Chapter 3

   When Thelma’s little brother Brad and she were kids they only ever all together went on one family vacation. Before that vacation her sisters went all the time, to Florida to see their grandparents, where they’d ride on boats and go fishing, and all their other fun stuff.

   But then Brad and she joined the family.

   “Too many kids,” said her mom after they were born. Their family vacations were over and done after that. Her mom never wanted any of them, anyway, so she was mad that they were there to begin with.

   “I never wanted you kids. You are all your father’s idea,” she told them all of Telly’s entire life. She meant the children were a bad idea, since they were her husband’s idea.

   “Why are you even here? You’ve ruined my life!”

   Anytime anyone of them would walk into a room she got pissed that they were living and breathing.

   Later on, Patty was ostracized from the family and Betty cut herself off. Patty locked herself in her room and never came out. Betty was always fuming. Whenever Brad made his parents mad, Thelma would jump in and take his punishment. She couldn’t stand to see him get it. But the sisters were always throwing each other under the bus. None of them wanted to get hit. The bad part is your sisters then grow up hating you. That’s how they had the mess between her sisters and Thelma now.

  She wasn’t saying there weren’t good times, but it was definitely tough.

   The one family vacation they went on in her whole life was to Disneyland. Her mom complained it was like corralling cats. One morning Telly was with her. They were out searching for breakfast. No one knew where Patty was. She had just walked off. Betsy took Brad with her and their dad went to find tickets to see the Country Bears Jamboree.

  That’s the only reason he went to Disneyland to begin with. He loved the Country Bears and couldn’t get enough of them. He laughed up a storm at the mention of them.

   When her mom and she finally got trays of breakfast for everyone they couldn’t find anyone, so they sat down on a curb. A minute later, sitting on the curb, looking up, they saw Betsy and Brad slowly go past leaning back in a horse-drawn carriage, waving their hands.

   Alma and Telly looked at each other. What? Really?

   They all saw the Bear Jamboree later, and the next day Thelma spotted Donny Osmond riding the same monorail with them out of our hotel. Her sisters loved Donny Osmond when they were growing up, but they wouldn’t go up to him.

   Telly was young and gun-shy, but her dad pushed her in Donny’s direction, anyway.

   “Go get his autograph,” Fred said.

   “No, no, no,” she said.

   Fred pushed her forward, she got a pushed in the small of the back running start, and the next thing she knew she was standing in front of Donny Osmond. Thelma was just flabbergasted! She had seen him on TV and now she was standing in front of him. Telly got his autograph, although she didn’t know how. Maybe he felt bad because he thought she was special needs. She just didn’t even know.

   “Poor little retard kid,” he probably thought and gave her his autograph.

   She ran off the monorail car when it stopped. “Why would you do that to me?” she asked her dad. “Why me?”

   Thelma went to Bay Village Middle School and Bay Village High School. She was a lifeguard at the Bay Pool and a Bay Rockette on the kick line for two years. Telly had a lot of friends growing up, but she hardly ever had them over to their house. She usually went to their houses. She was always leery of having them over because she never knew if her dad would be mad out of the blue or if her mom would start something out of the blue.

   If they liked something Alma was always going to find a way to not like it. After Thelma moved away, her sister Patty wanted a family heirloom their mom had, a bench that had been in their great grandparent’s house, but Alma wouldn’t let her take it.

   Her parents used to have the bench in their split-level family house in Bay Village, at the end of their bed, but when Fred passed away and Alma immediately re-married, marrying her old high school sweetheart from Jersey Shore, and moving to North Ridgeville, she put it away in her garage.

   Patty wanted the bench bad. Thelma told her mom over and over that Patty wanted it, but Alma said, “No, she can’t have it, and that’s final.” It was like talking to wood.

   “What are you doing with it?” Telly asked her.

   “No, no, no,” she said. It was because she knew Patty wanted it that she wouldn’t give it to her.

   That’s the way Alma is. If someone loves something, then she hates it. She always finds a way. She’s always been like that. Their dad could be cool sometimes. Thelma knew, even though he beat the tar out of them, that he cared about them. But, their mom, not so much.

   Thelma had a Rockette party at their house once, at the tail end of August, coming out of left field. They were at practice and their coach said the first football game was coming up soon, on September such-and-such, and they didn’t have a place scheduled for their potluck, yet.

   “We can have it at our house,” she blurted out.

   Just like that thirty high school girls were going to be coming over to their house. She called her dad at work. He sounded happy to hear from her.

   “Hey, dad,” she said. “I just invited all my friends over for a potluck.”

   “Sweet,” he said. “We’ll make it work.”

   He came home early from work, bought all the hot dogs and hamburgers, and thoroughly enjoyed having all Telly’s friends in the backyard. He was all over the place with his camera and took a ton of pictures. It was a good time. Her mom stayed in the house and never came out into the yard. Fred loved it, but Alma was pissed that her daughter had thirty girls over.

   Thelma loved being a Rockette. She was one of the in crowd during her sophomore and junior years at Bay High School until the night not long after the party when she tore her hamstring in three places. She had to give up being a Rockette because of her leg.

   It was terrible, like she had lost something special, something she could never get back.

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