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The Secret of Willow Ridge
Gabe’s Dad Finds Recovery
Helen H. Moore
Foreword by Claudia Black, Ph.D. Illustrated by John Blackford
C e n t r a l r e C o v e ry P r e s s Central recovery Press (CrP) is committed to publishing exceptional material addressing addiction treatment, recovery, and behavioral health care, including original and quality books, audio/visual communications, and web-based new media. through a diverse selection of titles, it seeks to impact the behavioral healthcare field with a broad range of unique resources for professionals, recovering individuals, and their families. For more information, visit www.centralrecoverypress.com. Central recovery Press, las vegas, nv 89129 © 2010 by Central recovery Press, las vegas, nv IsBn-13: 978-0-9818482-0-4 IsBn-10: 0-9818482-0-6 all rights reserved. Published 2010. Printed in the United states of america. no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the written permission of the publisher. 16 15 14 13 12 11 10 Publisher: 12345
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To Scarlet, who told me the truth. To Damien, Collin, Clementine, and Amy Rose who make it all worthwhile.
Dad? Is That YOU? 12. Secrets 4. Knots and Butterflies 16. 8. My Dad’s in Recovery! . Friday 11.Table of Contents Foreword • 1 9 15 27 37 45 53 61 69 77 83 89 93 99 107 115 1. Morning Again 14. A New Day 9. Sweet Dreams 13. A Normal Morning 2. Blood 3. A Long Way from Normal 7 Back to Normal . Life without Dad 10. Are We There Yet? 6. Surprises 5. Gabe’s Dilemma 15.
the addicted person may say a lot of things that cause hurt feelings. a ten-year-old boy. He or she will often blame the kids for things that aren’t their fault. When addiction happens in a family it creates a lot of problems for everyone. the addicted person doesn’t show up to important events or makes promises and doesn’t keep those promises. and sometimes it is hard to know whether or not he or she will be nice or angry. When someone is addicted. and his mother spend a lot of their life pretending everything is okay when it is not. and for both of them life has been very confusing because their father is addicted to alcohol and other drugs. Gabe. he or she is often angry or sad and very preoccupied .Foreword The Secret of Willow Ridge: Gabe’s Dad Finds Recovery is a story told by Gabe. If there is another adult living in the home. sometimes the person yells and is violent. but as in most families affected by addiction he has learned to keep those thoughts and feelings to himself. Izzy. Gabe has a sevenyear-old sister. his sister. he or she often changes personalities. Gabe has a lot of thoughts and feelings about what is happening in his life.
this person may even do all the things that the addicted person does. Kids often think they are the cause of their parents’ unhappiness and that they are the reason their parents drink or use other drugs. Whoever it is.with the person who abuses alcohol or other drugs. at least one out of every five homes has someone in the family who struggles with substance abuse. although they are never quite sure what that is. stepparent. But in Gabe’s family a very wonderful thing happens—his father is willing to get help. everyone gets hurt. Kids believe if they just did the right thing. they often feel guilty. wanting but not knowing how to make their family life better. Gabe’s story lets you know what it’s like for him to live with addiction and that you are not alone if someone in your family is addicted to alcohol or other drugs. While some addicted people go to treatment centers. or even a grandparent. and angry. Whether or not your parent goes to a treatment . Gabe’s dad goes to a treatment center—a place that is “half school and half hospital”—to learn a new way of life without using drugs or alcohol. Most people who become addicted want to stop using. when addiction is in the family. others stay at home and go to meetings that help them learn how to live without using drugs and alcohol. In this story. scared. It may be a mother or father. but it is very hard to do so alone. brother or sister. but all this becomes one big secret they don’t want anyone else to know. very sad. embarrassed. this is all so confusing to them. In the meantime. In fact. Kids certainly have reasons to feel this way. then they could make everything okay.
the family works together and they do so without any more secrets. While Gabe does not know how this will change his family. • If someone is addicted.center. • the addicted person and family members can have recovery. and because of that the whole family needs to get well together. he or she can get help to stop using. anger. and it helps to talk about thoughts and feelings. Gabe talks about what it is like for him when his father is in treatment and shares his own doubts and hopes about whether or not life will really get better. sadness. • addicted people don’t want to act like they do. and embarrassment when living with addiction. but the alcohol or drugs have control over them. Family members no longer need to pretend everything is okay when it isn’t. you will probably have some of the same thoughts and feelings as Gabe. • you are not at fault for the pain in the family or for the addiction. • Kids have a lot of feelings such as fear. even when a parent says they want to stop their drinking or taking drugs it can be hard to trust that life will really get better. this book lets you know that: • you are not alone. he has reasons to be hopeful. . Gabe is fortunate because his family recognizes that even though only one person in the family is addicted everyone in the family is affected. many families experience addiction.
and whether or not he or she stays in recovery. recovery begins when people ask for help. you too can ask for help. Claudia Black.D. Ph. Without ever being addicted. it is important that you know you don’t have to keep the secret of addiction or recovery. My Dad Has a Disease and It Will Never Happen to Me . author of My Dad Loves Me.Whether your parent goes to treatment and/or twelve-step meetings. It begins when you find the courage to talk honestly about what you are thinking and feeling. you too can have recovery.
where Gabe’s friends might see them.1 a Normal Morning It was a normal september saturday in Willow ridge. today was not a normal day. that morning Mom had been up before them. who lived at number 22. and as a rule they never. were out on the front lawn. For starters. But in spite of appearances. and Gabe was her ten-year old brother. like they were full of tears that she wouldn’t let fall. the sun was shining normally. all dressed and waiting for them when they came downstairs. Her voice had sounded a little too cheerful. 1 . there was nothing odd about that. and she was smiling when she called Gabe and Izzy from their bedrooms. except that Izzy was a seven-year old girl. Izzy and Gabe. she had combed her hair and put on her lipstick. and a very normal breeze was blowing through the tops of the trees that lined both sides of extremely normal Cherry street. ever played together—at least not outside. and her eyes were awfully bright.
What does she think this is—HER childhood? He looked through the kitchen doorway into the family room. but Izzy was so excited by the smell of chocolate in the air and the bowl of bright blueberries at her place. which he had 2 . Was up before them. 4. and the kind of whipped cream that squirts out of a can. I need you to finish up fast and run outside to play. He could see his Xbox. giving his mom one of his trademark one-armed hugs as he walked over and grabbed his chair. chocolate syrup. and sat down to eat. Never. bumping it a bit along the kitchen floor. she wasn’t looking at him. cheerfully. waving them into the kitchen. she was climbing into her chair. “thanks. “Hurry up. “Chocolate-chip pancakes!” Mom announced. his mom cleared her throat with a little cough and said. Was dressed as soon as she got up. Mom. sweetsmelling chocolate-chip pancakes. kids. the table was loaded with stacks of steaming. He looked at his sister. he decided.The Secret of Willow Ridge “I’ve got a surprise for you both. Made chocolate-chip pancakes. Was smiling this early. where. 2. ready to dig in.” Run outside to play? thought Gabe. sure enough.” she’d said.” said Gabe. as he dragged it out. Gabe and Izzy looked at each other. He thought back to see if he could remember the last time his mom: 1. Something’s up. This must have something to do with last night. 3. there was a glass of milk and a bowlful of berries for each of them. thought Gabe.
glancing up at his pretty and tired-looking mother from under his fringe of spiky black hair.” he said. he was a self-respecting ten-year-old boy. sometimes he hated Dad. the tears that had been making his mother’s eyes look so bright a few moments ago had brimmed right over and rolled down her cheeks in two wet tracks. and cream. and he pushed away his half-eaten breakfast. “Ma—aa.a Normal Morning intended to jump on as soon as he demolished his pancakes. he had to argue a little first. which was thoroughly covered with a mixture of whipped cream. disgusting babyishness! But when he did. But there was something about the unusual way things were going this morning that made him think he’d better do what his mom said. Probably Dad again. He got out of his chair and cleared his place. Gabe’s stomach began to knot up. shoveling down a forkful of pancake. of course.” he called back as he left the kitchen. “Hurry up. chocolate syrup. he was sorry he’d argued. something was wrong. “Play? outside? With Her?” He stared in Izzy’s direction. dumping the remains of his breakfast into the trash and putting his chocolategoop-covered plate in the sink.” he moaned. Gabe whipped his head around to make sure his mother was noticing Izzy’s typical. “I’ll get our jackets. after all. “Gross.” His mother wiped the tears that had collected on her chin and smiled a weak little smile at him. and half-chewed pancake. Izzy. she stuck out her tongue. Why couldn’t they have a normal dad? What had he 3 . berries. “are you for real?” He jerked his head toward his sister. that sad little smile was almost worse than her tears.
lingering look at his Xbox as he made his way to the front door. he kept his head down but couldn’t resist taking a quick look from side-to-side at the mess. the tv had been broken. no one ever told him he couldn’t. full of noise and screaming. Mom had really cried that time. it was hard to tell if it was better or worse than usual. one morning. after one of his dad’s “episodes. a long time ago. No one there.” as he’d heard Mom call them. Gabe gave a last.The Secret of Willow Ridge done now to make Mom so upset? It could have been just about anything. after an especially bad night. they kind of expect you to invite them to yours. 4 . Good. Gabe went to the front door and peeked through the curtains before he opened it. and their living rooms never looked like his parents’ living room. like luis and ethan and Joe. it was always a mess. the living room always looked bad. and Gabe knew he could never do that. He’d stopped going to his friends’ houses because if your friends invite you to their houses. really. He didn’t want anyone to see the mess. He’d been to his friends’ houses. with a big crack across the screen. But he didn’t even want to see them this morning. just axel and Willis. He didn’t have too many friends anymore. like a spider web. picking up his and his sister’s jackets from the hooks at the foot of the stairs. He just knew. but Gabe thought he knew just what it was. It was just… Dad. being Dad. He used to have lots of friends. but they did get a new tv out of it. It was the same thing it always was. no matter how hard his mom tried. Passing through the living room.
He waved limply at Willis and Mr. “yeah. too? Well. it could. actually. making fun of Gabe.” he lied. they had.” Gabe hung his head. Mcteague. and watched the fishing poles strapped to the top of their truck bobbing behind them. and looking like they were headed toward the lake. but it was too late. normal people in normal Willow ridge. Gabe.a Normal Morning not if he was going to have to babysit dopey Izzy in the front yard for who-knew-how-long. We’re going to the lake. “Hey. see if he wants to come!” He leaned out the window and banged his arm on the side of his truck. and saying “Bye-bye. Mcteague as they drove off.” yelled Gabe. Why couldn’t his family be normal. as he walked down the front steps of number 22 Cherry street in normal Willow ridge. What are you gonna do with your dad today?” “IZ-Zeeey. But he was starting to hate all the nice. waving. He hoped they hadn’t seen him. Usa. “Go wake up your old man. But this morning Gabe didn’t have to worry about his friends seeing him or getting a peek at his family’s living room. He didn’t want them to see. you. Gabe!” Mr. If it wasn’t for Dad. suddenly. too. Usa. Mcteague nodded and said. he saw Willis and his dad in their bright new truck. and he hoped it wasn’t too red. “you. loser! We’re going fishing. too. pulling out of their driveway across the street. He knew they meant to be nice. “thanks anyway.” Gabe’s face felt hot.” called Mr. whirling around. “What’s taking you so long?” He glanced at their house and 5 . “My dad’s sick today. as if they were waving goodbye too. From the passenger seat Willis yelled.
Behind him. crookedly. she screamed. That definitely wasn’t there yesterday.” Izzy yelled. and the closer he got the more certain he was. he felt sure it hadn’t been there yesterday.The Secret of Willow Ridge then turned toward his family’s own driveway where their dad’s car was parked. looking around to see if the neighbors could hear. you big baby! Anyone knows that’s just rust! and get your thumb out of your mouth!” Izzy’s thumb had flown to her mouth. and wondered if that was a new dent along the fender. he told himself. as usual. which seemed dirtier and more beat up than ever somehow. “Blood!” she pointed to the ugly red scrape that stretched along the bottom of the crushed fender. thought Gabe. and now. “that’s just rust. the front door slammed. “looK. “shut UP!” hissed Gabe. He approached the dirty old car. Princess Izzy was finally ready to appear. as he got closer. but before he could say a word. as it did whenever she was scared. He turned to face her. as she pulled it out and looked up at 6 . He probably drove over my soccer ball when he parked like that.
a Normal Morning her brother. and her little hand was cold in his. 7 . uncertainly. “are you sure?” she moved around to take Gabe’s hand. Gabe was afraid that Izzy. absently.” he said. “anyone can see that. “rust?” she repeated.” But he didn’t see that. “of course. for once in her dumb little seven-year-old life. might be right. her eyes were full of fear.
was mowing his lawn. “Wave at him. waving and smiling. santiago was. they approached the kitchen where their mom had tried so hard to make them a special breakfast just an hour ago. moving back toward the house. “and keep your mouth shut! Do you want everybody to know?” Izzy’s brown eyes showed white all around as she looked from the blood-red fender of their dad’s car to the neat. he was sure. “now come on!” Gabe tugged Izzy’s arm and the two kids ran back into the house. shiny homes of their very normal neighbors. santiago. Izzy knew what to do.2 Blood “Come on. on tiptoe. Dad was up. Mr. Izzy watched Gabe. three houses down. but it would look like a normal smile from where Mr.” He yanked Izzy’s arm. and did the same. dopey Gabe whispered through clenched teeth.” Gabe warned.” Gabe said. . Gabe’s smile was forced and wooden. 9 . hardly breathing. “ssshhhh. they could hear him talking to Mom in the kitchen. they had done it often enough before.
Mom hadn’t brushed it that morning. But he stopped himself. Izzy’s hand was still in Gabe’s. right. Izzy gave his hand another squeeze. there were 10 . He put a finger to his lips and widened his eyes at Izzy. whether the kids were there or not. and glared at him as if to say. and she squeezed so tightly he almost yelled at her. Gabe watched from the hall as his mom paced the kitchen floor.The Secret of Willow Ridge She didn’t hear us. This must be bad. Dad was smoking. his hands were shaking so much as he put the cup down on the table—that’s what was making that clattering sound. “Hey! yoU need to be quiet. then a clattering sound drew his attention back to the kitchen. good. His clothes were a mess. He kept Izzy behind him. Mom bought that stupid mug and made us give it to him for Father’s Day. thought Gabe as he sighed loudly. trying to drink coffee from his “World’s Greatest Dad” mug. too. too!” Gabe looked back through the doorway at Dad. He noticed what a mess her hair was. he wanted to hear what was going on in the kitchen between his mom and dad without them knowing. Dad looked miserable. But both kids were relieved to see he didn’t look hurt. he had just gotten out of bed. World’s Greatest Dad! Yeah. His eyes were red and his hair poked out all over his head. pushing her back with the hand she was holding so tightly. Dad was sitting at the kitchen table. In fact. she nodded. a lit cigarette in her hand. Mom hadn’t heard the kids come in and didn’t see them standing just outside the kitchen door. Mom never smokes in the house. Dad did whatever he wanted. but that wasn’t odd. thought Gabe. like he had slept in them.
she walked over and put her hand on Dad’s shoulder. “Gabe? Come on in. too.” “oh Daddy. she rubbed his back and kissed his cheek. Mom was still talking on the phone and writing something down on a notepad. It’s like he’s looking through us. The police? Gabe wondered. leaping on him and sniffling into his neck. so she whispered. please. “right. and saw them peeking around the kitchen doorway. Dad stared at her back with empty. “thanks. Dad looked up. Who else could it be? It must be about the car. they heard Mom dialing the phone. He had questions. and hung up the phone with a sigh. there were no big bruises the kids could see. He looked like he was about to cry. finally. but he didn’t say anything. though. he thought. “Dad and I need to talk to you both. she had to know. “Who is Mom talking to?” “How the heck should I know?” Gabe hissed back.blood no bandages. Let Izzy blubber into Dad’s neck. Gabe dragged himself into the kitchen.” she said. Gabe took his time. “are you hurt? are you in trouble? What happened to our car?” Dad hugged Izzy tightly. holding her arms out to catch both parents in an awkward hug. He didn’t say anything. to the person on the other end of the line. Izzy broke from Gabe’s side and ran to her. she wanted to see more. are you okay?” Izzy cried.” said Mom. thought Gabe. Izzy couldn’t help it. hopeless eyes. But he wasn’t 11 . then she looked right at Gabe and Izzy and held out her free hand to them. Gabe felt Izzy bouncing on her toes behind him. too.” Mom said.
” she said. “We saw. Mom and Dad exchanged nervous looks. “I know seeing the car with a dented back end was a little strange and scary. Mom just nodded. Not really.The Secret of Willow Ridge about to let Dad know he wanted anything from him—not even answers. By the way Gabe wasn’t talking. standing up abruptly while his hands formed into fists at his sides. Dad could tell he was upset. and we’ll have it fixed soon.” Mom began. Gabe plopped down in the chair across from his dad. agreeing with Dad.” Mom began again. Gabe glared back. “there’s nothing to worry about. “It looks worse than it is. “Dad had a little accident last night and dented the back of the car. Izzy was still nestled in Dad’s arms. Izzy stopped sniffling and climbed up on Dad’s knee to look at him and Mom. making no sound louder than his heavy breathing. suddenly 12 . Dad smiled weakly at him.” Mom explained to the kids. “Did someone else get hurt? a KID?” he demanded. “the important thing is that Dad didn’t get hurt and he’s okay. wide-eyed. What if their dad had killed a kid? What if that’s what the red on the fender was? Some poor kid’s blood! Gabe stayed quiet as a mouse. With her free hand she stroked Izzy’s messy hair. Strange? he thought. But there’s something else we have to talk about…” Gabe interrupted her. but still he didn’t say anything. Our car is always beat up because of the way Dad drives! “everything is going to be all right. she put her arm around Dad’s shoulders again.” Gabe growled.” Dad said. Gabe wriggled in his chair.
make excuses for them. He and Izzy waited.blood everything seemed to be happening in slow motion. honey. expectantly. who only realized he had been holding his breath when he sighed with relief. no one was hurt by Daddy last night. “no. she turned to look at her children.” Mom said.” This couldn’t be happening! Gabe thought— all we seem to do is live with them. to hear what their dad had to say for himself. Finally. clean up after them. “no.” Gabe and Izzy looked at one another. Dad slowly shook his head and quietly answered. the family almost never talked about “Dad’s problems. 13 . and suffer because of them. “Dad and I have been on the phone. Mom went around the table and sat next to Gabe. “We have been very busy this morning.” He looked so ashamed. We’ve been making plans for Dad to go to a place where he’s going to get help with his problems. sure that they had misunderstood their mom.” she looked at Dad and sighed. shooting a glance at her husband.
But his spiky black hair. but he looked just like a smaller version of his dad. Gabe looked healthy. and he couldn’t stand looking 15 . actually. His adam’s apple stuck way out at the front of his neck. he had tried. of course. It’s just that his hands shook too much. and strong chin were all echoes of his dad’s. only.3 Secrets Everyone was looking at Dad. to see his own features looking back at him from such a strong and serious young face as his son’s. Gabe looked healthy. his dad looked like a bigger version of him. Gabe didn’t know it. as Mom had always thought to herself. or. He was skinny and sick-looking and gray-skinned. the bottom half of his face was covered with the patchy stubble of his beard—he hadn’t bothered to shave in a few days. sick as he felt. and it was strange for his dad now. his straight eyebrows. waiting for him to say something. But Dad looked bad. even if he was small for his age.
and even Dad himself had to laugh at his little sister. But inside the kitchen was quiet—sooooo quiet. over and over again. she reached over and silently took his hand. Gabe could hear the thwack and snap of old man Conheeny’s american flag slapping against its flagpole in the breeze. just enough to stop the cough. Gabe noticed his hand was shaking. as if he’d made a joke.The Secret of Willow Ridge at himself in the mirror. something that made him yell at Gabe and Izzy 16 .” Dad tried to smile. Kids in the santiago’s backyard were yelling and playing tag. She thought her daddy was just a bad driver! Gabe knew it was something more. “Uh. He could make out luis and Joe’s voices. She’s just a kid! thought Gabe. “okay. Dad cleared his throat and that started him coughing. even sweet Izzy could see that. outside. at his yellowish teeth or his bloodshot eyes with the dark circles underneath. guys…” Dad was embarrassed. He took a deep breath and started again. only it wasn’t really funny. Dad wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. something that made his dad drink too much and take too many pills. something that made Dad miss work. I know I’ve got a problem. “your mom here tells me I’ve got a problem. and lose his jobs. “you need driving lessons!” Gabe. neighbors were starting their normal weekend routine of mowing their lawns. Daddy!” cried Izzy. Mom rubbed his back and he grabbed for the coffee cup—it still had a mouthful of cold coffee in it. Dad smiled at her and went on. I don’t know. Mom. “We know. Gabe could hear the motors starting up.” he sighed.
something that made Mom cry and that made Gabe ashamed to have his friends over. and something that made it so that Dad never took Gabe to the lake like Mr.” Gabe looked at his father.secrets for stupid little things. I need help. and the words hung in the air of the room like cigarette smoke. Willis. just leave this house and his family. run and keep running and not look back.” he said. and she scrunched up her nose. He didn’t know if he could stand it another minute—his father. something that made Dad and Uncle Jimmy fight every year at thanksgiving. darlin’. He suddenly wanted to turn and run. Dad gave Izzy a squeeze. your daddy needs something. but it isn’t driving lessons. His rough beard scraped her face.” Izzy repeated. It tickled! “no. Gabe knew his dad needed something. it’s called addiction. But his dad looked so pathetic—sad and sick and hopeful all at once—that 17 . “a-dic-shun. and it wasn’t driving lessons. an addict? that sounded bad. Mcteague took his son. “a-dic-shun. that was bad! Gabe felt angry and scared all at once. no. I-I-I have a disease.
only a lot more serious.” Mom continued quietly. “I guess we didn’t do a very good job. Grandpa and Grandma always tried to hide it. but Gabe only half-listened. just like his mom had this morning. One of those secrets everyone knows. holding each other and talking so quietly on a saturday morning. Gabe thought. “some of them we… I… we tried to keep hidden from you. Dad seemed to get his voice back. Uncle Jimmy and aunt stacey 18 . he thought. “the car is part of it. ordinarily he wouldn’t let his mom hug him the way she wanted to. you kids have been through the mill. But he wanted to be close to her now. he was too amazed that his whole family was sitting here. Instead he felt like he was going to cry. But now the secret had a name: addiction. Like Old Man Conheeny’s toupee.” she rubbed her arm through her thin shirt sleeve. no one was screaming or crying or passed out or hiding from anyone else. Most of the time Dad tried to hide it and Mom tried to hide it.” she sighed.The Secret of Willow Ridge Gabe lost his urge to run. everyone talked about the problems. as she held out her arms to Gabe. as his mom squooshed him against her and cried into his hair. this was weird! It seemed Dad’s problems were caused by a big secret everyone tried to keep hidden. “there are lots of other things. some of them you know. He went into them. and he went on to explain more about addiction.” she said. but they tried to keep the secret tucked away. that stuff was for girls or babies. too. but nobody talks about. This is turning out to be a weird morning. crying again.
” Gabe had yelled as loud as he could in Dad’s ear. the kids knew all about it. Deep down inside. Mom said he was passed out. But nobody ever admitted or talked about it. but they really couldn’t hide the secret from Gabe and Izzy. where they never admitted it. He drank too much beer. and too much wine.” But Dad didn’t move. she was so 19 . He remembered a night when he tried to get Dad to wake up and get out of his chair. too. and. Gabe remembered some of Dad’s problems. but still problems. Whenever he took too many pills or drank too much alcohol there were problems. too much liquor. Mom came and pulled on that arm while Gabe and Izzy pulled on the other. they may have been able to hide the secret from the neighbors. there were also problems. of course Mom. and even from themselves. “Wake up. When he tried not to take too many pills or drink too much alcohol. Dad had the disease of addiction. He just mumbled something that sounded like “you go. different problems. and Dad’s problems hurt everyone in the family. His problems happened because he was an addict.” then he let out a snore and lashed out at Gabe with one floppy arm.secrets had tried to hide it. had known all along that Gabe and Izzy were aware that their dad was an addict. but Dad just flopped back in the chair. at first it was funny. and that’s where he stayed all night. being a mom. “It’s time to go to bed. Dad took too many pills and other drugs he got from doctors and from people he would meet at different places in town. Bed here.
but she better not catch him with his hands in her purse again—that was her hard-earned money. and it was almost always different in the morning. the family didn’t know when it would happen again. But of course. Gabe remembered.” Gabe had told her. Mom had to call his work and tell Dad’s boss that he was sick. so many arguments! Dad had screamed at Mom and Mom had screamed back at Dad. But I got him a blanket. there were problems. Mom said Dad could waste all his money and she couldn’t stop him. or the next. reaching out to hold his hand. or the next.The Secret of Willow Ridge mad! “leave him there!” she said.” she’d said. sometimes they argued about money. and Mom had cried and cried while she cleaned up the mess and the broken glass. She wouldn’t even put a blanket on him. “should we call the doctor?” 20 . “Is Dad really sick?” Gabe had asked Mom. Gabe remembered lots of big arguments between Dad and Mom. “I’ll be good. it would happen all over again the next day.” saying that made her cry more. It crashed into a thousand splinters against the kitchen wall and left a dent you could still see. “It’s not you. “It will be different in the morning. “oh. one night. one time Dad stayed in bed for days and days.” he said. but it always did happen again. “Please don’t cry. even when there wasn’t fighting. it’s not you.” Gabe didn’t know what to say. finally. sometimes they argued because Dad wanted to go out and Mom didn’t want him to. she’d said. honey. Dad picked up a glass and threw it.
” It seemed like Mom was always making excuses for Dad. honey. I won’t bug Dad with questions when I get home from school ever again. said that he had homework.” Gabe had asked. “He just needs to rest.” Mom said. there were lots of empty beer cans on the floor next to the sofa. It was just him and Dad in the house! What people had Dad been talking about? Gabe had said he was sorry. dozing in front of the tv. He had just about made it. Gabe came home from school to the same scene: Dad. too. “He’s not that kind of sick. one time Gabe had come home from school to find Dad at home in the middle of the afternoon. sneaking into this house! this is my house!” Gabe’s stomach sank down to his toes. he told himself. “Come ’ere. in front of the tv with a beer in his hand. the very next week. “What are you doing home?” Gabe had been happy to see his father—but then Dad flipped out! “I don’t gotta have a reason for sitting in my own damn house in the middle of the damn afternoon. she had been crying. “It doesn’t make much sense to stay in bed on such a great day. and I sure as hell don’t have to explain what I’m doing to an eight-year old boy! you people are always after me!” Gabe had looked around.secrets Mom had looked at Gabe with red. and ran to his room. and Gabe had agreed. does it?” Mom had asked Gabe. excitedly. “Dad. with a beer in his hand and lots of empty beer cans on the floor. Gabe had tiptoed past him into his bedroom. He didn’t 21 . when he heard his Dad roar. red eyes. you little sneak! Whatddya think you’re doing. Dad’s problems never made sense.
and as much as he said he loved Mom. I had to have a drink just to…” Gabe never heard what came next. Go get Izzy out of bed. Hurry.” Gabe had tried to explain as he dodged his dad’s fist. once.” the next morning. and after a while Gabe learned to just avoid him as much as he could. don’t I?” Dad just staggered away. as much as Mom loved him. but he knew he’d better not ignore him. sometimes Gabe and Izzy hardly knew what was right and what was wrong. in the middle of the night after a big fight with Dad. Dad just wouldn’t quit. Mom took Gabe and Izzy to stay with aunt stacey and Uncle Jimmy. “Where the hell have you been?” Dad had screamed. we have to go before Dad comes to. Dad tracked them down. “We’re going to stay with aunt stacey and Uncle Jimmy until Dad feels better. “Don’t you know I’ve been waiting for you to help me mow the lawn? you little twerp! Got so fed up waiting. as she shook his shoulder to wake him and get him out of bed. “I was at school! I have to go to school.” Mom had whispered that dark night. “But Dad.The Secret of Willow Ridge want to go anywhere near his father. “Come on Gabe. His father had taken a swing at him and missed. What the kids did know was that their parents fought over Dad’s problems. and there were so many of them! and Mom and Dad fought because Dad was an addict and wouldn’t quit drinking and taking drugs. they knew their mom cried almost every night. and he was so sorry and so sweet to Mom that 22 . mumbling. either.
before Gabe and Izzy knew it, they were back home again. things were nice, for a little while. But soon they were back to “normal.” the kids also knew Dad often got angry at other people for no reason. He argued with their teachers on open-school night, and with cashiers at the supermarket, and with people he said took his spot in parking lots. they knew he sometimes couldn’t walk right and he fell down a lot. sometimes he couldn’t talk right and the kids couldn’t understand the things he said. these were just some of Dad’s problems. and now the kids knew that Dad had wrecked the car because of his addiction. But it looked like things might be about to change… Gabe could hardly let himself hope. “your mom and I were on the phone with a treatment center this morning,” said Dad. they said they can take me.” “to jail?” Izzy wailed. she looked terrified. “Whoa, sweetie! Who said anything about jail? treatment’s not fun, but it’s not jail, from what I hear. anyway, why would you think I was going to jail?” Izzy looked ashamed. “Because of the car, Daddy,” she whispered. “Because of the blood.” “shhhhh,” Dad said, trying to calm Izzy. “It’s all right. It’s all right. Didn’t I tell you no one was hurt?” But Izzy looked doubtful. that red stain on the fender looked bad. even if Daddy said it wasn’t blood…. Daddy didn’t always tell the truth. “Calm down, Izzy,” Mom said, stroking Izzy’s hair. “everything is going to be fine. Daddy is very sick with
The Secret of Willow Ridge
addiction. But he’s going to a treatment center where he will get help.” Dad stood up. He had a lot to do if he was going to the treatment center that morning. But first he wanted to calm Izzy and Gabe, who were looking at him with fear in their eyes. “I guess I better take a look at this ‘blood’ that’s scaring my little girl out of her wits,” he said as he made his way over to the kitchen window. He twitched the curtain aside, and motioned to Gabe to join him. “I told Izzy it was just rust…” Gabe started to say. “Well, show me this so-called ‘blood,’” Dad asked. Gabe pointed to the crushed-in fender. Dad had to let out a chuckle. He ran a shaky hand over Gabe’s head. “little Dude, that’s not rust and it’s not blood. that’s just what you call ‘primer’.”
“Can’t Daddy stay home and take medicine for his addiction?” 27 . Dad never taught him about cars. she looked at their mother. He never took him to the lake or showed him how things work. that his dad had never told him things like this. Uh-oh. Maybe their dad was so sick he’d have to stay there a real long time. Maybe. like other boys’ dads told them. if Dad went there.” repeated Gabe. making everyone unhappy. at least he wouldn’t be at home with them. she knew she looked cute when she pouted.4 Surprises “P-r-i-m-e-r. I don’t think I’m supposed to think that way! He looked up at his dad and hoped no one could read his thoughts. slowly It dawned on him . and she usually got her way whenever she did. Izzy certainly wasn’t feeling the same way as Gabe. “Why does Daddy have to go away to a treatment center?” she pouted. even if it didn’t. Maybe this treatment center would make it so Dad would do those things. thought Gabe.
darlin’.The Secret of Willow Ridge “It’s hard to explain. “no. “there really isn’t any medicine Daddy can take. Dad chuckled softly. “I don’t really know much more. after the drugs and alcohol all come out of my body. But I have friends who’ve gone to treatment centers. I have to stay somewhere special where all the drugs and alcohol can come out of my body first. “that part’s called ‘detoxing. without using drugs or alcohol.” He shot a glance at Mom. “But the way I understand it. “Kinda. “I don’t know very much about it myself. turned away from the window. excitedly. the people at the treatment center help me learn how to live without using them again.” said Dad his voice shaky. and it looks like I’ll have to do a lot of learning. like you take for your asthma.” “like school?” Izzy asked. Big baby. and it’s important to get them out of my body—but it can also be dangerous.” 28 .” he began. resting his back against the kitchen counter. I could get real sick before I start to get better. right?” Gabe scowled at her. and faced them. It’s kind of like you have to learn a new way of life.’ D-d-drugs and alcohol are like poison. I guess.” said Mom. guys. she smiled.” Mom looked at Dad. that’s just the beginning. and that’s what they tell me. Maybe he could explain? Dad dropped the curtain. “and then you can come right back home. From what I hear. In the treatment center there are folks who can take care of me so I don’t get too sick while the drugs come out of my body…” Izzy interrupted. and Dad continued.
It’d have to be better than this one. He heard the last part of what Mom was saying.” said Dad. “Well. He looked angry. 29 . Gabe didn’t know it.” he said. Half-school. Dude. into the kitchen bounced Uncle Jimmy. “Just… p-people I know. a car door slammed. He looked at the sticky kitchen floor. Sometimes I hate grown-ups. Gabe. What do you think?” Gabe blushed. Dad looked surprised. “He and your dad are still friends. thought Gabe. half-hospital. But he listened to his mother. and he saw how his mom looked at his dad before she spoke up. “I dunno.” From the hallway there was a “click” sound. “you’re very quiet. angrily.” Like when was the last time Dad worked? thought Gabe. he thought. Dad never asked me what I thought about his drinking and all the other stuff he did. “He went to a treatment center last year. the tips of his ears felt hot. truth was Gabe didn’t know what to think. I guess. And now he wants to know what I think about this treatment center? He looked at his mom. like the front door had opened—and sure enough. but his straight black eyebrows were pulled together. He looked at Gabe. outside. let the grown-ups take care of it. and he’s been talking to your dad about how much better he feels now.surprises A new way of life… that sounds okay. “so treatment center is like school?” Izzy repeated. without drugs and alcohol. there’s a man who used to work with Dad.” he mumbled. this was a grown-up problem.” Mom said. “Kinda. “Who are your friends who went to treatment centers?” he asked. a minute later.
But he went on listening. she seemed to feel better now that Uncle Jimmy was here. thought Gabe. doctors. Izzy looked like she was listening. He didn’t know exactly what he was feeling. “Bet you’d be surprised at the different kinds of people who have addiction. Whether you live in a nice house or a shack.” he said. “addicts 30 . here. a great uncle! “Don’t look so surprised. But he knew he loved his dad. “I know what you’re thinking.” he said. but he didn’t want to hurt him. He was shocked. smiling. “Gym teachers. smiling.” said Uncle Jimmy. I’ve got it.” said Uncle Jimmy.” but he thought that might hurt Dad’s feelings. “you don’t look like…” he stopped himself. addiction is just a disease—it doesn’t care who you are or what you do for a living. anyone can become an addict.” He put his arm around Dad’s shoulder and gave him a big hug. Gabe looked up. in spite of everything. Gabe was mad at his father.The Secret of Willow Ridge “Just like me. coaches… moms and dads and teenagers. putting Izzy back down and ruffling Gabe’s hair. and so does my little brother.” “that’s right. “But you’re… a… a gym teacher!” cried Gabe. and grabbing Izzy to swing her up into the air. He walked over to their dad. too.” said Mom. He punched Uncle Jimmy’s arm. He had been about to say “like my dad. that’s what I’ve learned. Dad looked embarrassed. an addict? Like his father? It couldn’t be! Uncle Jimmy was a cool guy. “addiction is a family disease. too. policemen. I hope not. she shrieked with laughter. little Dude. but he managed a crooked smile. this morning was getting weirder and weirder! Uncle Jimmy. little Dude.
Many of them have families just like us. who looked very much like she was about to start sucking her thumb. you kids deserve a better life than the one I’ve been giving you. Izzy. “your mom and I have been thinking about this for a really long time.” Her lip trembled. she looked like she was about to cry again. too long.” Mom got up and put her arm around Gabe. and then at Izzy. their whole family is a whole lot happier. and when they get better. “Daddy. But they all have the same disease as Dad.” Mom said. I want to get some help for my addiction. right?” Mom asked.” He looked at Izzy with love shining in his tired eyes. “they’re different kinds of people with different kinds of jobs. she looked at Izzy. and she hugged his neck again. He looked at the floor. It’s time I took the bull by the horns and did something about it. she quickly removed it from her lips and put her hand behind her back.” he looked at Mom again. and stay better. Dad sighed. “the important thing is they went to a treatment center to get help to get better. “that’s what the treatment center is for.” Uncle Jimmy said. and at Mom. do you want to go to the treatment center?” Izzy asked. at his brother Jimmy. 31 .surprises come from all over. “We wouldn’t want Dad to go to the treatment center if it wasn’t going to help him. People with addiction go there to get better. almost all of them have problems just like us. “oh.
she wanted to stick close to Mom. “Helloooo! anybody home?” 32 . Maybe he knows something we don’t know! the three men moved off together. and during it. “Well. little Dude. this was a morning full of surprises. so she popped her thumb into her mouth. He looks so… happy! Gabe thought. But suddenly the front door opened again. Mom hardly ever did anything surprising or confusing. and their aunt stacey called out.” he said. “I’m scared. too. It is something I want to do. but I know this is something I have to do. It was really only about a minute. now she felt a little bit of all three and was a little confused. Gabe shook his head at the two of them as he climbed the stairs behind them. In the kitchen. but it was a l-o-n-g minute. everyone in the kitchen was thinking his or her own thoughts.The Secret of Willow Ridge “so. everyone was quiet for what seemed like a long time. Dad was shuffling a little bit. Mom put down the phone. then Uncle Jimmy broke the silence. and we’ve wasted too much time already in this family. no one was looking at her. to pack a bag for Dad. “time’s a wastin’. upstairs. but Uncle Jimmy was tall and proud.” He slapped a big hand on Gabe’s shoulder.” Gabe looked up at his uncle. let’s help your dad get his stuff. one of his most favorite people in the world.” after Dad finished speaking. yes. that was always the thing to do when she was angry or unhappy or tired.” Dad continued. Izzy watched as Mom got on the phone again. “Come on.
Izzy’s thumb came out of her mouth. “Hello.surprises PoP. quick! this was exciting! Izzy loved aunt stacey! Izzy ran to meet her. Mommy. “yes. she was the perfect wife for Uncle Jimmy.” she repeated. “I was just going to call you.” said aunt stacey. 33 .” she had started doing the breakfast dishes. being very grownup. “Where’s your mom?” she asked. Uncle Jimmy upstairs with Gabe. helping Dad pack his things. suddenly. “I’ll stay here and help aunt stacey. “let me help you with those. you go jump in the shower.” she said. Who’s speaking. she knew who it was—Grandma. giving her a peck on the cheek.” Mom called from the kitchen. “In here. so she didn’t hear the big sigh Mom let out or see how tired she looked as she climbed the stairs. “a shower sounds good. “ooooooh! you give the best hugs.” she turned to go upstairs. and Izzy turned back to help with the dishes. their house was full of life: aunt stacey and Izzy doing dishes. Izzy grabbed the kitchen step stool from the corner next to the fridge and dragged it over to the sink. “you go up and jump in the shower.” she said. Izzy can help me. “yeah.” Mom ran a hand through her hair and nodded. and her healthy smile and strong body matched her energetic personality. she loved sports. just the way Mommy had taught her. please?” aunt stacey smiled as she listened to Izzy.” she told Izzy.” aunt stacey was brisk and bubbly. “this is the roberts’ residence. and now the phone ringing in the middle of all the activity! Izzy jumped off the step stool and ran to answer it.” aunt stacey said. “Hello. Monica. bending down for a hug. my Buttercup.
I remember how hungry I was when we got back from taking Jim to treatment! are you and Pop coming over?” Izzy looked up at her aunt.” Upstairs. “okay. a warm sweatshirt. that’s right. “Uncle Jimmy?” he said. the way he always did. Izzy heard her say. He loved Uncle Jimmy’s van. “I’ll set the table for you guys. so I’ll get dinner ready for when they get home. Uncle Jimmy was chattering away.The Secret of Willow Ridge “I’ll take it. and I have a nice big van. Gabe was wondering the same thing as Izzy as he helped his dad and Uncle Jimmy pack underwear. quickly wiping her soapy hands on a dishtowel. but Dad was very quiet. It’s a long drive. since I know the way real well. as he brought them over to be packed. I’ll stay here and straighten up while Jim drives Jack and Monica to the treatment center. It had cup holders and a navigation system and even a little pull-down tv screen for him and Izzy to look at on long trips. too. “yes. Izzy. her eyes wide. Gabe was quiet. she put one hand on Izzy’s shoulder while she spoke to her mother-in-law. and other clothes into his dad’s big duffel bag. as he got his dad’s hairbrush and shaving things from the bathroom. He was curious to know about this treatment center. “Well. don’t you?” Gabe nodded. “Can I go. too. “are you gonna drive Dad to the treatment center?” His uncle smiled and nodded.” aunt stacey said. “P-l-l-e-e-e-e-e-e-a-s-e?” aunt stacey made a shushing gesture and smiled. I think that’s a good idea. too?” she asked.” she said to Grandma. 34 . pajamas.
then while he stays there getting better.” Uncle Jimmy smiled. so you need to know what it’s like. too?” Gabe asked. “and I can help Dad.surprises “Just you and Dad. Dad was busy struggling to close his overstuffed duffel bag. “of course. little Dude! Didn’t I say addiction was a family disease? the whole family is taking your dad to the treatment center.” Uncle Jimmy grinned and winked at Dad. mind you. swinging one of Dad’s bags up onto his shoulder and punching Dad in the arm. “Can I go. that way. too. right?” Gabe asked. Just to see where your dad’s going to be spending his days and nights for the next month. or Mom. although he wasn’t certain he really knew how he could help his dad. the whole family is going to visit him there. “Come on. guys! let’s roll!” 35 . too. not to stay. but Dad’s face was serious. you can help your mom and your little sister. “that’s absolutely right!” said Uncle Jimmy. too?” “your Mom wants to come.
kids. this is a great day for our family. “don’t start. who was struggling to get into her booster seat. and had one in Uncle Jimmy’s van. “no need to squabble.” said Gabe.” Izzy whined. not today.” said Izzy. but it was enough to let Gabe fit into his seat next to the window. “Momm-eee.” He looked at 37 . Was there enough room for him? “shove O-ver.” he snapped at Izzy. “Whoa. It moved over just an inch or two.” said Uncle Jimmy.” “Well. tired eyes. who still needed a booster seat.” she sighed. “Gabe’s being mean to me!” their mother looked at them with pleading.5 are We There Yet? Gabe looked at Uncle Jimmy’s van. reaching over the top of the front seat to give Izzy’s booster a tug.” said Uncle Jimmy. but already packed with stuff. she was a skinny little thing for her age. my booster seat won’t move. parked behind their dad’s old wreck in the driveway. “Come on. she won’t let me get in. “I can’t help it. “Kids. It was big.
Monica. and tired of his whole family! Why did they have to have a dad who was an addict? Why did they have to live the way they did? And why did they have to spend a perfectly good Saturday taking their stupid addict dad to a treatment center? Why couldn’t they just be like normal people? one of those normal people was approaching now. “Go on. santiago had seen them all piling into Uncle Jimmy’s van and was coming over.” He winked at Gabe. “Good thing your mom and your sister are on the skinny side. What was taking Dad so long? What if he just stayed in the house and said he wasn’t going? Was he going to let them all down again? Would Uncle Jimmy have to go in and drag him out? Gabe looked at Izzy. huh. little Dude?” Gabe smiled weakly. Oh. In her hands she held a half-dressed plastic doll with fuzzy hair in a crooked ponytail. “Plenty of room for you on the other side of Izzy.The Secret of Willow Ridge their mom. Uncle Jimmy was a cool uncle. His cute little sister’s fluffy blonde hair was neatly combed now. a big smile on his face. pretending it was walking. who was biting her nails. But right now he wasn’t in the mood. waiting for Dad to emerge from the house with his duffel bag.” said Uncle Jimmy to Mom. He had a big pair of gardening shears in his hand. suddenly Gabe felt tired of Izzy and her stupid doll and her spotted t-shirt. hop in. no! Don’t tell him what’s 38 . tired of his mom and dad. but she still had spots of chocolate from breakfast on the front of her t-shirt. and Gabe usually enjoyed his booming voice and good-humored ways. Mr. she was bouncing it along her leg.
Dad. “see your brother had another little fenderbender last night. “We need to get my little brother some driving lessons. Mom.” said Mr. she smiled and turned red. 39 . I guess. Gabe thought. a moment ago he couldn’t wait for it to open and their dad to come out. desperately.” Oh. Maybe if he couldn’t see them. they’d all just go away. he thought.” said Uncle Jimmy. They’re always laughing at our family. Just wait a minute! Mr. and winked at Gabe’s mom.” he said cheerfully to Uncle Jimmy. You. santiago up to the van. “Hey. coming closer. He looked at the front door of their house. thought Gabe. “Just wanted to make sure you were all okay. there. she waved at them. He looked from her to Uncle Jimmy. looks that way. who had one foot in the van and the opposite arm resting on the open driver’s side door.are we there yet? going on. “Family outing today?” Gabe glared at his mother. In the distance he could see Mrs. either. they were tossing a ball back and forth. “Well. robertses. I won’t keep you. santiago. ready to get into the car with them and get going. wiping her hands on a dishtowel. Don’t say anything.” called Mr. luis and ethan were following Mr. Don’t come out now. laughing. “yeah. thought Gabe. santiago. no. Gabe covered his face with his hands and slumped down in his seat. santiago standing in her front doorway.” he said. covering her mouth with her hand and looking out the window. santiago pointed his gardening shears in the direction of Dad’s car. thought Gabe.
“yeah. thought Gabe. “see you had another little fender-bender last night. Don’t let the guys see Dad! he wished with all his might. Dad lifted a hand to wave weakly at Mr. thought Gabe.” said Mom. and now you know. their front door opened and Dad emerged from the house. santiago spoke.” at that moment. Gabe peeked out from between his fingers when he heard Dad’s footsteps.” He put his arm around his son. you wanted to know if we were all okay. I guess as long as you know that…” he said. santiago just stood there for a moment. one of these days you’re gonna hurt yourself or somebody else. backing away. Dad. as Dad approached. Gabe slumped down further in his seat. Gabe held his breath. just get in the car and let’s go. looking at the dented car. But Mr. thought Gabe.The Secret of Willow Ridge “We’re okay. santiago sheepishly. “Well.” Mr. Finally. He looks so skinny. His voice was hoarse. santiago waited for their dad to come down the walk and over to the van. So please just go. He watched as his dad looked around and hoisted his duffel bag onto his shoulders. He and Mr. santiago repeated. He wouldn’t look at ethan or luis. Please. santiago. Gabe muttered to himself.” Dad answered. luis. Okay. I’d like to wipe that smirk off of Luis’s face. “you oughta be more careful. 40 . Mr. who waved back. I guess you’re right. Dad looked at Mr. “thanks. We got a lotta kids play in this street. saying nothing.
” Mom spoke up. When they drove past the Mcteagues’ house. “nice talking to you. in a small voice.are we there yet? “oh. Jerry. as they pulled out of the driveway and drove down the street. 41 . Uncle Jimmy got in and started the engine. He looked at his mother. angrily. who looked back at him over the top of Izzy’s head. “I remember. nice talking to you.” she said. Gabe slumped further down in his seat.” Uncle Jimmy glanced at her in the rearview mirror. thought Gabe. santiago said. “It was a long time ago. and turned away. we better get on our way.” he said to ethan and luis. she smiled weakly at him and ran her hand through Izzy’s hair. Whew. thought Gabe. Or Ethan. I don’t want to see Willis ever again.” Mr. Music started floating out of the radio. the old-fashioned “twangy” kind Uncle Jimmy loved. Let’s get going! “everybody buckled up?” called Uncle Jimmy as he reached over to turn on the car radio. even though he knew Willis and his father had gone to the lake earlier that day. “relax. nobody answered. everybody. as Dad slung his duffel bag onto the seat. he knows. all about sadness and cowboys and love. waving. then slid into the car beside it. Gabe sat up straight.” she said.” boomed Uncle Jimmy. “say. in the opposite direction to the way that Willis and his dad had gone that morning. all right. Or Luis. Yuck. Gabe thought. either! Uncle Jimmy pointed the front end of the van out of town. see you guys in gym class. slapping the roof of the van with his free hand.” he said. “We’ve got a ways to go. “you were too young to remember.
How long ‘til we get there? he wondered. and I met a lot of nice people there—still see some of ‘em today. next to him in the front passenger seat. on either side of the highway—office buildings. Gabe. But his mom didn’t keep him in suspense. the streets got dirtier and the tall buildings blocked out the sunlight. Dad 42 . Gabe was just a tot. outside.” he said. but he had a feeling Dad had never gone to visit. on the radio. “the treatment center’s pretty nice. he thought.” he said. Gabe didn’t remember when Uncle Jimmy was in treatment. a wall of tall buildings loomed like a mountain. some guy was singing about how his girlfriend ran away with his best friend. thought Gabe. considering. and factories. Gabe looked from Uncle Jimmy to his mother. Dad said nothing. And now he’s going to treatment himself. Huh. In the far distance.The Secret of Willow Ridge “yep. too.” he agreed. the cars and houses of Willow ridge were giving way to open road. But it meant a lot to me to have you and stacey come visit on Family Day. too. seemingly right in front of them. the doctors and the staff were nice folks.” she said. the city. Izzy’s head bumped against Gabe’s arm as she fell soundly asleep. Uncle Jimmy slapped Dad’s knee with his free hand and shook it. and Uncle Jimmy was drumming along with his fingers on the steering wheel. Gabe sighed. please. No more surprises this morning. “aunt stacey brought me with her when she visited your Uncle Jimmy in the treatment center. as they approached and then drove through this area. stores. apartment houses where people lived. Gabe could see buildings up ahead. “those visits meant a lot to me. Good food and such.
Ugh. Mom kept biting what were left of her fingernails. thought Gabe. and next to Izzy. and take a nap.are we there yet? looked defeated. and decided to follow Izzy’s example. that was one way to make this stupid trip go faster. slumped and staring blankly out through the windshield. 43 .
It always took Izzy a while to wake up after they’d been driving for a long time. lighting a cigarette with shaky hands.” Izzy moaned. and long. and in its place were trees. 45 .” Uncle Jimmy’s voice boomed out. there was even a basketball court with a high fence around it. the sun was more than halfway down the sky. they reminded Gabe of school.” he said to Izzy. What a baby. the city had vanished. “Get off me. too.6 a Long Way from Normal “Here we are. green lawns. waking Gabe. low buildings. and the shadows of trees and bushes were growing long in the afternoon light.” but before she could finish. Dad was standing next to the van. Mom was scooping her up and carrying her the way she always did when Izzy fell asleep in the car. and Izzy. Gabe got out of the car and looked around. pushing her fuzzy head off his arm and unbuckling his seat belt. and guys shooting hoops. “Gabe’s being…. outside. “M-o-m-m-e-e-e.
Mom. I can’t believe you did that. not much bigger than Izzy. Uncle Jimmy slammed the gate of the van and glared at him. he told himself. it’s so scary. Is she okay? wondered Gabe. and even Dad. “yelled. He’d like that. they all heard a screech of brakes and a shout! “Janey! stop right there. tHIs Instant!” a man yelled. When the kids do something dangerous. a little girl. then began to drive away. and a man was grabbing her by the arm.The Secret of Willow Ridge Uncle Jimmy was already unloading Dad’s bags from the back of the van. slowly. and that Dad was just his uncle.” the driver of the car that had screeched its brakes waved in the direction of the yelling man and the little girl.” said Uncle Jimmy. “Do you realize that car could’ve hit you? you know better than to run without looking both ways when there are cars around.” she said. so Gabe ran around to help him. but she didn’t. was standing in the middle of the parking lot with a scared look on her face. Just then. Maybe people would think he was Uncle Jimmy’s son. Janey looked like she wanted to cry. “looks like they’re here to pick somebody up. I forget that 46 . “I’ve done that myself. Mom shook her head. Stop it. looked concerned. Gabe and everyone in his family snapped to attention and stared in the direction of the man’s voice. he thought. Gabe watched as the little girl named Janey and her dad walked hand-in-hand into the treatment center ahead of them. Is that man her dad? It looked like Uncle Jimmy was wondering the same thing. the man continued to yell. I mean.
“I know that girl. he thought. and myself!” Dad spoke up. How many addicts do I know? But before he could think any more about it. “she’s in Mrs.” Uncle Jimmy said to Dad. the lobby of the treatment center was clean and bright. the young 47 . she was running toward a woman who looked like she was about Mom’s age. “let’s go home. following Uncle Jimmy up the walkway. my dad is an addict. That must be her mother.a long way from normal I don’t mean to yell at them and I end up scaring them. Mommy. squeezing Janey in between them. followed by Mom and Uncle Jimmy. It smelled a little bit like clean laundry. “and you’re gonna be a good father. Her mother and father hugged.” he said. “you’re a good mother. and that’s what you’re gonna get right here.” Mrs. Paul’s class. a second later he found he was right. and the milk monitor’s mother just got out of a treatment center for being an addict. “you just need a little help. Gabe watched Janey. as Dad walked up to talk to the young man. Okay. Gabe stared at his little sister. Gabe thought. and shouldered his duffel bag.” Janey practically shouted. with pretty pictures on the walls and a pleasant-looking young man sitting behind a counter. she’s the milk monitor.” said Izzy.” He opened the heavy door to the treatment center and stood aside to let them all in. then they picked up her mom’s bags and left through the same door Gabe’s family had just walked through. my favorite uncle used to be an addict. Paul was the second-grade teacher at his and Izzy’s school.
pushing open a wooden door.” said Uncle Jimmy. This must be the part of the treatment center that’s like a hospital. and brighter red hair. shiny cheeks. Gabe nodded his head. as they all walked through another set of doors into a long hallway. a dresser. the hallway was quiet. “I’m so glad your family could come. and she and Uncle Jimmy hugged and smiled at each other like old friends. as they approached the end. Friendly little Izzy took sherry’s hand. too.” Gabe and Izzy nodded. Inside was a comfortable-looking room with two beds. together with Gabe. sherry shook Mom’s hand and smiled at the kids. yes.” she said to Dad as he put out his hand to shake hers. Her blue eyes sparkled when she smiled. “Well. “oh.” said sherry.The Secret of Willow Ridge man behind the desk was shaking Dad’s hand. Jack. Mom and Dad and Uncle Jimmy followed behind. the clean laundry smell was stronger here. “Hello. laughing. and the walls were painted bright yellow. “Well if I don’t. and a roly-poly sort of lady was coming down the hall to meet them. never miss a meeting or a reunion!” she said. there was another desk with nurses behind it. he thought. the kind Gabe remembered from the time Izzy landed in the hospital with her asthma. a soft carpet covered the floor. let’s go. “How about a little tour of where your dad’s going to be staying for the next five weeks?” she asked. sherry.” said sherry. I should! you’re one of our star clients. “you can put your bags in here.” Izzy cried. “We’ll unpack together after our 48 . and Mom and Uncle Jimmy smiled. “Hello. “remember me?” the roly-poly lady looked at him. she had red. and a tv.
and back down the softly carpeted hallway they went. all talking and eating. But they are all in recovery now. Jim.” said sherry. “I know the drill. Gabe 49 . “Well let’s go to the cafeteria. “some of them are visitors. Izzy nodded her head so hard Gabe thought it would fly off her shoulders. “But rules are rules. “Do all these people have addiction?” he suddenly asked sherry.” she looked at the children. “I bet you’d like a snack.” sherry answered.” “What’s ‘recovery’?” asked Izzy. she looked at him and smiled.” she said.” she said. the ones with addiction were very sick. “some of them do.” “that’s fine. We can get a snack there. sherry. like your dad. like you. some people had children with them. “What about you?” sherry asked Gabe. sitting on their laps. some looked like his dad. and I helped him pack. “recovery is a way of life for people who are addicts who want to get better. “Don’t worry.” said Uncle Jimmy. into an even bigger room with rows of tables and chairs. a couple of people in printed cotton shirts and matching trousers who looked to Gabe like nurses. but others looked happy. there were doctors with stethoscopes around their necks. skinny and sad. “sure.” she said.” said sherry. shrugging his shoulders. and a few other people.a long way from normal little tour just to make sure you didn’t bring anything with you that you weren’t supposed to.” he replied. there’s nothing in there that shouldn’t be in there.
” said sherry. “you’ll learn more about the disease of addiction as your dad gets farther along in his recovery. “now. “any more than there’s anything to be ashamed of about any other illness. “there’s nothing to be ashamed of in being an addict.” “I guess. Who wants apple pie and ice cream?” 50 .” said Gabe. Gabe. He didn’t sound very sure.The Secret of Willow Ridge winced when sherry didn’t even lower her voice when she said “addicts.” sherry must have noticed him wincing.” she said.
Back to Normal?
The tour of the treatment center had been quick, and almost too soon, Dad had left them to join the other people he’d be living with for the next month. as Gabe walked back to the van with Uncle Jimmy, Izzy, and Mom, his head was full of the sights and sounds of that very different day. He remembered Uncle Jimmy’s twangy music, the long drive through the dirty city, the basketball court with the guys shooting hoops, sherry, the nice lady who’d got them apple pie and ice cream, and the soft carpet and pretty paintings decorating the treatment center. and the little girl whose daddy had yelled at her in the parking lot. He especially remembered her. “What did you say that girl’s name was?” he asked Izzy, falling back to walk beside her as she trailed along at the end of their group, holding Mom’s hand. she was tired. “What girl?” she asked.
The Secret of Willow Ridge
“you know the one. you said she went to our school… the milk monitor.” “Janey,” Izzy answered. “I don’t really play with her. I just see her when she brings the milk. she doesn’t play with us.” “Janey,” repeated Gabe. He had an idea… but then Uncle Jimmy was sliding open the van door, and they all piled in, Izzy having trouble with her booster seat, as usual. the ride home was different from that morning’s ride. Mom sat up front in Dad’s empty seat, and she and Uncle Jimmy talked quietly together. there was no twangy cowboy music this time. Good, thought Gabe. I can’t stand that music. “Do you think this will work for Jack?” Mom was asking Uncle Jimmy as they pulled out of the parking lot, headed for home. “I do, Monica,” Uncle Jimmy replied. “If he works at it.” “He’d better,” said Mom. she looked serious; her lips were set in a thin line. “He’d better,” she repeated. as he fell asleep, Gabe heard Uncle Jimmy say, “He knows that, Mon. He wants help. and those people really know how to help him.” those words were in Gabe’s ears as he nodded off, and they were in his head when he woke up, in their own driveway at home a couple of hours later. “We’re here, kids,” Mom called, sliding open the van door. “and it looks like we have company,” she added. Gabe got out of the van, blinking. His grandparents’ big car was parked at the curb in front of their house, and as he looked at it, their front door opened and light spilled out, flooding the front steps. aunt
” said Mom. help me with this pan. holding out her arms to welcome them.” “Pop. there were none to be seen anywhere. everyone crowded into the warm. and all the tables and countertops were gleaming. bright kitchen. stace. giving his wife a big hug. thought Gabe.” Grandma said. you look worn out. 55 . “thanks. dirty clothes. squeezing Izzy tight as Izzy squeezed back. and ran to the kitchen doorway where their grandparents had appeared. hon. ruffling his hair. dinnertime-sort-of-smell drifted out of the kitchen. Grandma. moving more chairs around the table. dear. “Hello. and beer cans had been taken away. and Grandpa had been busy! Gabe could see through the door that the sticky kitchen floor had been washed.” said Uncle Jimmy. partner.back to normal? stacey was in the doorway. “Hello. my little love. and just acting like mother hens taking care of their chicks. “thanks. everything was shining-clean! the piles of newspapers. “Hi. and Grandma and aunt stacey started tugging off the kids’ jackets. Gabe looked around at the house in wonder.” Gabe answered quietly. a nice.” Grandpa said to Gabe. can you finish setting the table?” This is great. rich. This is just what a normal family should be like. aunt stacey. the same doorway where Gabe and Izzy had been hiding just that morning. kissing aunt stacey on the cheek as she entered the house. “sit down.” “Jim. Monica. “Grandma!” yelled Izzy.
” Gabe answered. It seemed like Dad’s problems had started so long ago. or any place else again. for sure. “yes. she looked tired. Gabe looked at his mother. when Gabe was so little. slathering it with butter first. “oh. “the kids usually have apple juice with dinner…. smiling.” she said. Grandpa passing him a big plateful of his Grandma’s delicious lasagna. I guess it is. or a hospital. If only this day would be a ‘just-this-once’ day. this is kind of a special occasion. Mommy! this is a special occasion. “yeah. and they never had to take Dad to a treatment center.” Uncle Jimmy said. but she looked… relieved. If only Dad will get better forever. “Just this once!” Gabe nodded. But then he was distracted by his own dinner appearing in front of him. Just this once. “Well. okay. and worn out.The Secret of Willow Ridge he thought. sheepishly. then he and I can… Gabe’s thoughts stopped… he and I can… what? Gabe wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with his dad when Dad came home.” said Mom. that they had never. If only they could get back to normal. He looked out the window. aunt stacey cutting him a slice of hot bread. too. where the street lights had just come on.” “Well. “okay. “I wonder what Daddy’s having for dinner tonight?” asked Izzy. sliding into his seat. ever 56 . holding the soda bottle in mid-air. Jim…” his mom said. looking meaningfully at Gabe. and Uncle Jimmy pouring him a big. into the dark. sitting by his side. fizzy cup of soda as everyone around the table laughed and dug in.” Izzy chimed in.
” she began to say. and now. Mamma. all he knew was that he didn’t want to go back to the way life was before this morning. long day. resting back in her chair. Pop. “He didn’t learn it from us.” “Hold on there. but that’s what she and aunt stacey called him: Pop. he thought. “you know I was a bit of a wild boy in my youth.” Gabe saw more tears appearing in his Mom’s eyes. and she cries when Grandpa is nice to us! “thanks. what would Dad be like when he came back to them after the treatment center? Gabe just didn’t know. shooting a quick glance across the table at the children. We’ll take care of everything.” said Grandma.” she whispered. sadly. It seemed a long time ago that they’d had that apple pie at the treatment center. Monica. “Back to normal?” normal for this family was not the kind of normal Gabe wanted. “after all the trouble our son has given you.” said Mom. remember when we were first married?” 57 .back to normal? done anything together that Gabe could remember. Mom cries about Dad when he’s mean to us. she lowered her voice. Moms are weird.” Grandma and Grandpa were not her mom and dad. “It’s the least we can do. saying. “I don’t know why he started drinking and taking all those other drugs. “thanks so much. that was one thing he was sure of! He cut off a big piece of lasagna with his fork and shoveled it into his mouth.” said Grandpa. Grandpa got up to clear the table. “you guys have had a long. after dinner. Just stay put.
but alcohol is a drug.” said Mom. Dad here was lucky. “But I can see what you say is true. Let’s all hope. honey.” said Uncle Jimmy. blushing. “But it doesn’t matter if it’s alcohol or other drugs.” said aunt stacey.” “they sure did. thought Gabe. all of you.” said Grandma. let’s hope that he does. she picked Izzy up. Mon. “I know how you feel. “Don’t worry about a thing. We’ll finish up here and let ourselves out. she was almost asleep in her chair. yes.” “Haven’t touched a drop in twenty years.” said Grandpa. Izzy said nothing.” said Grandma. you guys just get some sleep. you’ve got a whole new life 58 . “Mamma. “Monica. you get yourself and these children ready for bed. because he stopped when he was young. again.” he said.” “Well.” she sighed. remember. We’ll take care of everything down here. your own troubles started with too much drinking.The Secret of Willow Ridge “oh. Drinking too much and getting into trouble is just like taking drugs and getting into trouble. “look at that child. if he gives it an honest try. “you may not want to believe this. Jim.” said Mom and Grandma together. Jack and I both have the same disease—it’s called addiction. “But that was just drinking…” Uncle Jimmy got up quickly and kissed his mother’s cheek.” “thanks. and reached across to take Uncle Jimmy’s hand. too. Bill. “I feel like I could sleep for a million years. thumping his chest. and what worked for me will work for him. aunt stacey nodded her head.
Uncle Jimmy kissed her hand. Yuck.back to normal? waiting for you when you wake up tomorrow. looking at her husband. thought Gabe. 59 .” she said. a great life.
Wait a minute. What a baby. His robots were lined up on his dresser where he had left them the night before last. he thought. He looked around his room. His space helmet with the special built-in microphone was looking at him from the top of his toy box. smiling to himself as he opened his bedroom door. a breeze blew the curtains at his window. Mom was helping Izzy.” he could hear Izzy complaining.8 A New Day Gabe opened his eyes. I don’t have to 61 . He began to tiptoe out into the hallway. and got up to get dressed.” he told himself. the sun was already way up in the sky. He knew where he wanted to be today—outside! In the bedroom next door. Mom must be brushing her hair. “ouch. Dad’s not here. He had slept a long time. all the clothes he usually left lying around the floor and draped across his desk had been put away. he thought. and he could hear birds. Nice morning.
which rolled across the living room floor and began to run into the garage. too. opening the door for him. “G-a-a-b-e. “Put that ball away first.” Gabe answered.” said Mrs. ready to show Gabe his catch. He forgot about never wanting to see Willis again. “Willis Mcteague. Mr. Gabe.” said his mother. clutching a softball. with pegboard covering two walls and all kinds of tools hanging 62 . then he and Gabe made their way into the garage.The Secret of Willow Ridge tiptoe! He almost yelled with happiness. letting the door bang behind him.” called Izzy.” Willis made a face. okay. Mcteague was there. “okay. chasing the ball across the living room floor. forgetting that it had only been for a few minutes.” he said. Gabe grabbed a cereal bar and ran outside. “What’s the emergency?” “nothing. Mcteague. He practically jumped up the three steps of the Mcteagues’ porch and thumped on their front door. “Hi. she sounded happy. “I’m going outside!” “take your jacket. “Wanna see the fish I caught yesterday?” He dropped the ball. He could slide down the banister into the downstairs hallway. but he didn’t wait to hear any more.” he called back up when he reached the bottom of the stairs. “I just…” But just then Willis appeared behind his mother. the garage was neat and organized. “Wil-lis. too! “Mom. doing something useful-looking at his workbench. “Come in. I watched her yesterday.” he said.” Mom called down to him.” he called out. barely slowing down to look for cars before running across the street to call for Willis. he thought. looking amused.
a New Day from it on hooks.” said Gabe. “I wanna see the fish. “Way cool.” he said. nodding.” laughed Willis’s mom. “Hey.” said Mr. “Well.” said Mr. that’s why I’m glad we have son who’s a fisherman. “I’m gonna catch one like that when I go fishing with my dad. gazing at it in amazement. winking. He was too busy looking at the little fish. smiling at her husband. Mcteague.” said Willis. hon. “What are you guys up to?” “I want to show Gabe the fish I caught yesterday.” she said to Willis’s dad. Mcteague.” said Gabe. “of course. Mcteague coughed.” said Mr. He didn’t notice the look that passed between Willis’s mom and dad. “C-o-o-o-o-l. just like his father. Willis’s mom came and stood in the doorway. a cup of coffee in her hand. Mr. that Willis had taken out of the old fridge.” she said.” said Gabe. “that’s why I never go fishing. “let’s all get another look at that fish. Gabe.” he agreed. 63 . and the worst part is cleaning them. about the size of one of his robots. “yeah. “My dad’s gonna take me fishing. Mcteague. Willis beamed. too. “every good fisherman knows that bragging about your catch is almost the best part of fishing!” He went over to the old refrigerator in the corner where the fish he caught with his son were always kept after they were cleaned.
“How’s your daddy doing? We haven’t seen him or your mom much lately. Mcteague looked at each other. “We took him to a treatment center yesterday!” Mr.” she said. and shook his head some more. Mcteague. “First of all. He looked at Gabe. lots of people have it. you’ll each get a pair of safety goggles. Gabe could see his own house. Mcteague knew about Dad’s problems.The Secret of Willow Ridge “that’s nice.” said Mr. but lately Mr.” said Gabe. Mr.” “Cool!” yelled both boys at once. like all the neighbors. looking at his wife and shrugging. 64 .” said Mr.” “you don’t say.” “oh. he’s good. “Good idea. “Come on. Mcteague. Mcteague walked past them and out of the open garage door. Mr. But the treatment center helps them to get better. and Mrs. banged up car in the driveway. “I think I’ll go see how Monica’s doing. Mcteague looked at her husband.” Mr. yeah. “He has a disease. Mcteague said. It looked nice in the sunshine. Mcteague shook his head.” cried Gabe. He and Dad used to be friends. honey. But the words kept spilling out of Gabe. It puts them in something called ‘recovery’!” Mrs.” Willis shouted. He turned to the boys as Mrs.” he laughed.” said Mrs. He hardly noticed their old. “oh. “I get the hammer. “Put that fish away and you can help me with this birdhouse. guys. across the street. Mcteague. It’s called addiction. “I get the saw.
and Gabe’s whole family. Mcteague in Gabe’s ear. “Me.a New Day Mcteague and Dad didn’t have too much in common. waving to the men in the garage. “then next time we go to the lake. Gabe could see her give Willis’s mom a big hug.” “yeah. although he couldn’t hear what they were saying. patting Gabe’s shoulder. “you have to be careful when you work with tools. you guys can come too. “Isn’t that right. “Me. “I’m taking Monica and Izzy shopping. Mcteague.” said Willis. too.” 65 . Mr. little guy. Dad?” “that’s right.” called Mrs. sorry!” Gabe said.” said Gabe. across the street. with Izzy at her side. yeah.” said Gabe.” he said. even Dad. they didn’t go bowling or fishing or cook at the neighborhood barbecues together anymore. the door of number 22 Cherry street opened again.” said Mr. Mrs. He watched the two women as the door closed behind them.” said Willis. When Gabe’s mom answered. Mcteague. But like most people. When will that be? he wondered. But he liked Gabe. “Jeff. Mcteague felt bad about that. he didn’t know what the real problem was or what to do about it.” said Mr. kiddo. “Watch out with that saw. “I hope your dad feels better soon. suddenly. Mcteague was ringing the doorbell at number 22 Cherry street. “oh. too. and both mothers stood on the doorstep.
I thought we could all have a barbecue tonight. “What time will you be back?” “not too long. at our place. “Dad.” Willis pleaded. can Gabe sleep over. “all right.” said Willis. “Pleeeeaasse?” “We’ll see what your mothers have to say about that. We can have this birdhouse all put together by the time your moms get back.” he called to his wife.” 66 . “Mom can be shopping for an awful long time. Mcteague pushed his safety goggles up onto the top of his head.The Secret of Willow Ridge Mr.” “I dunno.” Willis and Gabe looked at each other excitedly. now pay attention to what you’re doing.
Life without Dad
And so it went. With Dad in the treatment center, life at 22 Cherry street was different. no yelling, no crying, and no sticky floors or beer cans dropped on the rug while Dad was watching tv. Mom dropped the kids off at school each morning on her way to work, and Uncle Jimmy drove them home and stayed with them until she got home. Gabe did get to stay over at Willis’s house, and what was even better, Willis got to stay over at Gabe’s. Mom looked happy again. even Izzy had almost completely stopped sucking her thumb. Gabe hardly thought about Dad at all. at school that week, he looked for Janey. He watched for Mrs. Paul’s class to come out onto the playground at recess, and he walked over to where they were chasing each other around. Janey was easy to spot, though. she stood a little way apart from the kids who were running around and yelling. she looked like she had a lot on her mind. Gabe waved to her as
The Secret of Willow Ridge
he got close. He tried to make it look like he wasn’t waving, though, in case any of his friends saw. “Hey,” he said. Janey looked at him with a frown. the big kids were supposed to stay on their side of the playground. “Hey,” she said. “It’s okay,” he said. “I know you. I mean I’ve seen you before. at the treatment center.” Janey’s eyes got big. she looked around. “sshh,” she said. “Do you want everybody to know?” “Know what?” asked Gabe. “about the treatment center!” Gabe shrugged. Uncle Jimmy and aunt stacey didn’t seem to think it was a big secret. neither did the Mcteagues. even Grandma and Grandpa seemed kind of proud that Dad was getting help for his problems. He shrugged again. “How’s your mom doing?” he asked Janey. that made her smile. “real good,” she said. “she goes to meetings a lot, and then Daddy takes care of me. But I like it when she’s home. she’s nicer now.” “What kind of meetings?” Gabe wanted to know. now it was Janey who shrugged. “I don’t know. she says they help her with her recovery,” Janey said. she smiled. she was a nice little kid, with red hair and freckles. she looked like one of her front teeth was getting loose. “she says she’ll take me to one. one where they allow kids.” Gabe stared at her.
We can talk to each other and make friends with other kids like us. Uncle Jimmy chuckled. But that afternoon. his eyes wide. though. I’ll ask Mom. ‘Cause we all have. “Bye. like. he told himself. But Daddy says ‘the addict’s family needs help.” Gabe frowned. he thought.” said Uncle Jimmy. I haven’t gone to one yet. as he opened the front door that afternoon. the same feelings. and all thoughts of Dad and Mom and Janey got pushed out of his mind as he pictured himself as an ocean explorer. 71 .life without dad “Do you have addiction?” he asked. silly. “Bye.” he answered. Meetings. he thought! “Uncle Jimmy. I don’t need help. too’. maybe? he wondered as he walked back over to his side of the playground. his class was studying the ocean.” he said. My mom says. and Janey ran off to line up with her class. waiting for Uncle Jimmy and Izzy to get out of the car and come up the walk. then the recess bell rang.” he asked him as Izzy ran past him into the kitchen for her snack. Like a club.” Gabe nodded. “no. “that sounds okay.” she called back.” “Whoa. little Dude. I just need Dad not to drink or use drugs! Janey went on. “Who’s Janey?” Gabe explained. diving under the sea to learn about sharks and whales and other creatures of the deep. “Do I have to go to meetings with Dad when he gets out of the treatment center? Cause Janey said. “My mom says there are special meetings for kids whose parents have addiction. I bet Uncle Jimmy knows about those meetings. he remembered.
Meetings are like a medicine that addicts need to help them stay away from alcohol and other drugs. you know people can’t stay in the treatment center forever. I’ll take him to some of my meetings with me. We get to make friends there who can help us—friends who have the same problem.” “But when they come out. “But don’t you worry. It’s not that kind of a disease. But just like me. thought Gabe.” That sounds okay. rolling his eyes. Like a teenager. little Dude. “Hi. about a week later. we’re fine. It’s not like a cold that goes away after you take medicine for a few days.” he said. the phone rang. introduce him to some of my friends. How are you?” 72 . “meetings are a big part of being in recovery.The Secret of Willow Ridge “Well. and the next morning their new life went on pretty much as it had since Dad went to treatment.” Gabe looked puzzled. He went upstairs to do his homework. right?” asked Gabe. your dad will never be cured of the disease of addiction. just your dad does. they’re all better. sweetheart!” he heard her say. “yeah. you and your mom and Izzy don’t have to go to meetings. thought Gabe. listening with one ear as he played with his Xbox. that’s for sure. Mom ran to pick it up. thought Gabe.” Mom said. “I know it’s a lot to learn. one saturday morning. That must be Dad calling. “I’ve missed you s-oo-o-o much. Uncle Jimmy put his hand on Gabe’s shoulder and gave it a little shake. “they are a lot better than they were when they went in.” he said. like she’d been waiting for it.
” then suddenly. “your dad wants to talk to you. except when Dad was yelling at him. little Dude. so I wanted to call you guys and make sure you’re okay.” Why wouldn’t we be okay? thought Gabe.” she said. “not for a few more weeks. “Hi. “I know you guys have been through a lot. “When will you come home?” he asked. You’re the one with the problem! “seriously.” said Gabe. so have I! and I’m learning a lot in here. son. today is the first day I’m allowed to use the phone.” “Well. and when she did say something. “How are you doing?” “okay. “Just okay? Is that all?” Dad laughed. He sounded different. okay?” Dad wants to talk to me? Gabe gulped and put down the controller. He and his dad had never really talked much. But he took the phone from his mother.” Gabe admitted. “I thought you guys would be having lots of fun without me. I know I haven’t been a very good father to you and Izzy. she didn’t say anything for a long time.” said Dad. Or he might feel bad he’s not having fun. Should I tell him how much fun I’ve been having with Willis and his dad? He might get angry. it was just.” Dad said. I’ve been having a little fun. “Hel-lo?” he said. “give the phone back before you hang up.” or “oooh. Kind of like a vacation. “oh?” or “that sounds fun. But I’m 73 .life without dad Dad must have started telling her every single thing that had happened since the day they’d brought him to the treatment center. she turned and held her free arm out to Gabe.
“your Dad sounded good. little Dude. “What about me and Izzy?” he asked. Dad. “Bye.” she looked excited. Dad. aunt stacey’s going to drive us out there. He felt the old knot in his stomach. “Well. thought Gabe. “okay. there will be time for you guys to visit Dad and even have dinner with him on saturday. We’ll leave right after school on Friday. after his mom got back on the phone and said some mushy. Doesn’t that sound nice?” 74 .” “I love you too. This doesn’t sound like good news to me.” “I love you.” said Gabe. she folded her arms and looked at Gabe. We’re going to get to see him this weekend.” Gabe didn’t know what to say. Mom smiled. he thought. It doesn’t exactly sound like a trip to Disneyland. “Put your mom back on. I think so. you’ll see. so he didn’t say anything. she put Izzy on for a minute. will you?” said Dad. When she hung up. Do I? I guess I do. “and I have good news. grown-up things to Dad. didn’t he?” “I guess so.” she said.” said Gabe. But his mom looked so happy.The Secret of Willow Ridge gonna try my best to change all that. “aunt stacey will take care of you while I’m in the family sessions. and we’re going to stay in a motel near the treatment center.” said Gabe. We’ll get to see your dad on Friday night. and on saturday and sunday I’ll have family sessions with him and the other visitors and addicts at the treatment center. he didn’t want to spoil it.
he thought.” he said. at least the treatment center has good pie. We used to have a lot of problems with Dad. 75 . I could never have a sleepover or even have friends come over after school. Gabe thought about all the changes that had happened in a few short weeks. He yelled and smashed up the car and was always getting fired at work. as he lay in bed that night. We never went fishing. What would life be like when Dad came home? What about those meetings? as Gabe drifted off to sleep. I guess. no pictures would come to his mind. Mom was always crying. I wonder if they’ll have more apple pie? that thought cheered him up. He turned over and closed his eyes. And Ethan and Luis were always laughing at us. He could picture all those problems in his memory. but he couldn’t imagine what life was going to be like now that Dad was in recovery.life without dad “It sounds okay. like Willis and his dad. and Izzy kept sucking her thumb.
anyway.friday 10 Friday That Friday Gabe could hardly concentrate on his . Would it ever be 2:30 and time to go home? Maybe it’s broken! the minutes ticked by. when he really knew the opposite was true. then math. “Come on. He tore out of the classroom and stopped suddenly when he saw Uncle Jimmy waiting outside in the hall. “I think you mean that whales are mammals. she gave him a sticker for his homework. ethan and luis snickered. In science class. Gotta get you home to aunt stacey. spelling. he said that sharks were mammals and whales were fish. schoolwork. but Ms. Gabe. lipton just smiled. F-i-n-a-l-l-y. she’s waiting!” 77 . little Dude. holding Izzy’s hand and smiling. the bell rang! Gabe grabbed his books and didn’t even pause to say goodbye to axel and Willis. then reading. Gabe kept looking at the clock on the wall at the front of the classroom.” she said.
Gabe scratched his head.” said Mom. He felt nervous.” hissed Gabe.” she called. but ethan and luis were still back in the classroom. giving the bag a shake. I think. Uncle Jim took Izzy’s booster seat out of his van and handed it to aunt stacey. then they were back out again. “Don’t think I’d forget your snacks!” everyone was happy and excited. He looked around. “you drive carefully. everyone except Gabe. Gabe and Izzy ran into the house. “you’re gonna need this. kissing her hello. and gave their hands and faces a quick wash.” she answered. Uncle Jimmy gave aunt stacey a big hug. she and aunt stacey were putting overnight bags in the trunk of aunt stacey’s car. she had taken a halfday off work. “What about our snacks?” asked Izzy. “not for much longer. “right here.” said Mom. dropped their backpacks.” he told her. ruffling Gabe’s hair and laughing to himself.” he said.” he said. twenty minutes later they pulled into the driveway at 22 Cherry street. aunt stacey held up a bulging plastic shopping bag. “run inside and wash your hands and faces.” Izzy smiled. Izzy still seemed pretty babyish to him. Mom was already there. hon. like before a test in math class. “Don’t worry about it. “Pipe down. looking panicked.The Secret of Willow Ridge “to take us to the treatment center!” shouted Izzy. waving goodbye 78 . Uncle Jimmy smiled. “Izzy’s getting to be a big girl now. “and call me when you get there!” “you bet.
cottage-like building. “We’re going to the motel first to unpack and freshen up.” and aunt stacey was pulling into a driveway. and out into the countryside.” Mom said. Gabe hadn’t noticed any of this the first time they made this drive.friday to Uncle Jimmy and piling into aunt stacey’s car. Gabe. But now he wanted to be awake. “aunt stacey! you passed it!” He recognized the long. through the streets of the big. “It’s crazy. low buildings and the basketball courts as they drove past the treatment center. “Don’t worry. “Motel. and horses shook their heads and stamped their hooves between bites of grass. she stopped the car in front of a small. past the houses of Willow ridge. most of what was left of the afternoon.” aunt stacey told her. you’ll see your dad soon!” Mom flipped down the sun visor and looked at herself in the mirror. He had slept that time. “I don’t know why I feel so nervous!” I’m glad I’m not the only one. gray city. We’ll come back right away. “Hey!” he called out suddenly. suddenly at the side of the road there was a bright red neon sign that blinked. and they talked all the way there. yellow moon was just rising above them. past fields where black and white cows looked at them over fences. It seemed to take a long time. “you look fine. they were off to the treatment center to see Dad! aunt stacey and Mom were good friends. thought Gabe. looking out at the road. Monica. 79 . the sun had slipped down behind the hills and a fat.” his aunt told him. to see where they were going.
” she said.” he said. and the four of them piled into the little cabin that would be their home for the next couple of days. young man.” Izzy yelled. Gabe. This is it. Gabe and I will meet you and Izzy back by the car when you’re ready.The Secret of Willow Ridge “If you and the kids can get the bags. Fifteen minutes later. they were back in the car. as they got out of the car and walked up the path. now that Dad’s problems were almost solved? “I need to go potty.” Gabe picked up the bag and hoisted it up onto the dresser. aunt stacey laughed. he thought. I’ll get the keys. “Come on. Was Mom going to start getting all weird about keeping the house neat. there were two big beds. “M-o-m!” Gabe started to complain.” Gabe shot a dirty look at Izzy’s back. gleaming bathroom. “Uh-uh. Monica. and trudged out behind aunt stacey. a tv on the wall.” she pointed to a low dresser. you can use the bathroom in the office. 80 . “okay. hands and faces washed and feeling refreshed. disappearing into a little glassed-in office under the Motel sign.” she said. “We don’t need to unpack. too. here’s the spare key. “some things never change. shaking her head.” his mom said. the treatment center was only a few minutes away. Gabe felt a familiar knot in his stomach. but we do need to keep things neat. and a door opening into a big bathroom complete with a bathtub as big as a small swimming pool! Gabe dropped the bag he was carrying onto the carpet. running into the big. “Please bring that bag over here. soon she was back. and then we can all go see Jack. as they approached.
there were other families there. and she wasn’t crying. dark-haired stranger! 81 . Where’s Dad? he asked himself. a young woman was seated behind it now. with kids his and Izzy’s ages. looking bored or embarrassed. but as usual. but not with tears this time. his thoughts were interrupted by a shriek from Izzy. teenagers. “excited about seeing Dad?” she asked.friday the double doors opened.” she said. and there was the bright hallway with the low desk. her hands were shaking. Her eyes were bright. and ran across the lobby to throw herself at a tall. He looked around. Gabe looked at his mom. too. thought Gabe. handing their mom some name tags as aunt stacey signed the visitors’ book. she patted Gabe’s cheek. Moms and dads were there in the lobby. he pleaded silently. I don’t think excited is the right word. Gabe’s stomach knot had dissolved into a bunch of butterflies fluttering around his insides. too. as she peeled the backing off the name tags and stuck them onto his and Izzy’s chests. she smiled. “DaDDy!” she screamed. hugging each other. “Welcome to Family night. some crying. Don’t cry now.
Dad? Is That YOU?
“IZZY,” Gabe started to yell, and ran toward his sister. Mom and aunt stacey started running across the lobby too, toward the dark stranger who had appeared in the hallway, and whom Izzy was calling Daddy. But as he got closer, Gabe got a big surprise. Izzy was right! It was their dad! as Dad straightened up and put Izzy down, he smiled at them. “Jack!” cried their mother. Yuck, thought Gabe, watching his mom and dad kiss. Gross! then it was his turn. His mother stood aside to let his father see him, but kept one arm around Dad’s waist. Mom’s whole face was shining, and not with tears this time. she was smiling from ear-to-ear. Gabe looked down at the carpet. “Hey, little Dude,” Dad said softly. Gabe looked up. His dad looked so different! the stubbly beard was gone, and Dad’s face was smooth and clean, not gray anymore. He looked… fatter! But soon Gabe realized he just looked like a
The Secret of Willow Ridge
normal dad, like Mr. Mcteague or like Uncle Jimmy. the dark circles under Dad’s eyes were gone, and his hands had stopped shaking. no wonder he looked like a stranger! “Hi,” Gabe whispered. What am I supposed to say? he wondered. Dad looked uncomfortable, too. He turned to hug aunt stacey and thank her for bringing his family to him. “Is anybody hungry?” he asked. “I’m starving, Daddy,” cried Izzy, clutching at Dad’s hand. suddenly Gabe realized he was hungry, too. Mom nodded her head and smiled at Dad. “looks like we arrived just in time for dinner,” said aunt stacey, leading the way to the dining room. “they serve some good food here, I remember,” she said as they moved toward the big double doors. Inside, the scene was much the same as it had been the day they had brought Dad here. Doctors and nurses sat eating their dinners and chatting with addicts and their families. Children sat on parents’ laps, and mothers and fathers held hands. Like teenagers, thought Gabe, disapproving slightly. But he did not disapprove of the meal, which was almost as good as Grandma’s cooking back home. everyone got to serve themselves from steaming dishes of beef stew and mashed potatoes, and no one even told him to make sure to take some green beans. He piled his plate high, and made sure to get some gravy for his mashed potatoes. Dad sat in between Mom and Izzy, and Gabe sat across the table next to aunt stacey. It was kind of like the cafeteria at school, only with big kids and
dad? is that you?
little kids and grown-ups all mixed in together. This is weird, thought Gabe. But it’s kind of nice. He looked around for Janey. Dad saw him, and said, “Whatcha lookin’ for, little Dude? Do you need anything? How about some bread and butter?” Gabe looked up at him. Go ahead, he told himself. “Do you remember the little girl who was here the day we…” Gabe stopped. Did Dad want to be reminded of that day? “Janey!” called Izzy. “she was picking up her mommy.” Dad looked thoughtful. “Well, to tell you the truth, guys, I wasn’t really thinking about anything much except myself that day,” he said. “so I can’t say I noticed her. But if she was picking up her mom that day, it means her mom has gone home. she wouldn’t be here tonight.” Gabe’s face fell. “oh,” he said, turning to his mashed potatoes and forking some into his mouth before they got cold. “oh, I know who you mean,” said Mom. “I know Janey’s mom. she’s very nice. she’s in the Pta. I never knew she was… an… addict.” It was still hard for Mom to say that word. Especially about somebody nice, thought Gabe. “It’s okay to say it,” said Dad. “addiction is just a disease.” “like my asthma,” said Izzy, proudly. she almost knocked over her glass of juice. “that’s right, sweetie,” said aunt stacey. “What are you looking for now, honey?” she asked Gabe, who had finished his dinner and was looking around.
The Secret of Willow Ridge
“I was just wondering if they had any more of that apple pie,” he answered, a little sheepishly. He cracked a smile. “that’s my favorite, too!” his dad laughed. “and here it comes!” He pointed to the kitchen doors, where cooks in white jackets were wheeling in a gleaming metal cart filled with pies and cakes. “I hope they have some vanilla ice cream to go with it,” Dad said, winking at Gabe. Who is this new person who looks like my dad, Gabe wondered. and then, surprised, he thought, I think I like him! “you guys sit tight,” said Dad. “I’ll get us all some pie!” “and ice cream,” shouted Izzy. “that’s right, some ice cream, too.” Dad looked at Gabe. “Wanna help me?” he asked. Gabe couldn’t talk. He just nodded. This was his dad, and Gabe was going to help him. Just like Willis helped his dad. Just like a normal family. He found his voice. “yup,” he said, as he and Dad got up and made their way over to the dessert cart. and there was vanilla ice cream! and it was all delicious.
” she said. smiling. and it seemed like they’d just got there! Mom laughed. He looked across the table at Izzy. “she’s beat. “It’s been a long day. “It’s almost eight o’clock. too. no. and the last melting drop of ice cream had been licked off his spoon. Gabe and Izzy jumped up. 89 . aunt stacey stood up.” “But a great day. “you guys have had a full day.” “oh.” she said.12 Sweet Dreams When dinner was over.” cried both kids.” said Mom. “now I think it’s time for us to head back to the motel. Gabe suddenly realized how tired he was.” said Dad. “It sure has. who was climbing onto Dad’s lap. Gabe smiled. they hadn’t seen their dad for almost two weeks. you need your sleep tonight for all the fun aunt stacey has planned for you tomorrow!” that did it.
Dad looked happier than Gabe could ever remember seeing him look. Gross! soon they were back in the car. But we’ll have dinner together again tomorrow night. with my counselors. If she’d heard. some of them were so terrible! “aunt stacey?” Gabe asked when the commercial came on.” Gabe heard them say to each other. “your mom will be busy with family sessions most of tomorrow. too. she’d never let any of them get any sleep tonight. trying to win a contest. Could this really be happening? Mom nodded her head. Would you like that?” Dad asked Gabe. and Mom and Dad hung back for one last hug in the lobby. and your mom and I thought it would be a nice treat for you kids if we went there tomorrow. Good thing Mom was washing Izzy’s hair at that moment. Gabe sat on the big bed and watched tv with aunt stacey. “I love you. 90 . Gabe looked at his mother. “and I’ll have my recovery work to do. thought Gabe. aunt stacey walked ahead with Izzy and Gabe. some terrible singers were on the screen. or she’ll never get to sleep tonight!” Gabe jumped off the bed and hollered! “you’re the best aunt in the world!” he shouted.” he said. Gabe and aunt stacey couldn’t help laughing. “What did Dad mean about fun tomorrow?” aunt stacey smiled. as Mom gave Izzy a bath.” she smiled. “there’s an amusement park down the road from here. Dad?” Gabe asked. But don’t tell Izzy. and soon after that they were at the motel. then on sunday you can all come back and we’ll shoot some hoops together. “that sounds perfect.The Secret of Willow Ridge “Will we see you tomorrow.
there were so many things to think about. 91 . even he had a hard time falling asleep that night. eating vanilla ice cream under the sea as Gabe and Willis and their dads swam down to see them. Gabe tried to think about them all. grown up as he was. and he closed his eyes to dream of whales and sharks that were all mixed up. Gradually. Gabe didn’t know it. wearing deep-sea diving suits. But he couldn’t.sweet dreams But. and as his mom and aunt stacey sat talking quietly while he and Izzy lay in the big bed next to the window. sleep took over. but he smiled in his sleep.
“you take your shower first. Mom and aunt stacey were just stirring in the other big bed next to the wall. he thought. “I slept like a log!” “you guys were really tired last night.” Izzy started to wail. Gabe thought as he pulled off the covers and went into the bathroom to brush his teeth. waking her up was a big mistake. He looked at himself in the mirror. reaching across the big bed to . the sun was seeping into the room around the edges of the blinds covering the window next to Gabe and Izzy’s bed. where his little sister was still sleeping.” he heard aunt stacey say. he told himself. I look different. too. “Gabe’s bothering me!” Well. remembering how different his dad had looked yesterday.13 Morning Again “Wake. “look at the time!” “Wow. “Yikes.” aunt stacey said. so you can get over there 93 . up Izzy!” Gabe yelled. I think I’m growing. Mon. “Mo-mmeeee.” his mom said. Monica.
too?” she and Gabe both looked at aunt stacey. acting almost like it was his idea. “Don’t be dumb.The Secret of Willow Ridge to the treatment center.” “Hey. “bet you don’t know what we’re going to do today!” “I do. Mom.” Gabe answered. Izzy gave a little jump. too. “Morning. BABY. sweetie.” she said.” she said. “are Mommy and Daddy coming. today is going to be fun!” she tapped Izzy’s nose with the hairbrush. sticking her tongue out at him. so you’re both in luck!” Izzy looked wonderingly at Gabe. “Does the treatment center have roller coasters?” she asked. kissing the top of Gabe’s head.” she said. they could hear their mom singing in the shower. “aunt stacey’s taking us to an amusement park!” he said. aunt stacey finished putting Izzy’s hair into two ponytails.” Gabe boasted. Izzy.” she started pulling clothes out of the bag for Gabe and Izzy while their mom brushed past Gabe on her way into the bathroom.” Izzy returned. 94 . He still felt tired. “where we’re going they have both kinds. “only little ones. “Do you like roller coasters?” she asked her. “Hey. “I don’t want any fighting or problems today. “I like the big ones. aunt stacey laughed. they’ll give you breakfast before the family session starts.” he teased his sister. but he was eager to get to the amusement park. even though she didn’t! “What?” she asked aunt stacey.” said Izzy.” Gabe mumbled. you guys. I’ll take care of the kids. “Well. “Behave yourself. uncertainly.
“aunt stacey’s taking us to an amusement park!” “that’s nice. just like last night. “Come on. he thought. “as long as you stay right in front of the room. along with kids around his and Izzy’s ages. aunt stace?” he asked. like a genie in a movie.” the bathroom door opened and Mom appeared in a puff of steam. He was only ten. Gabe could tell her mind was already on Dad and the family session she’d have today. Izzy. but he didn’t really like getting dressed in front of all his female relatives! “Can we go outside.” he said.” Gabe grabbed Izzy by the hand. sweetie. and then tomorrow we’ll all get to spend some time there with your dad. as Gabe could see now. the parking lot of the motel was filled with cars Gabe hadn’t noticed last night. followed by Mom. sweetie. 95 .morning again “no. Mommy. lots of them belonged to families like his. tugging on his jeans behind a chair. “Mommy. who locked the door behind her. “your mom and dad are going to be busy all day at the treatment center. that’s why I’m taking care of you guys today. We’ll be out in a minute. Just then the door to their room opened wide and out came aunt stacey. tonight we’ll all have dinner again together. It seems like a lot of people have problems just like ours.” said Mom. pulling her out the door. I bet a lot of them have moms and dads in the treatment center.” she answered. too. Mothers or fathers were getting into or out of them. “leave the door open so I can see you. “Come on.” said Gabe. running over to her as Mom picked out some clothes from their luggage.” Izzy yelled. tucking in his shirt.” said aunt stacey.
there. blowing kisses to Izzy and Gabe. She sure looks like she’s in a hurry to see Dad.” aunt stacey yelled. they ate corndogs on sticks and washed them down with buckets of 96 . “no. and spaceships. “Hold hands in the parking lot. pirates.The Secret of Willow Ridge “are you sure you don’t want us to drop you off?” asked aunt stacey. painted with pictures of clowns. they found themselves turning into another parking lot. and by the time they finished eating. too. He tore off his seat belt and jumped out of the car almost as soon as aunt stacey brought it to a stop. “o-K. she was waving three tickets in her hand. and Izzy got to pick the prettiest pony on the merry-go-round for her first ride. Bye. “the center’s only a few blocks away. dragons. I can use the walk.’” He trudged back to her side.” he said.” and from behind the big fence.” said Mom. Gabe could hear screams from kids already enjoying the rides. Gabe shook his head.” she waved as she jogged out of the parking lot and down the sidewalk. But that was the last time aunt stacey tried to stop either Gabe or Izzy from doing anything they wanted that day! Gabe got to ride the big roller coaster three times. that means you. this one had a huge sign above it saying “Family land. “Whoa.” she said. “Come on you guys. aunt stacey took them to a drive-thru restaurant and bought them breakfast. “last one in has to go on all the baby rides!” “I like the baby rides!” said Izzy. thought Gabe. ‘Grown-Up Gabe.
Gabe on a lion this time. once again. ice cream. aunt stacey looked at her watch. the kids each picked out one last ride. “no complaining!” aunt stacey told them. In between all the treats. It’s about time to go!” “awwww!” both kids groaned at once. 97 . guys. there was popcorn. and Izzy had ridden the baby rides twice. the sun was getting lower in the sky. she knew it was a special occasion. By the time Gabe had ridden on all the big rides at least twice. and after the popcorn. and Izzy. and they rode together on the merry-go-round.” aunt stacey whispered. and Mom wouldn’t really mind!) after the corndogs. “Pick one more ride. smiling. “We need to leave in fifteen minutes if we’re going to get back in time to have dinner with your parents!” and at that. there were rides of all kinds. on her pretty pink pony. too.morning again soda (“Don’t tell your mom.
right now. “I bet he let you. they had chocolate layer cake for dessert instead of apple pie and ice cream. and Gabe couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen Mom laugh so much.” said Willis. Gabe couldn’t wait to see Willis.” he said. In the schoolyard on Monday morning. “I bet you couldn’t beat me. and Gabe’s piece had a maraschino cherry on top! Dad looked stronger and happier every day. 99 . with his crooked smile. in between tales of the rides. grinning. “I beat my Dad at hoops!” Gabe told him. even Izzy was less annoying than usual. Dinner at the treatment center on saturday night had been even better than the one they had on Friday.14 Gabe’s Dilemma The weekend was over much too soon. although she did cry and complain when they had to leave Dad and head home on sunday night. the farms they had driven past. and the motel where they had stayed. excitedly.
lipton smiled and handed out the green papers.” she said.” said Gabe. row by row. while Ms.” said Willis. and there was someone else in the classroom with her—a policewoman! the policewoman was short.” he said.” But Willis didn’t leave him. boys and girls. He still didn’t want to talk to any of them. calling them back into the classroom. Gabe looked away. and had curly brown hair under her police cap and big brown eyes.” he urged.” she told the class. ethan was trying to shoot. “Good afternoon. ever since the day they took Dad to treatment. luckily. “next week. “your parents are invited to come. “two on two. “I don’t feel like it. waving his arms and trying to block his shot. Please bring these flyers home to let them know about it. and that they thought his whole family was bad or crazy or weird. while luis jumped around. some other local police officers and I will be coming to talk to the whole school. the boys looked over at the basketball court. we’ll be having a special assembly. “you go ahead. that his dad was in jail or in some kind of hospital for crazy people. and was handing them out. but Gabe’s heart wasn’t in it now. He stayed to hear more about the treatment center and the amusement park. “Forget it. and to introduce a 100 . “Come on. where Ms. the bell rang. just then. and she told them her name was officer lopez. too. he was sure those guys had been laughing at his family.” answered Gabe. He was sure they knew his dad was an addict. lipton had a surprise for them. she stood at the front of the room holding a bundle of green papers.The Secret of Willow Ridge “I’ll bet you I can. Joe shouted encouragement from the sidelines.
” Gabe blushed red to the tips of his ears! Why was she talking about drugs? Was this about Dad? he wondered. and she was eager to get started. He looks innocent. “sure. He whipped his head around to look at ethan. “if it won’t take too long. we’ll be back in plenty of time. Dinner will be early.” Going to meetings that were for the families of addicts would help Mom learn more about the family disease of addiction. Joe was picking his nose. But he didn’t ask him any questions. He looked right behind him. thought Gabe. But he’s laughing at my dad! He’s laughing at my whole family! I hate him and Joe and Luis! the rest of the afternoon was awful. He was the first one who had to sit down in the Math Bee. He could swear he heard him snickering. He couldn’t remember the name of the President. 101 . stacey’s bringing me to my first meeting for families tonight.” said Mom. he could tell something was bothering Gabe. and he couldn’t pay attention to a word Ms. Uncle Jimmy drove Gabe and Izzy home. who was scribbling with a marker on his green flyer and looking innocent. she wanted to help Dad in his recovery. He couldn’t find his science homework. don’t forget. lipton said. you and stacey are eating here with us. two rows over.gabe’s dilemma special new program to prevent drug and alcohol abuse to you and the other children in the upper grades. “Don’t worry. Gross! Gabe looked over at luis.” said Uncle Jimmy. then asked Gabe’s mom if he could take Gabe to the hardware store. He didn’t get a sticker. He felt the old knot start in his stomach. When Uncle Jimmy met him in the hallway after school.
he turned to face Gabe. not just ours. He just didn’t want ethan and luis and Joe and the whole world to know. the new program and the assembly have nothing to do with me or your dad or Janey’s mom going to treatment. But they do have something to do with the fact that lots and lots of people in our community have the disease of addiction. “look at me.” he stammered. almost as young as you. “Ms. little Dude?” he asked. as Uncle Jimmy turned off the engine.The Secret of Willow Ridge as Gabe trudged back to the van behind Uncle Jimmy. “they know my dad’s in the treatment center!” the words poured out of Gabe. “and… and… luis and ethan and Joe know. and even young kids. “What makes you say that. angrily.” Gabe looked at the dashboard. Uncle Jimmy was quiet.” he said. teenagers.” he said. he spoke up. Gabe told him about the flyers and officer lopez and the special new program and the big assembly next week. “Gabe. First of all. He told Uncle Jimmy how he didn’t mind telling Willis all about his dad and the treatment center. too. and… and… they’re always laughing at me and telling other kids my dad is an addict. 102 . they get pills from their parents’ medicine cabinets or beer from their own ‘fridge. addiction is a big problem for a lot of families. lipton knows about Dad’s addiction. “and she’s gonna tell the whole class!” Uncle Jimmy looked surprised. but he was listening hard to Gabe. Willis was his best friend. He drove carefully and swung into a parking spot right near the entrance to the hardware store as Gabe’s words gushed out. but he was listening.
right now he’s doing the hardest thing he’s ever done in his life. “little Dude. we don’t have to worry about what other people think. and we help him. 103 . people are gonna think whatever they’re gonna think. “I just don’t want people to laugh at us. We can’t do anything about that. “But it’s more embarrassing to hide it and do nothing about it. but I guess Uncle Jimmy knows. he thought. “and you know what?” Uncle Jimmy continued.” Gabe shrugged. the school board decided many months ago to bring this program into our classrooms. But as long as your dad works hard on his recovery. as a tear finally fell from one eye. Uncle Jimmy was still talking.” Gabe looked up at his uncle. we grown-ups hope that maybe you will be able to make better choices when you grow up. Gabe’s lower lip trembled.” “I guess. “…and because this problem affects so many families. “I don’t want ethan and luis and Joe and the other kids to laugh at my dad. Better than some of the choices we have made.” Gabe sniffed and nodded his head. I don’t know about that.gabe’s dilemma “It can be embarrassing to admit that someone in your family has addiction. you should be proud of your dad. “I’ll bet ethan and luis and whoever are talking about other things. and ruffled the top of Gabe’s hair. sniffing. and just let it wreck people’s lives.” Uncle Jimmy sighed. Gabe looked at him and thought. If you kids learn the facts about addiction and the problems that go with it.” Uncle Jimmy said gently. long before your dad decided to get help for his problem. anyway.” he said.
” Gabe looked doubtful. “I need you to help me pick out some paint.” said Uncle Jimmy. He wasn’t crying anymore.” Gabe didn’t feel so sure. “they probably have their own problems to talk about! everybody’s not thinking about you all the time. 104 . “Come on.The Secret of Willow Ridge not your dad or our family.” Gabe nodded okay and followed him into the hardware store. but he still had a knot in his stomach.
He asked his mother about them.15 Knots and Butterflies The knot in Gabe’s stomach got worse. from the day Ms. That’s one of the bad things about having an uncle who’s a teacher at your school! Gabe sat down to eat breakfast each morning. which had a big red circle on it. but then he realized Uncle Jimmy would probably blab about it anyway. but now he saw that it had Xs on each of the days of that month. so she wouldn’t find out about the assembly. he noticed the calendar hanging on the kitchen wall. He hadn’t ever really looked at it before. and going to her family meetings while Uncle Jimmy 107 . except for one. talking to Dad on the phone when he called every evening. while he was sitting at the table not eating. and couldn’t finish it. He’d thought about not giving his mom the green flyer. she’d been so busy and happy lately. visiting with aunt stacey. lipton had handed out the green flyers to the day of the big assembly. one of those mornings.
so how could he explain it to Mom? “those Xs are all the days your dad’s been in treatment. He didn’t really know how he felt. and. but he didn’t mean it.The Secret of Willow Ridge babysat.” Mom said. he thought. one afternoon. “Great. he thought.” she said. too. lipton asked him 108 . brightly. too. Ms. and all the while. He didn’t want to have to explain to her that he didn’t want her to go to the assembly. when the 2:30 bell rang. He kissed his mom goodbye. we had problems. He didn’t even want to go himself. the day Dad would come home from the treatment center began to seem less and less important. either. and that was okay with Gabe. the next day and the next were just as bad.” he said. the day he saw ethan and luis on the basketball court. pointing to the calendar proudly. dragging his backpack. Gabe’s heart sank.” Finally. I wish I had a different family. she hadn’t seemed to notice how unhappy Gabe was. When Dad was drinking alcohol and taking other drugs. It was the very day before the assembly! “Maybe he can come to the assembly. the day officer lopez had told them about the upcoming assembly. the day of the “Drug assembly” kept coming closer. But I was used to those problems. He’s in recovery now!” she pointed to the day with the red circle. But deep down he didn’t mean that. all Gabe could think about was the “Drug assembly. where his day was a repeat of the day after they came home from visiting Dad. Having a dad in recovery is starting to feel like a whole new bunch of problems! And I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to get used to these kinds of problems. “and this day’s the day he’ll come home. he left for school.
Gabe thought.” Gabe shook his head. and start being a real dad. He didn’t know how to explain to Ms. lipton? 109 . is something worrying you?” she asked. and I know that’s your favorite. But lately you haven’t been doing so well in class. and acting like other kids’ dads acted. “Is everything all right at home?” she asked. Except I don’t know what things are going to be like when my dad gets home. even in science. lipton. “you’re usually such a good student. and he thought he might start to cry right there in front of Ms. sure. Why is everything so complicated? he wondered. He couldn’t look at Ms. He wanted him to come home. Oh. now. This is it! I’m in trouble! But he wasn’t in trouble. lipton or Uncle Jimmy or his mom or even Willis what he was feeling. and not have them laughing at me and my family. and I don’t want to go to this stupid assembly. thought Gabe. He was afraid. lipton. and I sure don’t want my mom and dad to be there! I want to be friends with Ethan and Luis and even Joe again. But how could he even start to explain any of that to Ms. but didn’t know how to continue. gently.knots and butterflies to stay and talk with her after school. He was glad his dad was in recovery now. no. Ms. “I…” he began. Oh. like he had a terrible disease or something! “Gabe. panicked. Everything’s okay. But he didn’t like thinking about the other kids knowing his dad was an addict. lipton spoke to him very softly. It was almost worse.
” “Ms. lipton had said. lipton said. that’s probably what Gabe’s got on his mind. and we’ll work with Gabe at home to bring his school work back up to where it should be.” Ms. I hate to see him falling behind. “our family’s been going through a few… changes. Ms. l?” Uncle Jimmy asked. at that moment. even though he and aunt stacey didn’t have any kids. yes. but she sounded doubtful. “oh. I appreciate your concern.” he called back.” “We sure will. “I was just asking Gabe if he’s been feeling well lately. lipton said.” said Uncle Jimmy. Gabe dashed over to Uncle Jimmy’s side. But Uncle Jimmy reminded himself to talk to Gabe’s mom and dad about what Ms. so the three of them would be ready when Gabe wanted to talk with them about his feelings. “Bye.” “oh.The Secret of Willow Ridge Fortunately. thinking it was getting late. let me know if there’s anything I can do to help. I really do. “that’s wonderful.” Ms. he didn’t have to. I’ll talk to his mom and dad. He winked at Gabe. Uncle Jimmy knew a lot about them. l. knocked on the classroom door.” said Uncle Jimmy. He had Izzy by the hand. His schoolwork has been a little off. He knew that Gabe probably just needed a little time to think about all the changes the family was going through before he’d be ready to talk about them. “everything all right. Gabe is such a good student. But Uncle Jimmy didn’t talk to Gabe about his schoolwork or anything else on the way home. lately. his Uncle Jimmy. and eager to get the kids home. as Izzy and Gabe tugged him out of the classroom door. they would 110 .
my sweethearts. “oh. “you bet. sleepyhead. as they approached the school. handing out more of the green flyers. Maybe I can say I’m sick.” she called. excited. Just like on that long-ago saturday when things seemed so weird. I’m going to get him!” Gabe pulled the covers back over his head. But he did as his mother asked. and got up and got dressed. “rise and shine. Gabe noticed the school maintenance 111 . “Come on. “today’s a special day!” Ugh. the next morning. I don’t know how many more special days I can take! “Is Daddy coming home today?” he heard Izzy ask. pulling his covers and pointing to his freshly ironed clothes.knots and butterflies also make sure they paid special attention to both Gabe and Izzy in the next few weeks.” he heard Mom answer.” said Gabe. pointing. thought Gabe. brother. Mom woke the kids up. officer lopez was standing in the middle of a little group of parents and kids. even though she wasn’t going to work. as Dad came home from treatment and got into his recovery. right in front of the school. brother. thought Gabe. and Gabe lost in his own thoughts. “It’s a family disease. Willis trying to get Gabe to talk. and soon he and Izzy were walking to school with Willis. “officer lopez!” cried Izzy. “time to rise and shine!” Oh. angel. she was dressed before them. merrily.” she called. But there was no fooling Mom. “as soon as I get you guys off to school.” Uncle Jimmy reminded himself. Izzy skipping along. thought Gabe. “look!” Willis cried.
“Welcome Drug Prevention team. and it had barely started! 112 . He just wanted the day to be over.” it said. Let’s get it over with. he thought.” he growled. “Come on. Gabe grabbed Izzy’s hand.The Secret of Willow Ridge workers hanging a big banner over the front door of the school.
Uncle Jimmy was there in the hall outside the classroom. He and Izzy both looked excited. eager to get home.” he said. come on. “Well. kids.” said Uncle Jimmy.” said Uncle Jimmy. Gabe felt the butterflies in his stomach and his heart knocking against his ribs. though it wasn’t far. I don’t know what it’s going to be like having Dad at home. pulling on Uncle Jimmy’s arm. holding Izzy’s hand. flatly. “I can’t wait!” “How about you. he thought. Gabe?” Uncle Jimmy asked. I don’t think I like this family disease Uncle 115 . Izzy was bouncing on her toes. Gabe shrugged. I don’t think I’m gonna like it. “I guess.16 My Dad’s in Recovery! When the bell finally rang at 2:30. “Come on. “Dad will be waiting for us at home!” “yay!” cried Izzy. all the way home. as usual.
“It’s good to be back. and his hands were steady. not shaky. Willis appeared in the front doorway with his parents! “Come on in. she jumped out the door and dashed up the front walk as soon as she got her seat belt unfastened.” said Grandpa.” Mom said.The Secret of Willow Ridge Jimmy keeps talking about! as they pulled up in front of 22 Cherry street. He didn’t notice Uncle Jimmy watching him. the front door opened and there was their dad. proudly. “that’s right. Mcteague hugged. “Welcome home. Dad gave Izzy a big hug. carrying both their backpacks. come in. He had to admit. He and Mr. guys!” said Dad. Mom was already starting dinner. holding out his arms as Izzy jumped into them.” “Hi.” Gabe said softly.” he said. little Dude. then Gabe got another surprise. “It’s not every day a family gets a son back!” 116 . Gabe saw his grandparents’ car in the driveway. “Hey. “Grandma and Grandpa!” yelled Izzy. his grandparents were pulling them all into the kitchen. Gabe looked at him. “this is quite a celebration. Dad. Before Gabe had a chance to say anything (not that he could think of anything much to say). bro’. “Come in. He was wearing a clean shirt and jeans.” said Mrs. laughing and hugging them all. with Gabe trudging slowly behind her. Mcteague. Uncle Jimmy reached over and shook his brother’s hand.” said Dad. Dad looked even better than he had when Gabe saw him in the treatment center that long-ago saturday. but he was looking at Gabe.
the knot in Gabe’s stomach seemed to loosen as the grownups. and Izzy stayed in the kitchen and sat on Daddy’s lap. all the grown-ups seemed to think this was hilarious.” added Uncle Jimmy. he remembered what day it was.” Uncle Jimmy said. “oh. pulling aunt stacey. Gabe and Willis looked at each other. not this time. “Can Willis stay over?” Gabe asked his Mom. after all. and as the Mcteagues said goodnight. who had appeared at his side. into a hug. “Maybe tomorrow night. too busy talking and laughing to notice him and Willis.” said Mom. as he opened his eyes. “Co-o-ol!” Willis agreed.” said Willis’s mom. as it got to be bedtime. But the next morning. and as Gabe and Izzy got ready for bed. “and a daddy back!” yelled Izzy. Gabe began to think that having a dad in recovery might be pretty cool.” “Why not tomorrow night?” asked Dad. “We’ll have plenty of sleepovers and barbecues and trips to the lake now that I’m back!” “Don’t forget to leave some time for meetings. “and a brother back. I really 117 . “Wanna play Xbox?” Gabe asked Willis. “Grown-ups!” their eyes seemed to say. and the grown-ups kept talking and laughing. got ready for an early dinner.my dad’s in recovery! “and a husband back. so the boys went into the living room and played Xbox. all through dinner and into the night. It was the day of the Drug assembly.
“you do it like this.” said Gabe. Dad smiled. He was holding one of Gabe’s robots in his hands. “that’d be okay. Gabe smiled. and then I can put them together and make a Megadon. “Well. How weird. Gabe. he thought. “What do you think about that?” Gabe looked at this new. Gabe took it from him. and he looked shy. He sighed. nice dad. he thought. sitting on the side of Gabe’s bed. and then Dad came into his room. He closed his eyes again. and with a few twists.” he said.” said Dad. “Pretty cool. “Wake up.” said Dad. Gabe recognized the sound of his footsteps. Destroyo. He’s different.” he said. I’m shy of my own dad! “Kinda seems like we need to get to know each other all over again. Gabe nodded. 118 . But Izzy and Mom interrupted them. shyly. He doesn’t look like he’d ever try to hit me or yell at me or throw a glass at the kitchen wall or pass out in the living room with beer cans all around him. suddenly he noticed how quiet it was in his bedroom. “He’s called Monstro.” said Dad. Gabe turned the robot into a gleaming monster truck. “Uh-huh.” said Dad. too. then Dad sighed. “Gabe… I’m sorry for…” Dad started to say. we didn’t have toys like these when I was a kid.The Secret of Willow Ridge do feel sick. he thought. “I need to get his brother. Gabe looked at his dad. “Mom and I thought we’d walk you to school today and stay for the big assembly. trying to transform it into a truck.” he said.” said Gabe.” he said.
It looked like almost every family in Willow ridge was going to the big assembly today! the banner above the school door was waving in the breeze. I’m hungry! he realized. as he finished dressing. and even asked for more! and after breakfast. into the bathroom to brush his teeth. Gabe gave a quick look over his shoulder at his parents. then we can all walk to school together!” Gabe dashed past them. suddenly full of energy. Izzy kept running ahead. thought Gabe. Willis and his parents were all going to the big assembly. and Gabe didn’t even mind. this morning! He ate them fast. they crossed the street and joined them. lipton was there. sneaking a glimpse at them in the bathroom mirror. then broke into a run.” said Mom. kids in front.my dad’s in recovery! “Come on you guys. Breakfast is ready. and officer lopez and her partner. Don’t start any mushy stuff. which Gabe finished right down to the last bite. But he didn’t really mind when he saw them hug and kiss. officer lee. with runny middles. and walked toward the school together with Gabe and his family. were standing on the front steps with the principal. shaking hands with all the parents as they filed into the building. He didn’t even mind when he saw his mom had fixed eggs the way his dad liked them. “last one finished breakfast is a rotten egg. grown-ups bringing up the rear. He ran downstairs and threw himself into his chair. Gabe liked them too. too. too. He and Willis waved to the other families they saw as they neared the school. 119 . Ms. “Big doin’s today.” he yelled. Mom and Dad looked at each other and smiled. the family set off for school.
suddenly. and everyone in the schoolyard burst into cheers. he recognized them and waved. “What?” she asked. He ran across the schoolyard and up the steps and stopped short right in front of officer lopez. at the principal. at Ms. “My dad’s in recovery!” he crowed. “Hello. He saw Janey over by the fence with her parents. at the older kids. at Uncle Jimmy. “you know what?” he asked officer lopez as his parents caught up to him. Gabe burst into a big smile. young man. he couldn’t wait to get to school. lopez. But he didn’t hear. 120 . “What’s the hurry?” Gabe looked around. at Willis.” she said. and at the younger kids all around.The Secret of Willow Ridge “Gabe. smiling. she waved back. what’s up?” his mom shouted. He turned and pointed to his dad. He saw luis and ethan and Joe.
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