November 11, 1918
Near Lachalade, France
At last! Victory is ours. As you can imagine, the date of our departure from these shores is not yet firm, but I hope to be home by the end of the year. I must stop in Washington D.C. first, to receive my discharge and my instructions for my new assignment.
I am so anxious to see my little Caroline, and how she has grown in the past twenty months. Eula has been less than rigorous about sending photos. No matter; I shall soon see her in person.
I hope to see you soon as well! Perhaps we can resume our monthly lunch meetings in Huntington.
Best, as always, to Louisa.
Wednesday, June 15
My ankle was throbbing and kept waking me up during the night. I felt bad about it, but was forced to wake Pete up once to obtain fresh ice packs. He immediately fell back into sleep, but I didn’t.
I finally decided that if I was going to be awake, I might as well be productive. Pete had brought my computer bag downstairs with his pillow and blanket. I picked out a couple of books on the Picts – background for a book I was writing – and began to read and take notes, using my book clip light so I wouldn’t wake Pete.
At some point I must have fallen asleep, because I woke to the sound of the front door closing and approaching footsteps. The footsteps turned toward the kitchen; the fridge opened and closed, then whoever it was headed my way. My book light had turned itself off; I turned it back on so whoever it was would be alerted to my presence.
Dad walked through the door, a bottle of water in his hand, and stopped. He whispered, “Hey, sport. Couldn’t sleep?”
“No. I thought I’d get some work done. What’s going on?”
“I couldn’t sleep either. I went to the front porch and sat for a while. How are you feeling?”
“Meh. My ankle’s throbbing.”
“You need more ice?”
I heard the coffee maker start. People would be getting up soon. Dad rubbed his face. “I’ll get your ice, then I’m gonna take a shower. Do you need anything else?”
I watched Dad leave the room. I didn’t think insomnia was a usual occurrence for him.
I wondered what was on his mind.
The plan for the day had been to visit Rock Creek Park and the National Zoo. I’d been to both – I’d been almost everywhere in the area already – and didn’t mind missing the visit, but I wanted Pete to go.
I had some trouble convincing him, but finally won. Pete looked at me worriedly. “You sure you don’t mind?”
“Of course not. I’ve already seen everything you’re going to see.”
“You haven’t seen the baby panda.”
“I’ll watch him on Panda Cam. I’m going to get a ton of research done today. Scram.”
He scrammed, trailing Jeff, Val, Kevin, Kristen, and Dad out the door.
As Toni and I had lunch together, I told her stories of Dennis’s sons as kids and she told me about the first time she met my grandfather, who initially terrified her. She glanced at the clock. “Speaking of your grandfather, Doug and Linda should be…”
Her sentence was cut off by the doorbell. I laughed. “Right on time.”
I followed Toni to the door on crutches. She opened the front door and was engulfed in a hug by Linda, who stepped back and looked at me in surprise. “Jamie? What on earth happened?”
“I got knocked off a curb and sprained my ankle yesterday. Hi, Grampa.”
My grandfather came in and Toni closed the door as Doug said, “You’re okay?”
“Yeah. It’s not broken. Just a bad sprain.”
Sarge put his hand on my shoulder. “Let’s get off our feet, then.”
We went to the family room; Toni took requests for food and drink, and she and Linda disappeared into the kitchen then returned with sandwiches. After lunch Linda went outside with Toni to discuss the flower garden, and Doug went upstairs to unpack and take a nap. I was going to use the opportunity of having my grandfather to myself to glean some of his Brodie family knowledge. I set my phone to record and said to Sarge, “Grampa, you ready?”
I turned on the recorder. “So you remember your grandfather? Alexander Brodie, right?”
“I remember him well.” My grandfather grinned. “He was a character.”
“And Gramma’s grandfather?”
“James Douglas. My grandpa Alex’s best friend.”
“Why did they come to the States?”
“They were both the youngest sons in their families. They had no prospects. You couldn’t buy a piece of farmland in Scotland in the late 1800s, it was all owned by titled landowners. They could either move to a city to work in a factory, join the British army, or go into the mines. They wanted to farm. So they came to a place where that was possible.”
“How old were they when they emigrated?”
“Where did they go?”
“A distant Brodie cousin owned a small plantation in Franklin County, North Carolina. After the Civil War his slaves left and he needed help working his land. Once Alex and James landed on American shores, they made their way to Franklin County and worked for the cousin. They married local girls from Highland families and eventually earned enough to each buy their own small piece of property.”
I whistled softly. “A Brodie owned slaves?”
“A distant cousin. I’ve read about that on the computer.”
“Did Grandpa Alex talk about the Brodie family?”“Sure. He always said we came from a long line of younger sons. His great-grandfather was a younger brother of the 21st Brodie of Brodie, and a direct descendant on his mother’s side of the 14th clan chief. And -” Sarge grinned. “One one of the maternal sides, we’re descended from Robert the Bruce.”
I laughed. “Of course we are. But speaking of the Brodies of Brodie – I’ve seen the pictures in the castle. All of them were dark-haired. Where did our blond come from?”
“I don’t know, but my grandfather was blond. I always figured there was a Viking in the woodpile somewhere along the way.”
Sarge told the story of how Alex and James left the plantation and moved to South Carolina – they wanted to live by the sea – and about family traditions that had come down through the generations. He finished a story about how his parents met and gave me a sharp look. “You look tired. Bet you didn’t sleep well.”
He slapped my knee and stood. “I’m gonna hit the head.”
Linda had been in the kitchen discussing something with Toni; now she came in and sat down beside me. “How do you feel? You look tired.”
“Sarge just said that. I am tired.”
“You should take a nap before the others get back.”
“Good idea.” I crutched to the bathroom then back to my nest, turned off my phone and fell asleep.