A Secret Grave 63: Oil and Water

 

Life changed drastically for the family after Rudolf’s death in 1962. Evelyn Frances, who pined for her home city of Dallas, didn’t want to spend one more minute living in her mother-in-law’s shadow. Even as Leonard mourned his father, she campaigned for them to leave, arguing and making shrill scenes. She’d had enough, she was done, and if Leonard wasn’t going with her, she was going on her own. At the time she was pregnant with her third and last child. She wanted to be near her mother.

The move meant Leonard had to start over from scratch. With the connections he’d made in medical school plus his excellent reputation as a doctor, it wasn’t too difficult to find a place in a group practice. His wife was happy, his sons seemed to bicker less, and after the birth of their third child, a little girl named Diana, their lives seemed to settle down. Sunny, sprawling Dallas suited them with its barbecues and baseball games, friendly neighbors, kids running back and forth between houses all day long. Leonard stopped going to shul and gave up all pretense of religion though this, as the years passed, created a loneliness in him that set him apart from friends and colleagues. Happy wife, happy life, yes, but in Leonard’s case, while the family flourished, he withdrew, becoming increasingly morose and bitter.

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Irving, Texas / Dallas Suburb, La Citta Vita,  https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/

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Like his father before him, he built a greenhouse in the backyard where he could grow plants and flowers. Victor followed him around like a puppy, sticking his fingers into the pots, sniffing the sweet smells in the air and asking a million questions. Roy wasn’t interested in such things. Two years apart, the boys hated one another, oil and water, day and night, barely a shred of good will connecting them. Roy was big and ungainly with a prankster’s sense of humor and an unfortunate habit of pointing out the obvious. He was a tattle tale, not to be trusted, always there, always sneaking up on you, always in the way. Victor, by comparison, was small and wiry, a dreamy child who enjoyed reading books and playing with his chemistry set, did well in school but had few friends, loved solving puzzles, taking care of plants and animals, and whose one ambition was to be a doctor like his father. As the middle child, he rolled around in the family system like a loose marble, unable to find equilibrium unless it was some cramped place in the corner. He was inarguably a total nerd, thick glasses, an overbite from sucking his thumb (Evelyn dragged him to the orthodontist early), a stubborn cowlick, a slight stammer that he overcame by reading books to himself aloud. Aside from a certain sweetness of character, he had two things going for him: a photographic memory that he had inherited from his grandfather, Rudolf, and an ability to heal by touch – a gift from his forebears that he kept secret because, even though he had experienced it as a young child when he was feverish and his father ran his hands over him, it was a talent that he considered weird and creepy.

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To be continued…

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Cover photo ~ Oil, Erich Ferdinand, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

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