Col. George K. Roberts
Department of the Army
June 3, 1919
Yes, reports of the bombings have reached us. My friends are concerned, but not in the way your supervisors believe. Many of the men here are, like me, veterans of the Army and saw combat in Europe. They are patriotic Americans and are in no way advocates of anarchy; they are as strongly anti-Communist as you and I.
Monday, June 20
On Monday we’d planned to visit Chincoteague and Assateague Islands. I wanted to go badly, and figured that I could manage the trip on crutches.
We only had room for eight, or we’d have to take a second vehicle. Dad, Doug, Jeff, Val, Kevin, Kristen, Pete and me were the lucky adventurers. I sat in the middle seat, facing sideways, my right leg draped over Pete’s and Kristen’s laps.
We crossed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and wound our way south along its western edge, getting occasional whiffs of nastiness from the gigantic chicken farms scattered along the peninsula. We finally crossed back into Virginia and turned east for the bridge to Chincoteague.Jeff, Kevin and I had been here as kids. Once we’d camped on Assateague and Jeff had gotten to see wild ponies in their natural habitat. It was one of the highlights of his life.
We wouldn’t be seeing ponies today, but none of us minded. It was delightful just to be in the friendly little town, breathing in salt air, and eating some of the best homemade ice cream on the planet.
When we got back to McLean in late afternoon, bearing crab cakes for everyone, we found Linda and Sarge there alone. Doug said, “Where are the others?”
Linda said, “Dennis and Toni are with Marilyn and Cliff at Tyler and Blair’s house.”
I said, “They’re having a summit meeting?”
Pete asked, “Were Blair’s parents invited?”
Linda gave Pete a look. “I doubt that.”
Pete and Dad decided to make shrimp and grits for dinner to accompany the crab cakes. Linda and Val pitched in to help, which gave me an opportunity to get Sarge by himself in the family room. “Grampa? We – Jeff, Kevin and I – were wondering if you’d talk to Dad. We’re worried about him.”
Sarge nodded. “I’ve noticed that he’s quieter. Think that’s since the trial?”
I said, “The trial, his breakup with Barb, and coming here are all tangled up together. He was at the cemetery for hours on Saturday.”
Sarge looked surprised. “I didn’t realize he was gone that long.”
“Everyone was getting ready for the boil. There was a lot going on.” I took a deep breath. “He won’t listen to us. He’ll just tell us he’s fine. Maybe he’ll talk to you.”
“Mm.” Sarge pushed to his feet and patted my cheek. “I’ll see what I can get out of him. Right now, I need a nap.”
Dennis and Toni came home just as Pete and Dad were getting ready to cook. The rest of us were gathered in the kitchen, supervising. Toni said, “Oh, let me help.”
Pete said, “No, ma’am. You sit down. We’ve got this.”
Toni sat at the kitchen table with a sigh. Dennis disappeared into the family room and returned with a glass of Jack Daniels. I said, “Well?”
Dennis rubbed his temples. “The wedding’s on. After some harsh words, the boys are at least being civil to each other. Blair apologized for what he’d said.”
Kevin said, “That doesn’t mean he didn’t mean it.”
“Oh, I think he meant it. But the emotion that’s driving him now is fear that Tyler will call off the wedding. He knows he’s lost everything if that happens.”
Pete asked, “What harsh words?”
Toni said, “Tyler told Blair that he’d call off the wedding, if that’s what Blair wanted, but Blair would have to pay us back half of what we’ve spent on the rehearsal dinner. Blair turned white as a sheet.”
I said, “He’d never be able to do that.”
Dennis said, “No. Blair makes about a quarter as much as Tyler does. Tyler told Blair that he understood now why Blair doesn’t mind mooching off him, because Blair’s entire family is mooching off of ours.”
Kristen whistled softly. “Harsh words, indeed.”
“Yeah.” Dennis drained his drink. “I think Marilyn and Cliff spent most of last night convincing Tyler that he needed to stand up to Blair. So he did.” He huffed a laugh. “I was proud of him.”
I said, “They have to get counseling.”
Toni said, “Marilyn made them promise that they would.”
Kevin muttered, “If they don’t kill each other on the honeymoon.”
After dinner Linda produced a large photo album and handed it to Kevin. “I bet Kristen and Pete would enjoy seeing the group pictures over the years.”
Kristen said, “Oooooh, definitely.”
I said, “Why don’t we get comfortable in the family room?” I flicked my eyes in the direction of Sarge and my dad, who were sitting together at the far end of the porch.
Jeff said, “Excellent idea.”
Kevin, Kristen, Pete and I lined up on the sofa. The first photo, from 1975, was of a young Sarge – age 49 – holding a baby.
Kristen said, “Who’s that?”
Kevin answered. “That’s Shana. She’s the oldest grandchild. A couple of months older than Pete.”
Pete chuckled. “Glad I’m not the oldest oldest.”
The following year, Sarge was sitting on the porch steps, holding another baby – Will. Shana was just over a year old, leaning against Sarge, her blond hair in two little ponytails sticking up at the back of her head.
The following year, Lindsey made her appearance. The year after that, Sarge was holding two babies. Henry and Jeff. The next year he held two more babies – Carly and Kevin. One more year, and I made my debut.
A year passed without a new baby. In the picture that year, Sarge sat on the front steps with me on his lap, surrounded by blond toddlers. The next year, there was another baby.
Kristen said, “I guess that’s Tanner.”
Kevin said, “Yep.”
Three more years went by. All of us toddlers grew into elementary school-aged kids. In 1985, ten years after Shana was born, Tyler arrived in the picture.
I smiled as Kristen turned the pages, watching all of us grow taller. Denny’s kids’ hair turned darker. We came to the picture where Jeff had his arm in a cast – 1989.
The last time we’d seen our Coleman grandparents.
The annual pictures stopped in 1995. The year I turned 15, the year I’d come out, the year Sarge had stopped speaking to me. We were nearly all teenagers, busy in the summers with our own activities, and we hadn’t all been in the same place at the same time again until Doug’s 60th birthday in 2008.
Tanner was in the last picture taken, from 2008. I wondered if he’d ever be in another.