remained in his childish state. There had always been a close bond between my cousin Adam and me, I considered him a friend rather than a cousin.

As I entered the house to retrieve another box, I found time to stop and admire its cleanliness. Despite all the traffic, the white carpet of the living room laid silent as the flower patterned couch soaked up the warm light bounding from the large windows. My cousin Adam sat on the couch, tying his shoe, we exchanged hellos as I accompanied him. Adam held a book labeled Expansion of the Mind in one hand and his brother’s game boy in the other. “Have you seen Alex and Chad?’ I asked, sizing up the next box before wrestling it along on the long haul out to the van.
“Yeah, They’re probably upstairs playing X box, I think Alex is leaving it here tonight.” Adam replied as he left towards the van. My brother and cousin were near the same age, just short of the pre teen genre, it would have normally angered me to hear I was working while he was off playing, but it was to be expected. From the quaint and silent living room my mother joined my brother in avoiding labor. I overheard her and my aunt chatting about, gossiping and laughing loud; again, this didn’t anger me because it was to be expected, she was carrying out her role. Despite the fact our family of 5 had taken a 6 hour drive to Indiana on a weekend trip to help move our cousins out, the only one’s who came to move my cousins out were me and my dad. My mother came to console her sister and my siblings just came. I think the reason I was content being the only one working because it reminded me of life 5 years ago when our cousins lived in the same neighborhood, back when it was ok to pretend we were animals or cartoon characters in the back yard while the adults sat inside and talked while sipping wine, back when things were good.
Once my, father, Adam, my uncle and I finished with the labor, the main priority became dinner plans. In normal families in normal circumstances, you usually just go out to eat, contrary to this; our family found it necessary for everyone to wait at the kitchen table in side conversations, as my mother and aunt tried to configure appropriate dinner plans making it as complicated as possible. “Maybe we can take the girls here and the boys can go here or they can get a pizza and they can get this and we’ll get that…” No one could get the same thing and everything had to be complex and annoying. My aunt was a noticeable wreck, only slightly controlled with my mother as a partner, but lacking complete sanity, like a forest disarrayed from a fire slowly vegetating to its original state. To avoid the havoc and non sense my father and uncle sat isolated in the next room, my Dad was designated driver to dinner regardless of who was in his car and my uncle was leaving soon, no one really knew to where he was going. Bass fishing was on the television screen but neither of the two men was watching, they were just staring into the screen in silence. I felt like I could read my fathers thoughts, like I could tell he was thinking about the predicament, thinking of what to say, if he could find out why the divorce was happening, how after 19 years a seemingly efficient relationship could just break down. My uncle on the other hand was just waiting for the weekend to be over with when he could be alone. Back in the kitchen I sat next to my cousin, wanting to ask him the same questions I imagined my dad would ask, “Everything will work out right?” “This is just a little argument right?” But I didn’t ask I didn’t get the chance; instead my 12 year old brother said exactly what was on everyone’s mind, breaking all sound into silence, “Why can’t we just all go to Apple Bees together?” No one had an immediate response; it was the type of pause where you could feel everyone thinking the same thing, ‘He’s right.’
“No Chad that won’t work, go up stairs and play X box.” My mother spit, denying his suggestion like a reluctant karate chop to a piece of wood, pretending as if it was a childish question.
“You just told us to turn it off Mom”
“just go Chad” and with that what seemed like hope returned to chaos, the mothers frantically trying to work out plans, the kids shooting off conversation of meaningless, and me and Adam just waiting, hopelessly waiting, or at least I knew I was.
Three hours later, the men, minus my uncle, found ourselves staring into an Apple Bees menu cruising the entrée selection in dim lighting and a casual dinner atmosphere. Families strolled in through the wide welcoming doors laughing and enjoying themselves sometimes only one family, sometimes two, a father, a mother, there kids, laughing, smiling like an old clip from an episode of the Brady bunch. Our party sat in silence behind the murmuring chatter of the younger kids, making bland comments at what looked good to eat and what didn’t , just the boys, similar to the Brady bunch but without the cheer of Mrs. Brady. On a large plasma screen TV I noticed the Kentucky derby being played. I’ve never met any one who was an honest horse racing fan but the event always attracts a lot of attention so I decided to watch. To amuse myself I chose a horse that I thought would win; he wasn’t powerful or triumphant looking, but his name was Aladdin, the same one of my favorite movies when I was a child. The announcer delivered a brief biography about each horse describing where they were from, their height and weight, their record and a little about their owner. Aladdin wasn’t favored to win, he was picked to take twelfth, in his prime a few years ago he was a strong horse but it was a rough year for him. I wanted to see how he did but the show was all talk and I soon realized the actual race would not be taking place for a while, so I engaged in conversation with my cousin knowing w would be leaving soon.
After dinner we returned to an empty house, empty of not only people but also much of its furniture. My cousins and I were all assigned to the family room to sleep, the only other person in the house was my uncle, but he had made himself invisible. We played card games and talked about immature topics that made us laugh, mostly memories. “Alex do you want a hot dog, do you want a hot dog Alex?” my brother joked making fun of his aunt, Alex was a picky eater and all he ate was hot dogs, it was only funny because of the how much my brother sounded like her. The thing that puzzled me was although his mother treated him like a child, always worrying about what he would be eating, he never complained about her, never once bad talked her. I think I was finally realizing that the divorce a shame and set in stone, my cousins would make it out alright. My aunt was a strong woman, just easily knocked off her feet, but it doesn’t matter how many times you fall, just that you get back up every time. Adam was an adult and going to live with his dad anyways, but I didn’t worry about him for a second, he was able to remain unaffected by any distress and roll with the punches.
“Well it looks like you win Alex” Adam said pushing a pile of tokens his way and then reshuffling the deck for another round. “Chad, why don’t you throw a movie in while I set up the next game?” Chad quickly obeyed locating the remote and flipping through the correct station, I managed to catch a glimpse of the final results of the Kentucky Derby on ESPN
“Hey leave that station!” I said. Chad looked at me just as surprised as I was that I wanted to see the results of a horse race. “Just for a second Chad” I said scrolling through the sub tickers on all sides of the screens, on the right side was a list of how the horses competed
“Aladdin did surprisingly well today chip, he won’t be displeased with a fourth place, much better than he was picked to do” a sports announcer rambled off.
“Certainly not George, certainly not, he did just fine, just fine.”

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