REQUIEM

Well Diary,

I was rummaging through the basement this afternoon and found this old diary that I never completed, and I thought I'd finish it before I put it back one last time. This will be my last entry in this book, because lately I just don't have the time to stop and write, so here goes:

I wish I could tell you it was easier after that day, but I can't. It became much harder, sometimes too hard to live with. Mom and dad took me back in and we decided to spend the rest of our lives working at the relationship. Not a day went by I didn't apologize. We'd talk, and remember, and occasionally get in to heated arguments that would inevitably die down, but it was hard to make sense of it. I wouldn't talk back much because I knew it was my fault. Every time we'd talk I'd just say "I'm sorry". My mom and dad regretted dis-owning me, and I never resented them for it, because I understood.

As for every one else, it was harder with them. My mom and dad were incredibly difficult to cope with for the first year, but they eventually went back to their normal routines. For my friends and family it wasn't as easy. It took a whole year before JJ could hug me again, and it was a hard year to suffer through, but it took nearly a year for my dad to be able to look me in the eyes again. But, it's not planned when everything goes back to normal, you know? You strive to make everything seem right again and then one day it just happens all on its own. I realized I was making progress when we sat to dinner one day and Patty and I began arguing, and my dad had to stop us. It was just like when we were children, and that's when a sense of relief fell over me.

My dad continued working with Mr. Walker for years in the family store and Mr. Walker earned a modest living as co-manager and salesman. After Nathan was killed in the war, he began working harder for his children saving a modest fortune until his death in 1970 after a head on collision with a drunk driver. We were shaken by his death, but Sam went on, because, he said "We have to". I still write to Sam every month or so. We write to each other for pages and pages about what's happening in our lives. I smile so much some times when I read his letter and I see the NASA letterhead at top.

As you can imagine, he got his wish after college, and worked in NASA as an astronaut in training and gained a respectable career as a technician in his field. It wasn't an easy road, especially with the civil rights movement, but he survived. Was there ever a doubt? The Walkers are survivors, and we respect the hell out of them. He is now married, and his sister Angela lives with them attending school. He's happy, and I'm very happy for him, he loves to gloat about progress in his work, and I love to read about it.

Roxanne eventually started talking to me again after we made up, and we became closer than ever until she left. We were so happy when she finished school, and we were even happier when she married Luke two years later. We had the wedding at our house, and my dad, always the protector, walked her down the aisle to a small ceremony of her friends and our family. It was beautiful and she couldn't have been happier. Four years after I returned we renewed our friendship and we made up for lost time; and we didn't miss a beat when we started talking again. Sometimes if you work hard enough, you can get what you want, and Roxanne is living proof. She's now a hairdresser in California. She has a busy career, occasionally doing hair for "American Bandstand". But, she moved on when the show ended, and it was sad. I hate when things end, but the memory still lives on.

Luke was very happy when she quit smoking later on, and they still argue all the time; mostly about their tastes in music. Roxanne still loves pop and Luke is all about the folk music, but there's so much love between them, he gives her what she couldn't get when she was a child. She's such a great mother, too. I mean sure, she makes mistakes, who doesn't, but when people ask, I tell them she's a great mother to her son. She's a natural. Her son is going to do some good in the world, I can feel it. He's bold like Roxie, and enthusiastic like Luke. We talk nearly every day on the phone and we go on for hours on end, and we meet every couple of months to have lunch. We never stop talking.

My mom learned to forgive me, as I'd prayed she would. Prayers aren't always answered, so I considered myself very lucky. One day while I was watching television, she sat next to me and gave me a hug, and we sat there, embracing for an hour. She didn't have to tell me what she was thinking, but I knew what the hug was for, and it was the best gift I've ever received. Mom felt she had to work on the family and spent many years bringing us together as much as she could. After I left, she felt the family wasn't as close as she'd thought and did everything possible to bring us closer. And she continued her work as a travel agent, until her death 1980 after a short bout with lung cancer. It really brought the family to our knees, but before she died she admitted she had no regrets. And that set us at ease, in a way.

After, what seemed like an eternity, my dad finally was able to respect and trust me again. He was still very protective of me once we bonded again. Being the businessman in the family, he eventually expanded his line of electronics beyond televisions and attempted to create a franchise, nearly losing the business to financial woes and nearly sold the store, but we rooted him on, and he held on to it, later being able to recover. He managed to maintain a solid relationship with us even after mom's death, and he continued working until his sudden death in 1985 from a heart attack. Uncle Pete was never really himself again once dad died, and he always says it was as if a part of him went with him. But we include him in the family matters as much as we can.

Will eventually went to high school, still adamant in his love for sports and, even after dad died, he was still the optimist. Though JJ wasn't interested, Will later inherited the Pryor store after dad's death, and with everyone's surprise, did an excellent job carrying dad's legacy on. It's now called "Pryor-Walker Electronics", and even though Sam sold his half of the store when he left, we kept the name up out of respect. It's the best kind of memorial for such a good man. Will expanded the store to three chains, and is making a modest living. He still lives in Philadelphia, you couldn't get him out of there if you tried, and is married now raising his daughter. He still has a slight limp, but it's hardly noticeable, and in spite of the obstacles in his life, he's still positive, and he's given that to his daughter who never stops smiling.

Patty was more intent on breaking out from Philadelphia and worked hard. She was granted a full scholarship to Berkeley, where she graduated in the top ten percentile of her class. We were all so thrilled when we found out, and she went on with her career as she always does. Her hard work paid off as she is now a defense attorney in New York. She's married now and is contemplating her very first child. God, we still argue incessantly whenever we get together, and she still corrects me when we talk. JJ has to break us up eventually, but that's just our way.

And JJ, there was really no doubt about him. He moved away after dad died, and went to work close to his job. It was sad when he left, but we all knew it was for the best. He still works at NASA full time, working his way up and helped revolutionize space travel alongside his peers. And, as luck would have it, is now working side by side with Sam on a project. He and Beth are still married and still very much in love, and live near the base where they're raising John and their daughter Helen who, by the way, is beginning high school soon.

As for Beth, she eventually forgave me, and we got together one day and made up. After mom and dad died, she didn't want to leave any issues unresolved, so we made up before it was too late. It's a good thing we did, we're best friends. She keeps in very close contact with me. I don't resent her for the way she treated me, the whole family had a bone to pick once I returned. JJ became very involved in his field of study and later earned a commendation for his service in the military and continues working in the field. He keeps a picture of mom and dad hanging in the living room.

And as for me? Well, it was a hard uphill battle that sometimes made me want to quit, but mom, dad, JJ, and everyone else wouldn't let me, no matter how tough it got, and it became a test every day of my life. I was lucky and eventually re-gained the relationship with my family patching things up with everyone and attempting to make up for my mistakes. I finished school and now am finishing up my Graduate degree, and I work as a counselor helping children like me who are going down, or have been down the same path as me. Will taught me to take a negative and use it for my advantage, and I did. Yes, I still live in Philadelphia, because, I could never bring myself to get up and leave. This place is too special to me.

It's where I grew up. I'm just one of the many people here living their life and trying to get by. I help bring money to the house through the stores which I co-own with Will, keeping the family business, dad's legacy, alive, and I meet constantly with Will who lives a short while away to discuss business and commute. I'm still there in the city, but you just have to look for me. I was lucky enough to meet the love of my life, marrying a teacher out of college, and we now have three beautiful children of our own. Sometimes, when we sit down to dinner at night, they often remind me of us when we'd sit at the table.

I keep in very close contact with all my nieces and nephews, making sure they don't steer off the path. I don't mind sharing my stories with people if they're willing to listen, but my husband hates to hear them because, he just hates to see anyone stare at me in a negative light. That's one of the things I love about him. I'm still very active in politics as a staunch activist, but I'm still in love with music. I still dance a lot, sometimes too much. I like today's pop music, but, god, nothing beats "Downtown" from Petula Clark. My youngest is starting to take a liking to it. I'm teaching her well, and they all get so excited when I talk about going to Woodstock.

Every so often at night, on my way home, if I have time, I drive in the front of where we used to live and think back. The neighborhood is so different now, but somehow things have stayed the same, like that old saying goes. I get sad when I think about Chris, and Jimmy, and Michael, but then I always come back down to Earth once I look at my children, my husband and everything I've managed to accomplish over the years. Not many people can ruin what they had, and be able to re-build it back to its original form, but I'm so lucky I was able to.

Every year we all gather back in Philadelphia for family reunions, including Roxanne, and Sam's family. We also gather for Christmas, Thanksgiving, and occasionally New Years Eve, and we celebrate the past, present, and inevitable futures. We talk about past loves, our many regrets and remember the people who brought us love. We still argue, and fight, but in the end we always stop to celebrate and bond with one another as family, through and through. Though our distance separates us, our love keeps us close by where we return to celebrate life in our home town where we strived for our dreams.

I hear the kids arguing now, and my husband is calling, so I'll just end it here. If I'm not around, this house just goes completely nuts; I guess the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. It was fun writing in this and reading the old entries, again. I love memories and I'll keep you in mine. It's hard moving on once something is taken from you, but, as I learned from my family and friends, you just have to. People die, people leave, but whether you want to or not, life goes on, but I learned that the good in life isn't all lost as long as you keep the memories alive, and many times the memories are all you need. So, I'll just take you and put you back in the box, and on the next spring cleaning day, I promise I'll come to read you, and perhaps add another entry some day.

So, to you, I say, good-bye and good night. Wait till I tell Roxanne.

AMERICAN DREAMS

2002-05