That little red house was so fun. All of the kids loved being there together. But at certain times it was the last place anyone wanted to be.

My grandfather was a long haul truck driver. At Christmas he’d bring us all home gifts. The tree was always full when we arrived on Christmas Day. He was a big man. To us, he was a giant & we feared him. His demons were alcohol, anger & commitment.

That little red house could go from being full of children laughing and playing to a quiet zone, fast! Most times he’d come home take his bottle of whiskey, carton of cigarettes & lock himself in the bedroom, watching wrestling. I still can’t stand wrestling on tv. He’d bark out orders to my grandmother without ever leaving the room. He’d stomp his feet on the floor or bang on the wall, yelling “Jellybean”. In reality it was, “Geraldine”, but we heard Jellybean & we’d giggle. To this day we make jokes about him yelling, “Jellybean”. But now we know the reality, the cruelty & controlling that was going on behind that one misheard word, “Jellybean”. For when he barked, my grandmother had to listen!

As long as we were quiet & didn’t wake the giant, we could have a semblance of peace and enjoy our idealistic, false sense of normalcy. The kids would all go outside because they didn’t want to make him mad. If we knew one thing, it was that a mad Grampa was very bad.

That little red house was a horror show. I can not fathom what went on in that house for my aunts, uncles & grandma when no one else was there. I don’t want to imagine. The thoughts scare me even now, decades later.

I’ve seen my grandfather angry. I’ve seen him fight with others over anything & everything. We watched on a freezing cold night in January from under the picnic table where we hid, hugging and holding the youngest among us. I remember my sister saying she was cold and my Uncle Timmy wrapping her in his little shaking arms & my Aunt Lisa wrapping them both in hers. I remember my parents coming. Once again my mom shuttled us all into the back seat of her little car and gave us a blanket. I remember my grandfather enraged & turning his anger on my grandmother. I remember my Dad yelling & shoving him telling him to stop. We went home to our house & no one talked about it. We never talked about it.

My aunt, uncle, me & my sister with my parents.

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