July 11, 1992
Dad and Patrick loved trains. It was their mutual fascination that led to the train table in the basement. Dad acquired an ancient HO set and I’d watch enviously from the corner as they labored over the tracks, mountains, bridges, and wiring. But I had my Legos and those were better than train sets any day.
On this day Dad and Patrick went to a nearby station to watch some real-life trains. Of course, I wanted to go with them so they brought me along. We gazed with rapture between the various electric and diesel engines, and when one of them pulled out of the station we stood on the sidelines making hand motions at the conductor for him to sound the horn. He happily obliged and waved back to us.
Dad looked at the train schedule and suggested we walk along the tracks, since there were no trains due for quite some time. Patrick and I skipped along but we had to stop after a half-hour when my asthma acted up. Unfortunately I didn’t have my medicine. In my excitement to leave the house I had forgotten to take it with me, so we had to go back home.
Mom was in a snit when we returned. She was annoyed at Dad for taking me out without telling her, and she was further annoyed that I didn’t have my medicine with me and I’d had an asthma attack under his watch. It was his responsibility to make sure I didn’t over-exert myself. Dad bristled at the criticism, and as far as the asthma went he scoffed that it was all in my head. Patrick took me by the wrist and brought me into my room as the fight started. He closed the door and we sat on my floor playing with my Legos while my parents argued in the living room.
Not long after that scene, Dad and Patrick had a falling out. Patrick was 13 and I was eight. I was now the only one of Dad’s six kids still on good terms with him. He started venting to me about the rest of the family, and since I only ever heard his side of it I started siding with him. I didn’t know what everybody else’s problem was. Dad said they treated him like garbage. He said that Patrick told him, “It’s your fault that I’m starving,” and sneered at me that it was probably my mother who planted that idea in Patrick’s head.
As a result I started sniping and griping at my brothers and sisters, asking what was the matter with them and why did they have to treat Dad the way they did. I echoed Dad’s points about how hard he worked for us and how he built the second floor so we’d all have our own rooms. None of them wanted to discuss it with me. They worried that whatever they said would only get back to Dad.
Meanwhile, the train table in the basement was drowning under a sea of papers and magazines and boxes of tools. It would never see the light of day again.