I’m pretty sure Gracie had an idea what was going on inside our house. I say that because she came from a messed up family too. Members of dysfunctional families can often sniff each other out.
I always felt something wasn’t right in Gracie’s past. Why didn’t she ever talk about her family or her childhood? One day I asked Mom what she knew.
“Mac and Gracie never had kids, right? Did they not want them, or could they not have them?”
I spied something on Mom’s face before she smoothed it out, like a tablecloth.
My eyes narrowed. “What? What do you know?”
Mom fiddled with her wedding ring. “I guess I can tell you. They’re both dead, and everyone related to them is too.”
I stopped nibbling my pinky nail for a second. “What are you saying? How bad is it?”
“Oh, it’s bad.” She closed her eyes. She always did that when she wanted to block out unpleasant things. Come to think of it, I do that too. “It’s hard to believe people can be so cruel, so controlling, to their own children.”
I grabbed a hank of hair and started twisting it as I hung in between the wanting to know and not.
“Gracie’s father was a very wealthy and influential man. He never approved of Mac. He didn’t think Mac, a slaughterhouse employee, was good enough for his Sunny. So he forbade them to marry. But Sunny and Mac were crazy about each other. They ran off, drove over to Pennsylvania, and got married anyway. When they came back, they bought a small house outside town. Sunny’s father never spoke to her again.”
I sniffed. “That’s mean.”
“Oh, that’s not the bad part,” Mom said. “The next year Sunny became gravely ill. Her appendix needed to come out. Mr. Mac didn’t know what to do. Sunny still talked to her mother from time to time so Mac called her. Sunny’s mom made arrangements for Sunny to have surgery. Somehow Sunny’s father found out. He either bribed or coerced the surgeon into performing a hysterectomy on Sunny while he was removing her appendix.”
I gasped. “No way.”
“Sunny and Mac tried for a long time to have children. Finally they gave up. Years later, Sunny learned the truth. Her father was dead and her mother was dying. Sunny went to see her, and she told Sunny everything.”
I wanted to sock Gracie’s dad. I’d sucker punch him hard, in the kidneys, like I did my brothers. How could he do that to his own daughter? How could God let that happen to her? For crying out loud, Gracie called herself a whosoever. “For God so loved the world, he gave his one and only son, so that whosoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” She said it at least once a week.
Mom finally looked up. “She adored you all. You know that, don’t you?”
“Yeah, I know.” I blinked and wiped my nose.