This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
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
Central recovery Press 3371 n Buffalo Drive las vegas, nv 89129
Interior design and layout by Sara Streifel, Think Creative Design
To Scarlet, who told me the truth. To Damien, Collin, Clementine, and Amy Rose who make it all worthwhile.
Knots and Butterflies 16. Life without Dad 10. Gabe’s Dilemma 15.Table of Contents Foreword • 1 9 15 27 37 45 53 61 69 77 83 89 93 99 107 115 1. Secrets 4. Surprises 5. Dad? Is That YOU? 12. A Normal Morning 2. Are We There Yet? 6. A New Day 9. My Dad’s in Recovery! . Sweet Dreams 13. Morning Again 14. Blood 3. A Long Way from Normal 7 Back to Normal . 8. Friday 11.
Foreword The Secret of Willow Ridge: Gabe’s Dad Finds Recovery is a story told by Gabe. Gabe. and sometimes it is hard to know whether or not he or she will be nice or angry. and his mother spend a lot of their life pretending everything is okay when it is not. a ten-year-old boy. but as in most families affected by addiction he has learned to keep those thoughts and feelings to himself. he or she often changes personalities. the addicted person may say a lot of things that cause hurt feelings. and for both of them life has been very confusing because their father is addicted to alcohol and other drugs. If there is another adult living in the home. Gabe has a sevenyear-old sister. the addicted person doesn’t show up to important events or makes promises and doesn’t keep those promises. Gabe has a lot of thoughts and feelings about what is happening in his life. his sister. He or she will often blame the kids for things that aren’t their fault. When someone is addicted. sometimes the person yells and is violent. When addiction happens in a family it creates a lot of problems for everyone. Izzy. he or she is often angry or sad and very preoccupied .
very sad. or even a grandparent. Kids certainly have reasons to feel this way. others stay at home and go to meetings that help them learn how to live without using drugs and alcohol. embarrassed. But in Gabe’s family a very wonderful thing happens—his father is willing to get help. Kids often think they are the cause of their parents’ unhappiness and that they are the reason their parents drink or use other drugs. In fact. but all this becomes one big secret they don’t want anyone else to know. While some addicted people go to treatment centers. It may be a mother or father. stepparent. although they are never quite sure what that is.with the person who abuses alcohol or other drugs. In the meantime. Whether or not your parent goes to a treatment . they often feel guilty. everyone gets hurt. 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. but it is very hard to do so alone. Whoever it is. wanting but not knowing how to make their family life better. In this story. this is all so confusing to them. brother or sister. Most people who become addicted want to stop using. at least one out of every five homes has someone in the family who struggles with substance abuse. Kids believe if they just did the right thing. then they could make everything okay. and angry. when addiction is in the family. 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. scared. this person may even do all the things that the addicted person does.
many families experience addiction. 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. he has reasons to be hopeful. • addicted people don’t want to act like they do. • the addicted person and family members can have recovery. this book lets you know that: • you are not alone. but the alcohol or drugs have control over them. and because of that the whole family needs to get well together. he or she can get help to stop using. While Gabe does not know how this will change his family. Gabe is fortunate because his family recognizes that even though only one person in the family is addicted everyone in the family is affected. you will probably have some of the same thoughts and feelings as Gabe. and embarrassment when living with addiction. sadness.center. the family works together and they do so without any more secrets. and it helps to talk about thoughts and feelings. . anger. • If someone is addicted. • Kids have a lot of feelings such as fear. • you are not at fault for the pain in the family or for the addiction. Family members no longer need to pretend everything is okay when it isn’t. 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.
Whether your parent goes to treatment and/or twelve-step meetings.D. Ph. Claudia Black. and whether or not he or she stays in recovery. Without ever being addicted. you too can ask for help. My Dad Has a Disease and It Will Never Happen to Me . author of My Dad Loves Me. It begins when you find the courage to talk honestly about what you are thinking and feeling. recovery begins when people ask for help. you too can have recovery. it is important that you know you don’t have to keep the secret of addiction or recovery.
where Gabe’s friends might see them. Her voice had sounded a little too cheerful. that morning Mom had been up before them. she had combed her hair and put on her lipstick. and she was smiling when she called Gabe and Izzy from their bedrooms.1 a Normal Morning It was a normal september saturday in Willow ridge. and Gabe was her ten-year old brother. the sun was shining normally. ever played together—at least not outside. For starters. who lived at number 22. all dressed and waiting for them when they came downstairs. and a very normal breeze was blowing through the tops of the trees that lined both sides of extremely normal Cherry street. today was not a normal day. 1 . and as a rule they never. and her eyes were awfully bright. like they were full of tears that she wouldn’t let fall. were out on the front lawn. Izzy and Gabe. But in spite of appearances. except that Izzy was a seven-year old girl. there was nothing odd about that.
“Hurry up. Was up before them. Was smiling this early. but Izzy was so excited by the smell of chocolate in the air and the bowl of bright blueberries at her place. sweetsmelling chocolate-chip pancakes. Never. there was a glass of milk and a bowlful of berries for each of them. she was climbing into her chair.” she’d said. He looked at his sister. Mom. bumping it a bit along the kitchen floor. Made chocolate-chip pancakes.” said Gabe. He thought back to see if he could remember the last time his mom: 1. cheerfully. as he dragged it out. and sat down to eat. “Chocolate-chip pancakes!” Mom announced. 2.The Secret of Willow Ridge “I’ve got a surprise for you both. ready to dig in. Something’s up. giving his mom one of his trademark one-armed hugs as he walked over and grabbed his chair. thought Gabe. Gabe and Izzy looked at each other. He could see his Xbox. Was dressed as soon as she got up. 3. sure enough.” Run outside to play? thought Gabe. I need you to finish up fast and run outside to play. she wasn’t looking at him. chocolate syrup. and the kind of whipped cream that squirts out of a can. “thanks. kids. 4. waving them into the kitchen. the table was loaded with stacks of steaming. he decided. This must have something to do with last night. where. which he had 2 . his mom cleared her throat with a little cough and said. What does she think this is—HER childhood? He looked through the kitchen doorway into the family room.
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. he had to argue a little first. Izzy. she stuck out her tongue. “Gross. “I’ll get our jackets. chocolate syrup. which was thoroughly covered with a mixture of whipped cream. “Ma—aa. “are you for real?” He jerked his head toward his sister. and half-chewed pancake. Gabe’s stomach began to knot up.” he said.” His mother wiped the tears that had collected on her chin and smiled a weak little smile at him. Why couldn’t they have a normal dad? What had he 3 . that sad little smile was almost worse than her tears. dumping the remains of his breakfast into the trash and putting his chocolategoop-covered plate in the sink. He got out of his chair and cleared his place. and he pushed away his half-eaten breakfast. “Play? outside? With Her?” He stared in Izzy’s direction. after all. of course. disgusting babyishness! But when he did. “Hurry up. shoveling down a forkful of pancake. glancing up at his pretty and tired-looking mother from under his fringe of spiky black hair. Probably Dad again. he was a self-respecting ten-year-old boy. something was wrong.” he called back as he left the kitchen. 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. Gabe whipped his head around to make sure his mother was noticing Izzy’s typical. berries.” he moaned. sometimes he hated Dad. and cream. he was sorry he’d argued.a Normal Morning intended to jump on as soon as he demolished his pancakes.
just axel and Willis. after one of his dad’s “episodes. It was the same thing it always was. and Gabe knew he could never do that. they kind of expect you to invite them to yours. one morning. the living room always looked bad. like a spider web. Gabe went to the front door and peeked through the curtains before he opened it. He didn’t have too many friends anymore. he kept his head down but couldn’t resist taking a quick look from side-to-side at the mess. no one ever told him he couldn’t. Good.” as he’d heard Mom call them. picking up his and his sister’s jackets from the hooks at the foot of the stairs. after an especially bad night. like luis and ethan and Joe.The Secret of Willow Ridge done now to make Mom so upset? It could have been just about anything. He just knew. full of noise and screaming. with a big crack across the screen. no matter how hard his mom tried. He’d stopped going to his friends’ houses because if your friends invite you to their houses. It was just… Dad. lingering look at his Xbox as he made his way to the front door. Mom had really cried that time. it was always a mess. it was hard to tell if it was better or worse than usual. but Gabe thought he knew just what it was. 4 . being Dad. really. But he didn’t even want to see them this morning. Gabe gave a last. No one there. He didn’t want anyone to see the mess. a long time ago. He’d been to his friends’ houses. and their living rooms never looked like his parents’ living room. the tv had been broken. He used to have lots of friends. but they did get a new tv out of it. Passing through the living room.
Mcteague as they drove off. see if he wants to come!” He leaned out the window and banged his arm on the side of his truck. He waved limply at Willis and Mr. “My dad’s sick today.a Normal Morning not if he was going to have to babysit dopey Izzy in the front yard for who-knew-how-long. “What’s taking you so long?” He glanced at their house and 5 . too. making fun of Gabe.” yelled Gabe. and he hoped it wasn’t too red.” Gabe’s face felt hot. Gabe!” Mr. We’re going to the lake. as if they were waving goodbye too. too? Well. If it wasn’t for Dad. “you. He didn’t want them to see. Gabe. pulling out of their driveway across the street. What are you gonna do with your dad today?” “IZ-Zeeey. From the passenger seat Willis yelled. and saying “Bye-bye. they had. But he was starting to hate all the nice. He knew they meant to be nice. suddenly. too. normal people in normal Willow ridge. He hoped they hadn’t seen him. “Go wake up your old man. Mcteague. and watched the fishing poles strapped to the top of their truck bobbing behind them. “Hey. But this morning Gabe didn’t have to worry about his friends seeing him or getting a peek at his family’s living room. Mcteague nodded and said. loser! We’re going fishing. “yeah. Why couldn’t his family be normal. actually.” he lied. “thanks anyway.” Gabe hung his head. whirling around. he saw Willis and his dad in their bright new truck. and looking like they were headed toward the lake.” called Mr. Usa. Usa. as he walked down the front steps of number 22 Cherry street in normal Willow ridge. but it was too late. it could. you. waving.
as she pulled it out and looked up at 6 .” Izzy yelled. he felt sure it hadn’t been there yesterday. crookedly. “that’s just rust. 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. Behind him. which seemed dirtier and more beat up than ever somehow. Princess Izzy was finally ready to appear. looking around to see if the neighbors could hear. thought Gabe. but before he could say a word. He approached the dirty old car. That definitely wasn’t there yesterday. He probably drove over my soccer ball when he parked like that. as he got closer. “looK. as it did whenever she was scared. and now. he told himself. He turned to face her. and wondered if that was a new dent along the fender. and the closer he got the more certain he was. the front door slammed. “shut UP!” hissed Gabe.The Secret of Willow Ridge then turned toward his family’s own driveway where their dad’s car was parked. as usual. “Blood!” she pointed to the ugly red scrape that stretched along the bottom of the crushed fender. she screamed.
might be right. and her little hand was cold in his. uncertainly. 7 . “of course. absently. “rust?” she repeated.” he said.” But he didn’t see that. “are you sure?” she moved around to take Gabe’s hand. Gabe was afraid that Izzy. her eyes were full of fear. for once in her dumb little seven-year-old life.a Normal Morning her brother. “anyone can see that.
“now come on!” Gabe tugged Izzy’s arm and the two kids ran back into the house. Mr. three houses down. they approached the kitchen where their mom had tried so hard to make them a special breakfast just an hour ago.” He yanked Izzy’s arm. they had done it often enough before. moving back toward the house. Gabe’s smile was forced and wooden. shiny homes of their very normal neighbors. .2 Blood “Come on.” Gabe warned. but it would look like a normal smile from where Mr. and did the same. on tiptoe. waving and smiling. “Wave at him. was mowing his lawn. Izzy knew what to do. dopey Gabe whispered through clenched teeth. santiago was.” Gabe said. 9 . he was sure. Izzy watched Gabe. they could hear him talking to Mom in the kitchen. “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. “ssshhhh. hardly breathing. santiago. Dad was up.
a lit cigarette in her hand. Mom bought that stupid mug and made us give it to him for Father’s Day. but that wasn’t odd. Gabe watched from the hall as his mom paced the kitchen floor. Dad looked miserable. In fact. His eyes were red and his hair poked out all over his head. But both kids were relieved to see he didn’t look hurt. whether the kids were there or not. Dad did whatever he wanted. Dad was smoking. Mom hadn’t heard the kids come in and didn’t see them standing just outside the kitchen door. too!” Gabe looked back through the doorway at Dad. pushing her back with the hand she was holding so tightly. Izzy gave his hand another squeeze. his hands were shaking so much as he put the cup down on the table—that’s what was making that clattering sound. then a clattering sound drew his attention back to the kitchen.The Secret of Willow Ridge She didn’t hear us. there were 10 . This must be bad. Mom hadn’t brushed it that morning. Izzy’s hand was still in Gabe’s. and glared at him as if to say. He put a finger to his lips and widened his eyes at Izzy. He noticed what a mess her hair was. trying to drink coffee from his “World’s Greatest Dad” mug. thought Gabe. right. World’s Greatest Dad! Yeah. she nodded. thought Gabe as he sighed loudly. and she squeezed so tightly he almost yelled at her. Mom never smokes in the house. His clothes were a mess. he wanted to hear what was going on in the kitchen between his mom and dad without them knowing. good. But he stopped himself. “Hey! yoU need to be quiet. He kept Izzy behind him. like he had slept in them. too. Dad was sitting at the kitchen table. he had just gotten out of bed.
He had questions. and hung up the phone with a sigh. hopeless eyes. Mom was still talking on the phone and writing something down on a notepad. too. “Who is Mom talking to?” “How the heck should I know?” Gabe hissed back. Gabe took his time.blood no bandages. Gabe dragged himself into the kitchen. she walked over and put her hand on Dad’s shoulder. “Gabe? Come on in. He didn’t say anything. to the person on the other end of the line. holding her arms out to catch both parents in an awkward hug. Dad looked up. leaping on him and sniffling into his neck. “right. Gabe felt Izzy bouncing on her toes behind him. “are you hurt? are you in trouble? What happened to our car?” Dad hugged Izzy tightly. Izzy couldn’t help it.” she said. He looked like he was about to cry. she wanted to see more. It’s like he’s looking through us. “thanks. Let Izzy blubber into Dad’s neck. finally. “Dad and I need to talk to you both. she had to know.” Mom said. they heard Mom dialing the phone.” “oh Daddy. Dad stared at her back with empty. though. so she whispered. but he didn’t say anything. he thought. please. are you okay?” Izzy cried. But he wasn’t 11 . she rubbed his back and kissed his cheek. Who else could it be? It must be about the car. then she looked right at Gabe and Izzy and held out her free hand to them. The police? Gabe wondered.” said Mom. Izzy broke from Gabe’s side and ran to her. and saw them peeking around the kitchen doorway. thought Gabe. there were no big bruises the kids could see. too.
” Gabe growled. Izzy was still nestled in Dad’s arms. “Did someone else get hurt? a KID?” he demanded. standing up abruptly while his hands formed into fists at his sides. Our car is always beat up because of the way Dad drives! “everything is going to be all right. Gabe plopped down in the chair across from his dad. “We saw. Not really. With her free hand she stroked Izzy’s messy hair. But there’s something else we have to talk about…” Gabe interrupted her. Mom just nodded. Dad smiled weakly at him. Gabe glared back. “the important thing is that Dad didn’t get hurt and he’s okay. “I know seeing the car with a dented back end was a little strange and scary. “there’s nothing to worry about. Gabe wriggled in his chair. 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.The Secret of Willow Ridge about to let Dad know he wanted anything from him—not even answers.” Mom began.” Mom began again. and we’ll have it fixed soon. Dad could tell he was upset. “Dad had a little accident last night and dented the back of the car.” Mom explained to the kids.” she said. making no sound louder than his heavy breathing. Mom and Dad exchanged nervous looks. wide-eyed. Strange? he thought. Izzy stopped sniffling and climbed up on Dad’s knee to look at him and Mom. she put her arm around Dad’s shoulders again. agreeing with Dad. “It looks worse than it is.” Dad said. but still he didn’t say anything. suddenly 12 . By the way Gabe wasn’t talking.
to hear what their dad had to say for himself. We’ve been making plans for Dad to go to a place where he’s going to get help with his problems. the family almost never talked about “Dad’s problems. no one was hurt by Daddy last night.” Mom said.blood everything seemed to be happening in slow motion. “Dad and I have been on the phone. honey. she turned to look at her children. Finally. sure that they had misunderstood their mom.” This couldn’t be happening! Gabe thought— all we seem to do is live with them. clean up after them.” she looked at Dad and sighed. “no. who only realized he had been holding his breath when he sighed with relief. 13 . and suffer because of them. expectantly. make excuses for them. “We have been very busy this morning. Mom went around the table and sat next to Gabe. shooting a glance at her husband.” Gabe and Izzy looked at one another. “no.” He looked so ashamed. Dad slowly shook his head and quietly answered. He and Izzy waited.
even if he was small for his age. actually. But his spiky black hair. He was skinny and sick-looking and gray-skinned. or.3 Secrets Everyone was looking at Dad. but he looked just like a smaller version of his dad. waiting for him to say something. as Mom had always thought to herself. his straight eyebrows. to see his own features looking back at him from such a strong and serious young face as his son’s. But Dad looked bad. and it was strange for his dad now. 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. Gabe didn’t know it. his dad looked like a bigger version of him. Gabe looked healthy. It’s just that his hands shook too much. and strong chin were all echoes of his dad’s. he had tried. of course. His adam’s apple stuck way out at the front of his neck. and he couldn’t stand looking 15 . only. Gabe looked healthy. sick as he felt.
He could make out luis and Joe’s voices. Gabe could hear the motors starting up. Dad smiled at her and went on. Dad wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “okay. Gabe noticed his hand was shaking. guys…” Dad was embarrassed. “Uh. as if he’d made a joke. something that made his dad drink too much and take too many pills. But inside the kitchen was quiet—sooooo quiet. neighbors were starting their normal weekend routine of mowing their lawns. “you need driving lessons!” Gabe. Mom rubbed his back and he grabbed for the coffee cup—it still had a mouthful of cold coffee in it. even sweet Izzy could see that. Dad cleared his throat and that started him coughing. “We know. Mom. He took a deep breath and started again. only it wasn’t really funny. at his yellowish teeth or his bloodshot eyes with the dark circles underneath. she reached over and silently took his hand. and even Dad himself had to laugh at his little sister. Daddy!” cried Izzy. She thought her daddy was just a bad driver! Gabe knew it was something more. over and over again. outside.The Secret of Willow Ridge at himself in the mirror. something that made Dad miss work. I know I’ve got a problem.” Dad tried to smile. just enough to stop the cough. Gabe could hear the thwack and snap of old man Conheeny’s american flag slapping against its flagpole in the breeze.” he sighed. She’s just a kid! thought Gabe. something that made him yell at Gabe and Izzy 16 . “your mom here tells me I’ve got a problem. and lose his jobs. Kids in the santiago’s backyard were yelling and playing tag. I don’t know.
He suddenly wanted to turn and run. I-I-I have a disease. and she scrunched up her nose. I need help. that was bad! Gabe felt angry and scared all at once. Gabe knew his dad needed something. an addict? that sounded bad.” Gabe looked at his father.” Izzy repeated. something that made Dad and Uncle Jimmy fight every year at thanksgiving. It tickled! “no. “a-dic-shun. no. But his dad looked so pathetic—sad and sick and hopeful all at once—that 17 . just leave this house and his family. it’s called addiction. but it isn’t driving lessons.” he said. and the words hung in the air of the room like cigarette smoke. your daddy needs something. His rough beard scraped her face. He didn’t know if he could stand it another minute—his father. Mcteague took his son. “a-dic-shun. and something that made it so that Dad never took Gabe to the lake like Mr. darlin’. something that made Mom cry and that made Gabe ashamed to have his friends over. run and keep running and not look back.secrets for stupid little things. and it wasn’t driving lessons. Dad gave Izzy a squeeze. Willis.
“some of them we… I… we tried to keep hidden from you. and he went on to explain more about addiction.” she rubbed her arm through her thin shirt sleeve. Like Old Man Conheeny’s toupee.” she said. only a lot more serious. Grandpa and Grandma always tried to hide it. Dad seemed to get his voice back. He went into them. Uncle Jimmy and aunt stacey 18 .The Secret of Willow Ridge Gabe lost his urge to run. but nobody talks about. this was weird! It seemed Dad’s problems were caused by a big secret everyone tried to keep hidden. too. he thought.” Mom continued quietly. no one was screaming or crying or passed out or hiding from anyone else. as she held out her arms to Gabe. some of them you know. This is turning out to be a weird morning. crying again. just like his mom had this morning. “I guess we didn’t do a very good job. you kids have been through the mill. One of those secrets everyone knows. “there are lots of other things. holding each other and talking so quietly on a saturday morning. But he wanted to be close to her now. but Gabe only half-listened.” she sighed. he was too amazed that his whole family was sitting here. But now the secret had a name: addiction. everyone talked about the problems. as his mom squooshed him against her and cried into his hair. ordinarily he wouldn’t let his mom hug him the way she wanted to. but they tried to keep the secret tucked away. that stuff was for girls or babies. Gabe thought. Most of the time Dad tried to hide it and Mom tried to hide it. “the car is part of it. Instead he felt like he was going to cry.
Gabe remembered some of Dad’s problems. there were also problems. but Dad just flopped back in the chair. His problems happened because he was an addict. different problems. “Wake up. Dad took too many pills and other drugs he got from doctors and from people he would meet at different places in town. Mom came and pulled on that arm while Gabe and Izzy pulled on the other. but they really couldn’t hide the secret from Gabe and Izzy. and even from themselves. He just mumbled something that sounded like “you go. they may have been able to hide the secret from the neighbors. But nobody ever admitted or talked about it. Whenever he took too many pills or drank too much alcohol there were problems. and too much wine.” Gabe had yelled as loud as he could in Dad’s ear. Deep down inside.” then he let out a snore and lashed out at Gabe with one floppy arm. too much liquor. and Dad’s problems hurt everyone in the family. being a mom. Dad had the disease of addiction. and. too. Bed here. and that’s where he stayed all night. When he tried not to take too many pills or drink too much alcohol. at first it was funny. where they never admitted it. but still problems. the kids knew all about it. had known all along that Gabe and Izzy were aware that their dad was an addict. He remembered a night when he tried to get Dad to wake up and get out of his chair. Mom said he was passed out.secrets had tried to hide it.” But Dad didn’t move. she was so 19 . He drank too much beer. “It’s time to go to bed. of course Mom.
finally. and Mom had cried and cried while she cleaned up the mess and the broken glass. “It’s not you.” she’d said. “should we call the doctor?” 20 . the family didn’t know when it would happen again. sometimes they argued about money. Gabe remembered lots of big arguments between Dad and Mom. Gabe remembered. she’d said. It crashed into a thousand splinters against the kitchen wall and left a dent you could still see. “Is Dad really sick?” Gabe had asked Mom. even when there wasn’t fighting. “It will be different in the morning. But of course. “I’ll be good.The Secret of Willow Ridge mad! “leave him there!” she said. Mom said Dad could waste all his money and she couldn’t stop him. one night. but she better not catch him with his hands in her purse again—that was her hard-earned money. Dad picked up a glass and threw it. and it was almost always different in the morning. honey. She wouldn’t even put a blanket on him. so many arguments! Dad had screamed at Mom and Mom had screamed back at Dad.” saying that made her cry more. it would happen all over again the next day. “oh. “Please don’t cry. but it always did happen again. Mom had to call his work and tell Dad’s boss that he was sick.” Gabe didn’t know what to say. or the next. there were problems. or the next. it’s not you. sometimes they argued because Dad wanted to go out and Mom didn’t want him to.” he said. one time Dad stayed in bed for days and days. But I got him a blanket.” Gabe had told her. reaching out to hold his hand.
“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. excitedly. dozing in front of the tv.secrets Mom had looked at Gabe with red. “He just needs to rest. Gabe had tiptoed past him into his bedroom. and ran to his room. you little sneak! Whatddya think you’re doing. 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.” Gabe had asked. It was just him and Dad in the house! What people had Dad been talking about? Gabe had said he was sorry. and Gabe had agreed. the very next week. said that he had homework. I won’t bug Dad with questions when I get home from school ever again. Dad’s problems never made sense. “Dad. in front of the tv with a beer in his hand.” Mom said. “Come ’ere. he told himself. Gabe came home from school to the same scene: Dad. with a beer in his hand and lots of empty beer cans on the floor. too. sneaking into this house! this is my house!” Gabe’s stomach sank down to his toes. “He’s not that kind of sick. “It doesn’t make much sense to stay in bed on such a great day. does it?” Mom had asked Gabe. when he heard his Dad roar. one time Gabe had come home from school to find Dad at home in the middle of the afternoon.” It seemed like Mom was always making excuses for Dad. she had been crying. He had just about made it. red eyes. honey. there were lots of empty beer cans on the floor next to the sofa. He didn’t 21 .
” Gabe had tried to explain as he dodged his dad’s fist. as much as Mom loved him. either. “I was at school! I have to go to school. don’t I?” Dad just staggered away. “We’re going to stay with aunt stacey and Uncle Jimmy until Dad feels better.The Secret of Willow Ridge want to go anywhere near his father. Hurry. in the middle of the night after a big fight with Dad. and as much as he said he loved Mom. as she shook his shoulder to wake him and get him out of bed. 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. sometimes Gabe and Izzy hardly knew what was right and what was wrong. What the kids did know was that their parents fought over Dad’s problems. Mom took Gabe and Izzy to stay with aunt stacey and Uncle Jimmy.” the next morning. Dad tracked them down. “Don’t you know I’ve been waiting for you to help me mow the lawn? you little twerp! Got so fed up waiting. they knew their mom cried almost every night. but he knew he’d better not ignore him.” Mom had whispered that dark night. “Where the hell have you been?” Dad had screamed. Dad just wouldn’t quit. and after a while Gabe learned to just avoid him as much as he could. and he was so sorry and so sweet to Mom that 22 . I had to have a drink just to…” Gabe never heard what came next. “Come on Gabe. Go get Izzy out of bed. His father had taken a swing at him and missed. mumbling. we have to go before Dad comes to. once. “But Dad.
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’.”
Maybe this treatment center would make it so Dad would do those things. if Dad went there. He never took him to the lake or showed him how things work. she looked at their mother. that his dad had never told him things like this. Maybe. making everyone unhappy. even if it didn’t. “Why does Daddy have to go away to a treatment center?” she pouted. and she usually got her way whenever she did. she knew she looked cute when she pouted. slowly It dawned on him . “Can’t Daddy stay home and take medicine for his addiction?” 27 . Maybe their dad was so sick he’d have to stay there a real long time. 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. thought Gabe.” repeated Gabe. Dad never taught him about cars. Uh-oh. like other boys’ dads told them. Izzy certainly wasn’t feeling the same way as Gabe. at least he wouldn’t be at home with them.4 Surprises “P-r-i-m-e-r.
“there really isn’t any medicine Daddy can take.’ D-d-drugs and alcohol are like poison. after the drugs and alcohol all come out of my body. right?” Gabe scowled at her. But I have friends who’ve gone to treatment centers. “But the way I understand it.” he began. Big baby. From what I hear. and that’s what they tell me. “that part’s called ‘detoxing. “I don’t really know much more. and it’s important to get them out of my body—but it can also be dangerous. that’s just the beginning. I guess. she smiled.” “like school?” Izzy asked. I have to stay somewhere special where all the drugs and alcohol can come out of my body first. “Kinda.” said Mom. guys.” 28 . Dad chuckled softly.” He shot a glance at Mom.” Mom looked at Dad.The Secret of Willow Ridge “It’s hard to explain. like you take for your asthma. turned away from the window. excitedly.” said Dad his voice shaky. “and then you can come right back home. and Dad continued. It’s kind of like you have to learn a new way of life. Maybe he could explain? Dad dropped the curtain. I could get real sick before I start to get better. the people at the treatment center help me learn how to live without using them again. resting his back against the kitchen counter. “I don’t know very much about it myself. and it looks like I’ll have to do a lot of learning. darlin’. 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. “no. without using drugs or alcohol. and faced them.
he thought. “Just… p-people I know. “Who are your friends who went to treatment centers?” he asked. 29 . the tips of his ears felt hot. and he’s been talking to your dad about how much better he feels now.” he mumbled. He looked angry. “Well. a minute later. “you’re very quiet.surprises A new way of life… that sounds okay. half-hospital. Dad never asked me what I thought about his drinking and all the other stuff he did. “Kinda. Gabe didn’t know it. a car door slammed. but his straight black eyebrows were pulled together. Half-school. and he saw how his mom looked at his dad before she spoke up. truth was Gabe didn’t know what to think.” he said. angrily. He looked at the sticky kitchen floor.” From the hallway there was a “click” sound. “so treatment center is like school?” Izzy repeated. thought Gabe. this was a grown-up problem.” Like when was the last time Dad worked? thought Gabe. “He and your dad are still friends.” said Dad. there’s a man who used to work with Dad. let the grown-ups take care of it. “I dunno. like the front door had opened—and sure enough. It’d have to be better than this one.” Mom said. without drugs and alcohol. Dude. And now he wants to know what I think about this treatment center? He looked at his mom. Sometimes I hate grown-ups. into the kitchen bounced Uncle Jimmy. I guess. outside. He looked at Gabe. What do you think?” Gabe blushed. But he listened to his mother. “He went to a treatment center last year. He heard the last part of what Mom was saying. Dad looked surprised. Gabe.
this morning was getting weirder and weirder! Uncle Jimmy. “you don’t look like…” he stopped himself. “addiction is a family disease. smiling. putting Izzy back down and ruffling Gabe’s hair.” said Uncle Jimmy. and so does my little brother. addiction is just a disease—it doesn’t care who you are or what you do for a living.” said Uncle Jimmy. here. an addict? Like his father? It couldn’t be! Uncle Jimmy was a cool guy. but he didn’t want to hurt him. He had been about to say “like my dad. “I know what you’re thinking. “addicts 30 . He walked over to their dad. a great uncle! “Don’t look so surprised. I hope not. “Gym teachers. that’s what I’ve learned. thought Gabe. she seemed to feel better now that Uncle Jimmy was here.” he said. Whether you live in a nice house or a shack. little Dude.” said Mom.” but he thought that might hurt Dad’s feelings. doctors. little Dude. in spite of everything.” “that’s right. But he went on listening. smiling. Izzy looked like she was listening. “But you’re… a… a gym teacher!” cried Gabe. but he managed a crooked smile. and grabbing Izzy to swing her up into the air. anyone can become an addict.The Secret of Willow Ridge “Just like me. coaches… moms and dads and teenagers. But he knew he loved his dad. He was shocked. Gabe looked up.” he said. policemen. Gabe was mad at his father. Dad looked embarrassed. “Bet you’d be surprised at the different kinds of people who have addiction. He punched Uncle Jimmy’s arm. too. I’ve got it.” He put his arm around Dad’s shoulder and gave him a big hug. too. she shrieked with laughter. He didn’t know exactly what he was feeling.
and then at Izzy.” he looked at Mom again. and stay better. and at Mom. “they’re different kinds of people with different kinds of jobs. But they all have the same disease as Dad. It’s time I took the bull by the horns and did something about it. she looked at Izzy. Many of them have families just like us. “the important thing is they went to a treatment center to get help to get better. you kids deserve a better life than the one I’ve been giving you. People with addiction go there to get better. at his brother Jimmy. and she hugged his neck again.” Uncle Jimmy said. Dad sighed. their whole family is a whole lot happier. Izzy. 31 . she looked like she was about to cry again. almost all of them have problems just like us. too long. do you want to go to the treatment center?” Izzy asked. right?” Mom asked.surprises come from all over. “oh. “your mom and I have been thinking about this for a really long time. “Daddy.” Mom got up and put her arm around Gabe. “We wouldn’t want Dad to go to the treatment center if it wasn’t going to help him.” Mom said. I want to get some help for my addiction.” Her lip trembled. who looked very much like she was about to start sucking her thumb. “that’s what the treatment center is for. He looked at the floor. she quickly removed it from her lips and put her hand behind her back.” He looked at Izzy with love shining in his tired eyes. and when they get better.
but Uncle Jimmy was tall and proud. “Helloooo! anybody home?” 32 . but I know this is something I have to do.” after Dad finished speaking. upstairs. “I’m scared. one of his most favorite people in the world. But suddenly the front door opened again. “time’s a wastin’. Gabe shook his head at the two of them as he climbed the stairs behind them. and their aunt stacey called out.” Dad continued. so she popped her thumb into her mouth. that was always the thing to do when she was angry or unhappy or tired.” He slapped a big hand on Gabe’s shoulder. Mom hardly ever did anything surprising or confusing. He looks so… happy! Gabe thought. Izzy watched as Mom got on the phone again. to pack a bag for Dad.” he said. now she felt a little bit of all three and was a little confused. Dad was shuffling a little bit. Mom put down the phone. little Dude. and we’ve wasted too much time already in this family. everyone in the kitchen was thinking his or her own thoughts.” Gabe looked up at his uncle. Maybe he knows something we don’t know! the three men moved off together. and during it. let’s help your dad get his stuff. yes.The Secret of Willow Ridge “so. too. “Well. everyone was quiet for what seemed like a long time. It is something I want to do. It was really only about a minute. In the kitchen. but it was a l-o-n-g minute. no one was looking at her. “Come on. then Uncle Jimmy broke the silence. she wanted to stick close to Mom. this was a morning full of surprises.
“yeah. “you go up and jump in the shower.” Mom ran a hand through her hair and nodded. “Where’s your mom?” she asked. “yes. their house was full of life: aunt stacey and Izzy doing dishes.surprises PoP. suddenly. 33 . “this is the roberts’ residence. giving her a peck on the cheek. she was the perfect wife for Uncle Jimmy. “let me help you with those. “I was just going to call you. she knew who it was—Grandma.” she repeated. and her healthy smile and strong body matched her energetic personality. Who’s speaking.” aunt stacey was brisk and bubbly. being very grownup. so she didn’t hear the big sigh Mom let out or see how tired she looked as she climbed the stairs. Izzy’s thumb came out of her mouth. Uncle Jimmy upstairs with Gabe. Mommy. helping Dad pack his things. just the way Mommy had taught her. “ooooooh! you give the best hugs. quick! this was exciting! Izzy loved aunt stacey! Izzy ran to meet her. bending down for a hug. “a shower sounds good.” she had started doing the breakfast dishes.” aunt stacey said. and Izzy turned back to help with the dishes.” she said. Izzy can help me.” Mom called from the kitchen. Izzy grabbed the kitchen step stool from the corner next to the fridge and dragged it over to the sink.” she told Izzy. she loved sports. “Hello.” she turned to go upstairs. “I’ll stay here and help aunt stacey. you go jump in the shower. and now the phone ringing in the middle of all the activity! Izzy jumped off the step stool and ran to answer it. my Buttercup. “In here. Monica.” said aunt stacey.” she said. please?” aunt stacey smiled as she listened to Izzy. “Hello.
Izzy heard her say. Gabe was quiet. “P-l-l-e-e-e-e-e-e-a-s-e?” aunt stacey made a shushing gesture and smiled. too?” she asked. “I’ll set the table for you guys. as he got his dad’s hairbrush and shaving things from the bathroom. that’s right. so I’ll get dinner ready for when they get home. He was curious to know about this treatment center. her eyes wide. I think that’s a good idea. Uncle Jimmy was chattering away. It’s a long drive. 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. since I know the way real well. too. Gabe was wondering the same thing as Izzy as he helped his dad and Uncle Jimmy pack underwear.” she said to Grandma. and I have a nice big van. “Well.The Secret of Willow Ridge “I’ll take it. “are you gonna drive Dad to the treatment center?” His uncle smiled and nodded. but Dad was very quiet. and other clothes into his dad’s big duffel bag. too. quickly wiping her soapy hands on a dishtowel. “yes. the way he always did. “Can I go. I’ll stay here and straighten up while Jim drives Jack and Monica to the treatment center. don’t you?” Gabe nodded. 34 . “Uncle Jimmy?” he said. 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. Izzy. pajamas. as he brought them over to be packed.” Upstairs.” aunt stacey said. “okay. He loved Uncle Jimmy’s van. she put one hand on Izzy’s shoulder while she spoke to her mother-in-law. a warm sweatshirt.
not to stay. you can help your mom and your little sister. little Dude! Didn’t I say addiction was a family disease? the whole family is taking your dad to the treatment center. too?” Gabe asked. right?” Gabe asked. then while he stays there getting better. Dad was busy struggling to close his overstuffed duffel bag. that way. the whole family is going to visit him there.surprises “Just you and Dad. “of course. “Can I go. mind you.” Uncle Jimmy grinned and winked at Dad. although he wasn’t certain he really knew how he could help his dad. but Dad’s face was serious. “that’s absolutely right!” said Uncle Jimmy. guys! let’s roll!” 35 . so you need to know what it’s like. too. “Come on. Just to see where your dad’s going to be spending his days and nights for the next month. too. swinging one of Dad’s bags up onto his shoulder and punching Dad in the arm. too?” “your Mom wants to come.” Uncle Jimmy smiled. “and I can help Dad. or Mom.
Was there enough room for him? “shove O-ver.” he snapped at Izzy. but already packed with stuff. “don’t start. “Come on.” she sighed. kids. my booster seat won’t move. “Gabe’s being mean to me!” their mother looked at them with pleading.” said Izzy.” Izzy whined. “Kids. and had one in Uncle Jimmy’s van. tired eyes. she was a skinny little thing for her age. not today. “Momm-eee.” “Well. It moved over just an inch or two.” He looked at 37 . she won’t let me get in. It was big. “no need to squabble. but it was enough to let Gabe fit into his seat next to the window. who was struggling to get into her booster seat. this is a great day for our family.” said Gabe.” said Uncle Jimmy.5 are We There Yet? Gabe looked at Uncle Jimmy’s van. who still needed a booster seat. parked behind their dad’s old wreck in the driveway. “I can’t help it. reaching over the top of the front seat to give Izzy’s booster a tug. “Whoa.” said Uncle Jimmy.
no! Don’t tell him what’s 38 . “Plenty of room for you on the other side of Izzy. Monica. but she still had spots of chocolate from breakfast on the front of her t-shirt. His cute little sister’s fluffy blonde hair was neatly combed now. Oh. tired of his mom and dad. suddenly Gabe felt tired of Izzy and her stupid doll and her spotted t-shirt. santiago had seen them all piling into Uncle Jimmy’s van and was coming over. “Go on. she was bouncing it along her leg. little Dude?” Gabe smiled weakly. “Good thing your mom and your sister are on the skinny side. But right now he wasn’t in the mood. Uncle Jimmy was a cool uncle.” He winked at Gabe.The Secret of Willow Ridge their mom. He had a big pair of gardening shears in his hand. a big smile on his face. and Gabe usually enjoyed his booming voice and good-humored ways. hop in. Mr. waiting for Dad to emerge from the house with his duffel bag. pretending it was walking. huh.” said Uncle Jimmy to Mom. 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. who was biting her nails. In her hands she held a half-dressed plastic doll with fuzzy hair in a crooked ponytail. 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.
Dad. Don’t say anything. coming closer. “yeah. wiping her hands on a dishtowel. he thought. santiago. Gabe thought. who had one foot in the van and the opposite arm resting on the open driver’s side door. Gabe covered his face with his hands and slumped down in his seat. santiago standing in her front doorway. thought Gabe. santiago. and winked at Gabe’s mom. either. robertses. “We need to get my little brother some driving lessons. “Well. In the distance he could see Mrs. santiago up to the van.” Oh. They’re always laughing at our family. He looked from her to Uncle Jimmy.are we there yet? going on.” he said cheerfully to Uncle Jimmy. You. I guess. santiago pointed his gardening shears in the direction of Dad’s car. there. a moment ago he couldn’t wait for it to open and their dad to come out. they were tossing a ball back and forth. 39 . “Hey. looks that way. no. desperately. thought Gabe. covering her mouth with her hand and looking out the window. ready to get into the car with them and get going.” he said.” said Uncle Jimmy. I won’t keep you. laughing. Just wait a minute! Mr. “Just wanted to make sure you were all okay. they’d all just go away. she smiled and turned red. He looked at the front door of their house. “Family outing today?” Gabe glared at his mother. “see your brother had another little fenderbender last night. luis and ethan were following Mr. Maybe if he couldn’t see them.” said Mr. Don’t come out now. she waved at them. Mom. thought Gabe.” called Mr.
I guess as long as you know that…” he said.” said Mom. Gabe held his breath. santiago waited for their dad to come down the walk and over to the van. I guess you’re right. backing away. you wanted to know if we were all okay. who waved back. “thanks.” He put his arm around his son. one of these days you’re gonna hurt yourself or somebody else. But Mr. Dad. their front door opened and Dad emerged from the house. His voice was hoarse. “you oughta be more careful. santiago. Gabe muttered to himself. santiago just stood there for a moment. He wouldn’t look at ethan or luis. “yeah. “Well. saying nothing. We got a lotta kids play in this street. Finally. 40 . He watched as his dad looked around and hoisted his duffel bag onto his shoulders. santiago spoke.” Mr.” Dad answered. Please. santiago sheepishly. He and Mr. “see you had another little fender-bender last night. He looks so skinny. Gabe peeked out from between his fingers when he heard Dad’s footsteps. Gabe slumped down further in his seat. Don’t let the guys see Dad! he wished with all his might. Okay. I’d like to wipe that smirk off of Luis’s face. Dad lifted a hand to wave weakly at Mr. santiago repeated. So please just go. Mr.” at that moment. and now you know. thought Gabe. thought Gabe. Dad looked at Mr. luis. just get in the car and let’s go.The Secret of Willow Ridge “We’re okay. looking at the dented car. as Dad approached. thought Gabe.
He looked at his mother.” boomed Uncle Jimmy. nobody answered. see you guys in gym class. When they drove past the Mcteagues’ house. in a small voice. Jerry. Gabe sat up straight. even though he knew Willis and his father had gone to the lake earlier that day. “say. angrily. I don’t want to see Willis ever again. Or Ethan. “relax. either! Uncle Jimmy pointed the front end of the van out of town. Whew. then slid into the car beside it.” he said to ethan and luis. thought Gabe. Gabe slumped further down in his seat. 41 . we better get on our way. all about sadness and cowboys and love. and turned away.” he said. thought Gabe.” Mom spoke up. the old-fashioned “twangy” kind Uncle Jimmy loved. who looked back at him over the top of Izzy’s head. Uncle Jimmy got in and started the engine. she smiled weakly at him and ran her hand through Izzy’s hair. all right. “We’ve got a ways to go.” Uncle Jimmy glanced at her in the rearview mirror. everybody. Gabe thought. nice talking to you. slapping the roof of the van with his free hand. Let’s get going! “everybody buckled up?” called Uncle Jimmy as he reached over to turn on the car radio. “nice talking to you. Music started floating out of the radio. he knows. “you were too young to remember. as they pulled out of the driveway and drove down the street. waving. in the opposite direction to the way that Willis and his dad had gone that morning. santiago said. “It was a long time ago.are we there yet? “oh.” she said.” she said. Or Luis. as Dad slung his duffel bag onto the seat. “I remember. Yuck.” Mr.
next to him in the front passenger seat. and factories. he thought. Izzy’s head bumped against Gabe’s arm as she fell soundly asleep. Gabe was just a tot. please. considering. and I met a lot of nice people there—still see some of ‘em today. outside. “aunt stacey brought me with her when she visited your Uncle Jimmy in the treatment center. Good food and such.” she said. stores. Gabe looked from Uncle Jimmy to his mother. too. the streets got dirtier and the tall buildings blocked out the sunlight.” he said.” he agreed. and Uncle Jimmy was drumming along with his fingers on the steering wheel. some guy was singing about how his girlfriend ran away with his best friend. Dad 42 .The Secret of Willow Ridge “yep. No more surprises this morning. And now he’s going to treatment himself. too. a wall of tall buildings loomed like a mountain. but he had a feeling Dad had never gone to visit. on the radio. Gabe. “the treatment center’s pretty nice. on either side of the highway—office buildings.” he said. In the far distance. How long ‘til we get there? he wondered. thought Gabe. the cars and houses of Willow ridge were giving way to open road. “those visits meant a lot to me. Gabe didn’t remember when Uncle Jimmy was in treatment. Huh. But it meant a lot to me to have you and stacey come visit on Family Day. the doctors and the staff were nice folks. seemingly right in front of them. Uncle Jimmy slapped Dad’s knee with his free hand and shook it. Dad said nothing. as they approached and then drove through this area. But his mom didn’t keep him in suspense. the city. Gabe could see buildings up ahead. apartment houses where people lived. Gabe sighed.
are we there yet? looked defeated. and next to Izzy. slumped and staring blankly out through the windshield. and take a nap. and decided to follow Izzy’s example. Mom kept biting what were left of her fingernails. that was one way to make this stupid trip go faster. thought Gabe. Ugh. 43 .
low buildings.” but before she could finish. “Get off me.6 a Long Way from Normal “Here we are. It always took Izzy a while to wake up after they’d been driving for a long time. and in its place were trees.” he said to Izzy. and the shadows of trees and bushes were growing long in the afternoon light. they reminded Gabe of school. “Gabe’s being….” Uncle Jimmy’s voice boomed out. the sun was more than halfway down the sky. Mom was scooping her up and carrying her the way she always did when Izzy fell asleep in the car. “M-o-m-m-e-e-e. lighting a cigarette with shaky hands. and long. and Izzy. What a baby. there was even a basketball court with a high fence around it. Gabe got out of the car and looked around.” Izzy moaned. too. Dad was standing next to the van. 45 . pushing her fuzzy head off his arm and unbuckling his seat belt. outside. green lawns. waking Gabe. the city had vanished. and guys shooting hoops.
so Gabe ran around to help him. “looks like they’re here to pick somebody up. Just then. Stop it. “Do you realize that car could’ve hit you? you know better than to run without looking both ways when there are cars around. I can’t believe you did that. Is she okay? wondered Gabe. a little girl.” said Uncle Jimmy. Mom. Maybe people would think he was Uncle Jimmy’s son. then began to drive away. not much bigger than Izzy. Gabe watched as the little girl named Janey and her dad walked hand-in-hand into the treatment center ahead of them. he thought. and even Dad.The Secret of Willow Ridge Uncle Jimmy was already unloading Dad’s bags from the back of the van. “I’ve done that myself. slowly. but she didn’t.” she said. was standing in the middle of the parking lot with a scared look on her face. Is that man her dad? It looked like Uncle Jimmy was wondering the same thing. Uncle Jimmy slammed the gate of the van and glared at him. Janey looked like she wanted to cry. Gabe and everyone in his family snapped to attention and stared in the direction of the man’s voice. they all heard a screech of brakes and a shout! “Janey! stop right there. the man continued to yell. tHIs Instant!” a man yelled. When the kids do something dangerous. I mean. he told himself. He’d like that. looked concerned. Mom shook her head. “yelled. it’s so scary. I forget that 46 . and a man was grabbing her by the arm.” the driver of the car that had screeched its brakes waved in the direction of the yelling man and the little girl. and that Dad was just his uncle.
with pretty pictures on the walls and a pleasant-looking young man sitting behind a counter.” he said. following Uncle Jimmy up the walkway. “I know that girl.” He opened the heavy door to the treatment center and stood aside to let them all in. Okay. “you’re a good mother.” Uncle Jimmy said to Dad. Gabe stared at his little sister. It smelled a little bit like clean laundry.a long way from normal I don’t mean to yell at them and I end up scaring them. “let’s go home. followed by Mom and Uncle Jimmy. she was running toward a woman who looked like she was about Mom’s age. and myself!” Dad spoke up. That must be her mother. Gabe watched Janey. squeezing Janey in between them. and that’s what you’re gonna get right here. “she’s in Mrs. the young 47 .” said Izzy. then they picked up her mom’s bags and left through the same door Gabe’s family had just walked through. he thought. Paul was the second-grade teacher at his and Izzy’s school. a second later he found he was right. Paul’s class.” Janey practically shouted. as Dad walked up to talk to the young man. Mommy. and shouldered his duffel bag. “you just need a little help. Gabe thought.” Mrs. How many addicts do I know? But before he could think any more about it. the lobby of the treatment center was clean and bright. “and you’re gonna be a good father. my favorite uncle used to be an addict. my dad is an addict. she’s the milk monitor. Her mother and father hugged. and the milk monitor’s mother just got out of a treatment center for being an addict.
pushing open a wooden door. never miss a meeting or a reunion!” she said. “remember me?” the roly-poly lady looked at him. “oh. as they approached the end.” Gabe and Izzy nodded. “I’m so glad your family could come. “Well. I should! you’re one of our star clients. as they all walked through another set of doors into a long hallway. sherry. together with Gabe. Her blue eyes sparkled when she smiled. laughing. “We’ll unpack together after our 48 .” she said to Dad as he put out his hand to shake hers. and a tv. This must be the part of the treatment center that’s like a hospital. yes. and a roly-poly sort of lady was coming down the hall to meet them.” said Uncle Jimmy. Mom and Dad and Uncle Jimmy followed behind. too. Inside was a comfortable-looking room with two beds. Gabe nodded his head. sherry shook Mom’s hand and smiled at the kids. the kind Gabe remembered from the time Izzy landed in the hospital with her asthma. “Hello. he thought. and the walls were painted bright yellow. let’s go. the clean laundry smell was stronger here.” said sherry. she had red.The Secret of Willow Ridge man behind the desk was shaking Dad’s hand. the hallway was quiet. Friendly little Izzy took sherry’s hand. Jack. and Mom and Uncle Jimmy smiled. “Well if I don’t. a dresser. “How about a little tour of where your dad’s going to be staying for the next five weeks?” she asked. shiny cheeks.” said sherry. and she and Uncle Jimmy hugged and smiled at each other like old friends. there was another desk with nurses behind it. and brighter red hair. “Hello. a soft carpet covered the floor. “you can put your bags in here.” Izzy cried.
” she said. some people had children with them. sherry.” sherry answered. We can get a snack there. there were doctors with stethoscopes around their necks. “But rules are rules. “I bet you’d like a snack. all talking and eating. she looked at him and smiled.” said sherry. “I know the drill. “some of them do. a couple of people in printed cotton shirts and matching trousers who looked to Gabe like nurses. and I helped him pack.” she looked at the children.” said Uncle Jimmy. “What about you?” sherry asked Gabe.” she said. “Do all these people have addiction?” he suddenly asked sherry. like you. some looked like his dad.” “What’s ‘recovery’?” asked Izzy. “recovery is a way of life for people who are addicts who want to get better. “some of them are visitors. sitting on their laps.” she said. skinny and sad. but others looked happy. Izzy nodded her head so hard Gabe thought it would fly off her shoulders. and back down the softly carpeted hallway they went.” said sherry. shrugging his shoulders. “Well let’s go to the cafeteria. But they are all in recovery now. Gabe 49 .a long way from normal little tour just to make sure you didn’t bring anything with you that you weren’t supposed to. the ones with addiction were very sick. like your dad. “Don’t worry. and a few other people. Jim. “sure. there’s nothing in there that shouldn’t be in there.” he replied. into an even bigger room with rows of tables and chairs.” “that’s fine.
He didn’t sound very sure. “any more than there’s anything to be ashamed of about any other illness.” “I guess.” said Gabe.” sherry must have noticed him wincing. “there’s nothing to be ashamed of in being an addict. Who wants apple pie and ice cream?” 50 .” said sherry.” she said. “you’ll learn more about the disease of addiction as your dad gets farther along in his recovery. “now.The Secret of Willow Ridge winced when sherry didn’t even lower her voice when she said “addicts. Gabe.
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
Grandma. partner. and all the tables and countertops were gleaming. moving more chairs around the table. a nice.” Grandpa said to Gabe. stace. can you finish setting the table?” This is great. dirty clothes. and Grandma and aunt stacey started tugging off the kids’ jackets.back to normal? stacey was in the doorway. “Hello. aunt stacey. ruffling his hair. “thanks.” “Jim. Gabe looked around at the house in wonder. holding out her arms to welcome them. squeezing Izzy tight as Izzy squeezed back. and beer cans had been taken away. everything was shining-clean! the piles of newspapers.” Gabe answered quietly. giving his wife a big hug. everyone crowded into the warm. you look worn out. “Grandma!” yelled Izzy. thought Gabe. This is just what a normal family should be like. dinnertime-sort-of-smell drifted out of the kitchen. my little love.” “Pop. 55 .” said Mom.” Grandma said. “Hi. Monica. help me with this pan.” said Uncle Jimmy. and just acting like mother hens taking care of their chicks. bright kitchen. “Hello. “sit down. rich. and Grandpa had been busy! Gabe could see through the door that the sticky kitchen floor had been washed. dear. the same doorway where Gabe and Izzy had been hiding just that morning. kissing aunt stacey on the cheek as she entered the house. “thanks. there were none to be seen anywhere. hon. and ran to the kitchen doorway where their grandparents had appeared.
aunt stacey cutting him a slice of hot bread. “oh. and Uncle Jimmy pouring him a big.The Secret of Willow Ridge he thought.” Uncle Jimmy said. and they never had to take Dad to a treatment center. Gabe looked at his mother. “yes. Just this once. holding the soda bottle in mid-air. If only Dad will get better forever. If only they could get back to normal. looking meaningfully at Gabe. It seemed like Dad’s problems had started so long ago. when Gabe was so little.” Gabe answered. or a hospital. He looked out the window.” “Well. but she looked… relieved. But then he was distracted by his own dinner appearing in front of him. I guess it is. sheepishly. she looked tired. or any place else again. fizzy cup of soda as everyone around the table laughed and dug in. “yeah. Mommy! this is a special occasion. “I wonder what Daddy’s having for dinner tonight?” asked Izzy. 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. slathering it with butter first. okay. “okay. sliding into his seat. If only this day would be a ‘just-this-once’ day.” said Mom. “Just this once!” Gabe nodded. that they had never.” Izzy chimed in. into the dark. and worn out. Jim…” his mom said. for sure. too. “the kids usually have apple juice with dinner…. smiling. Grandpa passing him a big plateful of his Grandma’s delicious lasagna. ever 56 .” she said. “Well. where the street lights had just come on. this is kind of a special occasion. sitting by his side.
“Back to normal?” normal for this family was not the kind of normal Gabe wanted. saying. long day. and she cries when Grandpa is nice to us! “thanks. Mamma.back to normal? done anything together that Gabe could remember. she lowered her voice. Just stay put. It seemed a long time ago that they’d had that apple pie at the treatment center. Mom cries about Dad when he’s mean to us. what would Dad be like when he came back to them after the treatment center? Gabe just didn’t know. “I don’t know why he started drinking and taking all those other drugs. “you guys have had a long. Pop. all he knew was that he didn’t want to go back to the way life was before this morning. Grandpa got up to clear the table.” “Hold on there. resting back in her chair. Monica. and now. Moms are weird. sadly. 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.” she began to say. “after all the trouble our son has given you.” said Grandma. We’ll take care of everything. remember when we were first married?” 57 . after dinner.” said Grandpa.” Grandma and Grandpa were not her mom and dad. “It’s the least we can do. shooting a quick glance across the table at the children.” said Mom. “He didn’t learn it from us.” Gabe saw more tears appearing in his Mom’s eyes. he thought. but that’s what she and aunt stacey called him: Pop.” she whispered. “you know I was a bit of a wild boy in my youth. “thanks so much.
” said Grandma. “I feel like I could sleep for a million years. but alcohol is a drug. she picked Izzy up. remember. she was almost asleep in her chair.” said Grandma. “you may not want to believe this. yes. “But it doesn’t matter if it’s alcohol or other drugs. honey. Jack and I both have the same disease—it’s called addiction. blushing. Dad here was lucky.” “Well. because he stopped when he was young. “Monica. We’ll finish up here and let ourselves out.” “they sure did. you get yourself and these children ready for bed. if he gives it an honest try. Izzy said nothing. “But that was just drinking…” Uncle Jimmy got up quickly and kissed his mother’s cheek.” said Uncle Jimmy. Mon. all of you.” said Mom. your own troubles started with too much drinking.” she sighed. again. “But I can see what you say is true. “Don’t worry about a thing. thumping his chest.” he said. you’ve got a whole new life 58 . “I know how you feel.” “thanks. “look at that child. too. you guys just get some sleep.” said Mom and Grandma together. Jim. Drinking too much and getting into trouble is just like taking drugs and getting into trouble. Let’s all hope.” said aunt stacey. and reached across to take Uncle Jimmy’s hand. aunt stacey nodded her head.” “Haven’t touched a drop in twenty years.The Secret of Willow Ridge “oh. Bill. “Mamma. thought Gabe. and what worked for me will work for him. We’ll take care of everything down here. let’s hope that he does.” said Grandpa.
thought Gabe.” she said. a great life.back to normal? waiting for you when you wake up tomorrow. Yuck. 59 . Uncle Jimmy kissed her hand. looking at her husband.
Wait a minute. Mom was helping Izzy. He began to tiptoe out into the hallway. all the clothes he usually left lying around the floor and draped across his desk had been put away. He had slept a long time.” he told himself. smiling to himself as he opened his bedroom door. Mom must be brushing her hair. a breeze blew the curtains at his window.8 A New Day Gabe opened his eyes. He knew where he wanted to be today—outside! In the bedroom next door. His robots were lined up on his dresser where he had left them the night before last. and he could hear birds. His space helmet with the special built-in microphone was looking at him from the top of his toy box. he thought. Nice morning. What a baby. “ouch. Dad’s not here. He looked around his room. I don’t have to 61 .” he could hear Izzy complaining. the sun was already way up in the sky. and got up to get dressed. he thought.
she sounded happy.” he called out. ready to show Gabe his catch. which rolled across the living room floor and began to run into the garage. okay. “Come in.” said his mother.” called Izzy.” said Mrs. “Wil-lis. He forgot about never wanting to see Willis again. “okay. “I’m going outside!” “take your jacket. “I just…” But just then Willis appeared behind his mother. “Willis Mcteague. Mcteague was there. too. Mr.” Gabe answered. “What’s the emergency?” “nothing.” Mom called down to him. I watched her yesterday. barely slowing down to look for cars before running across the street to call for Willis. Gabe grabbed a cereal bar and ran outside. opening the door for him. doing something useful-looking at his workbench.” he said. but he didn’t wait to hear any more.” he called back up when he reached the bottom of the stairs. looking amused. “Wanna see the fish I caught yesterday?” He dropped the ball. Gabe.The Secret of Willow Ridge tiptoe! He almost yelled with happiness.” he said. “G-a-a-b-e. letting the door bang behind him. He practically jumped up the three steps of the Mcteagues’ porch and thumped on their front door. “Put that ball away first. he thought. chasing the ball across the living room floor. “Hi. forgetting that it had only been for a few minutes. Mcteague. with pegboard covering two walls and all kinds of tools hanging 62 . clutching a softball.” Willis made a face. He could slide down the banister into the downstairs hallway. then he and Gabe made their way into the garage. the garage was neat and organized. too! “Mom.
Mcteague. about the size of one of his robots.” he agreed. Mcteague. that’s why I’m glad we have son who’s a fisherman.” said Gabe. “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. and the worst part is cleaning them. “yeah.” she said to Willis’s dad. that Willis had taken out of the old fridge. Gabe. just like his father. He was too busy looking at the little fish.” said Gabe.” he said. 63 . “that’s why I never go fishing. too.” said Willis. winking. He didn’t notice the look that passed between Willis’s mom and dad. “Way cool.” said Gabe. Willis’s mom came and stood in the doorway. gazing at it in amazement. “Hey.” she said. “What are you guys up to?” “I want to show Gabe the fish I caught yesterday. Willis beamed. “I’m gonna catch one like that when I go fishing with my dad. “let’s all get another look at that fish. hon. “My dad’s gonna take me fishing. Mr. Mcteague coughed. a cup of coffee in her hand. Mcteague. “I wanna see the fish. “of course. smiling at her husband. “C-o-o-o-o-l.” laughed Willis’s mom.” said Mr.” said Mr. “Well. nodding.” said Mr.a New Day from it on hooks.
” Mr. “I think I’ll go see how Monica’s doing.The Secret of Willow Ridge “that’s nice. “Good idea. He looked at Gabe.” said Mr. “I get the hammer. Mcteague walked past them and out of the open garage door. you’ll each get a pair of safety goggles. honey.” said Mrs. “He has a disease. “oh. yeah. It puts them in something called ‘recovery’!” Mrs. but lately Mr.” he laughed. Mcteague. But the words kept spilling out of Gabe.” said Gabe. “We took him to a treatment center yesterday!” Mr. Mcteague looked at each other. looking at his wife and shrugging. “First of all. Gabe could see his own house. It’s called addiction. Mcteague. like all the neighbors.” Willis shouted. and Mrs. Mcteague looked at her husband. lots of people have it. Mr. Mcteague knew about Dad’s problems. “Come on. He hardly noticed their old. It looked nice in the sunshine. he’s good.” “you don’t say. guys. But the treatment center helps them to get better.” “Cool!” yelled both boys at once.” cried Gabe. and shook his head some more.” “oh. He turned to the boys as Mrs.” she said.” said Mr. “How’s your daddy doing? We haven’t seen him or your mom much lately. banged up car in the driveway. He and Dad used to be friends. Mcteague. across the street. Mcteague said. Mcteague shook his head. 64 . “I get the saw. Mr. “Put that fish away and you can help me with this birdhouse.
he didn’t know what the real problem was or what to do about it. across the street. waving to the men in the garage. and Gabe’s whole family.” said Willis. suddenly. and both mothers stood on the doorstep. Gabe could see her give Willis’s mom a big hug.” said Mr. Mcteague.” “yeah. they didn’t go bowling or fishing or cook at the neighborhood barbecues together anymore. When will that be? he wondered. But he liked Gabe. “Watch out with that saw.” said Mr. “oh.” called Mrs. Mcteague. sorry!” Gabe said.” said Gabe.” said Willis. Mcteague in Gabe’s ear. “I hope your dad feels better soon. even Dad. When Gabe’s mom answered. Mr.” 65 . “I’m taking Monica and Izzy shopping.a New Day Mcteague and Dad didn’t have too much in common. “Me. Mrs. with Izzy at her side.” said Gabe. “you have to be careful when you work with tools. although he couldn’t hear what they were saying. Dad?” “that’s right. the door of number 22 Cherry street opened again. little guy. “Jeff. But like most people.” he said. kiddo. “then next time we go to the lake. too. patting Gabe’s shoulder. Mcteague felt bad about that. Mcteague was ringing the doorbell at number 22 Cherry street. “Isn’t that right. He watched the two women as the door closed behind them. yeah. “Me. too. you guys can come too.
” he called to his wife. “Mom can be shopping for an awful long time. “Pleeeeaasse?” “We’ll see what your mothers have to say about that. “What time will you be back?” “not too long. now pay attention to what you’re doing. can Gabe sleep over. “all right.The Secret of Willow Ridge Mr. We can have this birdhouse all put together by the time your moms get back.” 66 . Mcteague pushed his safety goggles up onto the top of his head. I thought we could all have a barbecue tonight.” said Willis.” Willis pleaded. “Dad. at our place.” Willis and Gabe looked at each other excitedly.” “I dunno.
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.
as he opened the front door that afternoon. he thought. then the recess bell rang.” said Uncle Jimmy. “My mom says there are special meetings for kids whose parents have addiction. My mom says.” she called back. he thought! “Uncle Jimmy. Meetings. I haven’t gone to one yet. But Daddy says ‘the addict’s family needs help. he told himself. little Dude. though. his class was studying the ocean. and all thoughts of Dad and Mom and Janey got pushed out of his mind as he pictured himself as an ocean explorer. the same feelings. too’. “no. waiting for Uncle Jimmy and Izzy to get out of the car and come up the walk. I’ll ask Mom. “Do I have to go to meetings with Dad when he gets out of the treatment center? Cause Janey said. like. “Bye.” he asked him as Izzy ran past him into the kitchen for her snack. “Who’s Janey?” Gabe explained. he remembered. I bet Uncle Jimmy knows about those meetings. silly.” Gabe nodded. maybe? he wondered as he walked back over to his side of the playground. Uncle Jimmy chuckled. Like a club. I just need Dad not to drink or use drugs! Janey went on. his eyes wide. But that afternoon. “Bye. ‘Cause we all have. I don’t need help.” he said.” “Whoa.” he answered. and Janey ran off to line up with her class. We can talk to each other and make friends with other kids like us. diving under the sea to learn about sharks and whales and other creatures of the deep. 71 .” Gabe frowned. “that sounds okay.life without dad “Do you have addiction?” he asked.
He went upstairs to do his homework. We get to make friends there who can help us—friends who have the same problem. little Dude. thought Gabe. about a week later. “meetings are a big part of being in recovery. you know people can’t stay in the treatment center forever. Like a teenager. they’re all better. It’s not that kind of a disease. “I’ve missed you s-oo-o-o much. Meetings are like a medicine that addicts need to help them stay away from alcohol and other drugs. “I know it’s a lot to learn. one saturday morning. rolling his eyes. It’s not like a cold that goes away after you take medicine for a few days. thought Gabe. like she’d been waiting for it. That must be Dad calling.” That sounds okay. “But don’t you worry. But just like me. we’re fine. that’s for sure.” “But when they come out. How are you?” 72 . I’ll take him to some of my meetings with me. introduce him to some of my friends.The Secret of Willow Ridge “Well. the phone rang. your dad will never be cured of the disease of addiction. listening with one ear as he played with his Xbox. “yeah. and the next morning their new life went on pretty much as it had since Dad went to treatment.” Mom said.” Gabe looked puzzled. Uncle Jimmy put his hand on Gabe’s shoulder and gave it a little shake. right?” asked Gabe. “Hi. thought Gabe. sweetheart!” he heard her say. you and your mom and Izzy don’t have to go to meetings. “they are a lot better than they were when they went in. just your dad does.” he said.” he said. Mom ran to pick it up.
But he took the phone from his mother.” said Dad. “give the phone back before you hang up. Kind of like a vacation. “How are you doing?” “okay. “I thought you guys would be having lots of fun without me. little Dude.” said Gabe.” then suddenly. Should I tell him how much fun I’ve been having with Willis and his dad? He might get angry.” Dad said. today is the first day I’m allowed to use the phone. Or he might feel bad he’s not having fun. so I wanted to call you guys and make sure you’re okay. and when she did say something.” Gabe admitted. son. she turned and held her free arm out to Gabe. “oh?” or “that sounds fun. He and his dad had never really talked much. okay?” Dad wants to talk to me? Gabe gulped and put down the controller. You’re the one with the problem! “seriously. I’ve been having a little fun. so have I! and I’m learning a lot in here.” “Well.” Why wouldn’t we be okay? thought Gabe.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. it was just. But I’m 73 .” or “oooh. “Hel-lo?” he said. “Hi. “Just okay? Is that all?” Dad laughed. “your dad wants to talk to you. I know I haven’t been a very good father to you and Izzy. she didn’t say anything for a long time. “I know you guys have been through a lot.” she said. except when Dad was yelling at him. He sounded different. “When will you come home?” he asked. “not for a few more weeks.
” said Gabe. This doesn’t sound like good news to me. Doesn’t that sound nice?” 74 . he thought. and we’re going to stay in a motel near the treatment center. Do I? I guess I do. “and I have good news. she folded her arms and looked at Gabe. “your Dad sounded good.” Gabe didn’t know what to say. thought Gabe.” “I love you.” “I love you too. He felt the old knot in his stomach. “Bye. We’ll leave right after school on Friday. “aunt stacey will take care of you while I’m in the family sessions. you’ll see.The Secret of Willow Ridge gonna try my best to change all that.” said Gabe. We’ll get to see your dad on Friday night. there will be time for you guys to visit Dad and even have dinner with him on saturday. It doesn’t exactly sound like a trip to Disneyland. “Well. We’re going to get to see him this weekend. When she hung up.” she looked excited. Mom smiled. and on saturday and sunday I’ll have family sessions with him and the other visitors and addicts at the treatment center. But his mom looked so happy. I think so. will you?” said Dad. Dad. Dad. aunt stacey’s going to drive us out there. “okay.” said Gabe. grown-up things to Dad. didn’t he?” “I guess so. she put Izzy on for a minute. “Put your mom back on. so he didn’t say anything. he didn’t want to spoil it.” she said. little Dude. after his mom got back on the phone and said some mushy. “What about me and Izzy?” he asked.
life without dad “It sounds okay. Mom was always crying. He turned over and closed his eyes. and Izzy kept sucking her thumb. like Willis and his dad. no pictures would come to his mind. He could picture all those problems in his memory. 75 . at least the treatment center has good pie. We used to have a lot of problems with Dad. What would life be like when Dad came home? What about those meetings? as Gabe drifted off to sleep.” he said. And Ethan and Luis were always laughing at us. as he lay in bed that night. he thought. I guess. He yelled and smashed up the car and was always getting fired at work. but he couldn’t imagine what life was going to be like now that Dad was in recovery. I could never have a sleepover or even have friends come over after school. We never went fishing. I wonder if they’ll have more apple pie? that thought cheered him up. Gabe thought about all the changes that had happened in a few short weeks.
then math.” she said. she’s waiting!” 77 . “Come on. “I think you mean that whales are mammals. the bell rang! Gabe grabbed his books and didn’t even pause to say goodbye to axel and Willis. Would it ever be 2:30 and time to go home? Maybe it’s broken! the minutes ticked by. lipton just smiled. he said that sharks were mammals and whales were fish. then reading. He tore out of the classroom and stopped suddenly when he saw Uncle Jimmy waiting outside in the hall. anyway. holding Izzy’s hand and smiling.friday 10 Friday That Friday Gabe could hardly concentrate on his . In science class. when he really knew the opposite was true. spelling. but Ms. Gotta get you home to aunt stacey. she gave him a sticker for his homework. Gabe. little Dude. ethan and luis snickered. Gabe kept looking at the clock on the wall at the front of the classroom. schoolwork. F-i-n-a-l-l-y.
” Izzy smiled. Izzy still seemed pretty babyish to him. twenty minutes later they pulled into the driveway at 22 Cherry street. ruffling Gabe’s hair and laughing to himself. everyone except Gabe. He looked around. aunt stacey held up a bulging plastic shopping bag.” said Mom.” he told her. “Don’t think I’d forget your snacks!” everyone was happy and excited. looking panicked. “Izzy’s getting to be a big girl now. “run inside and wash your hands and faces. Gabe and Izzy ran into the house. Uncle Jimmy smiled. giving the bag a shake. Mom was already there. “What about our snacks?” asked Izzy. I think.The Secret of Willow Ridge “to take us to the treatment center!” shouted Izzy. “you’re gonna need this. she and aunt stacey were putting overnight bags in the trunk of aunt stacey’s car. “you drive carefully. “and call me when you get there!” “you bet.” he said. but ethan and luis were still back in the classroom. Uncle Jim took Izzy’s booster seat out of his van and handed it to aunt stacey. “not for much longer.” said Mom. “right here. Uncle Jimmy gave aunt stacey a big hug. like before a test in math class.” he said. hon.” she answered. “Pipe down. she had taken a halfday off work. waving goodbye 78 . kissing her hello. “Don’t worry about it.” she called.” hissed Gabe. dropped their backpacks. and gave their hands and faces a quick wash. He felt nervous. Gabe scratched his head. then they were back out again.
to see where they were going. she stopped the car in front of a small. the sun had slipped down behind the hills and a fat.” aunt stacey told her.” and aunt stacey was pulling into a driveway. 79 . “We’re going to the motel first to unpack and freshen up. “I don’t know why I feel so nervous!” I’m glad I’m not the only one. “Motel. through the streets of the big. Monica. gray city. But now he wanted to be awake. “aunt stacey! you passed it!” He recognized the long. looking out at the road. We’ll come back right away. thought Gabe. most of what was left of the afternoon. and out into the countryside. suddenly at the side of the road there was a bright red neon sign that blinked.friday to Uncle Jimmy and piling into aunt stacey’s car. “you look fine. past fields where black and white cows looked at them over fences.” Mom said. low buildings and the basketball courts as they drove past the treatment center. It seemed to take a long time. He had slept that time. “Hey!” he called out suddenly.” his aunt told him. “Don’t worry. yellow moon was just rising above them. cottage-like building. you’ll see your dad soon!” Mom flipped down the sun visor and looked at herself in the mirror. Gabe hadn’t noticed any of this the first time they made this drive. Gabe. “It’s crazy. they were off to the treatment center to see Dad! aunt stacey and Mom were good friends. past the houses of Willow ridge. and horses shook their heads and stamped their hooves between bites of grass. and they talked all the way there.
” Gabe shot a dirty look at Izzy’s back. they were back in the car.” Izzy yelled. “okay. too. a tv on the wall. gleaming bathroom.” she pointed to a low dresser. now that Dad’s problems were almost solved? “I need to go potty.” she said. I’ll get the keys. running into the big. and trudged out behind aunt stacey. soon she was back. shaking her head. as they approached. “Uh-uh. “Come on. This is it. young man. 80 .The Secret of Willow Ridge “If you and the kids can get the bags. hands and faces washed and feeling refreshed. and the four of them piled into the little cabin that would be their home for the next couple of days. Gabe and I will meet you and Izzy back by the car when you’re ready. “We don’t need to unpack.” his mom said. here’s the spare key. but we do need to keep things neat. “M-o-m!” Gabe started to complain. “Please bring that bag over here. as they got out of the car and walked up the path. “some things never change. aunt stacey laughed. Gabe.” he said. Monica. Gabe felt a familiar knot in his stomach. and then we can all go see Jack. there were two big beds.” Gabe picked up the bag and hoisted it up onto the dresser. 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. you can use the bathroom in the office. Fifteen minutes later. he thought. Was Mom going to start getting all weird about keeping the house neat.” she said. the treatment center was only a few minutes away. disappearing into a little glassed-in office under the Motel sign.
Where’s Dad? he asked himself. Her eyes were bright. but as usual. her hands were shaking. “DaDDy!” she screamed. as she peeled the backing off the name tags and stuck them onto his and Izzy’s chests. and she wasn’t crying. hugging each other. “excited about seeing Dad?” she asked. she patted Gabe’s cheek. “Welcome to Family night. his thoughts were interrupted by a shriek from Izzy. with kids his and Izzy’s ages. dark-haired stranger! 81 . and ran across the lobby to throw herself at a tall. I don’t think excited is the right word. there were other families there. thought Gabe. Gabe’s stomach knot had dissolved into a bunch of butterflies fluttering around his insides.” she said.friday the double doors opened. but not with tears this time. Gabe looked at his mom. a young woman was seated behind it now. he pleaded silently. Moms and dads were there in the lobby. Don’t cry now. some crying. she smiled. He looked around. too. too. teenagers. and there was the bright hallway with the low desk. handing their mom some name tags as aunt stacey signed the visitors’ book. looking bored or embarrassed.
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.
Gabe suddenly realized how tired he was. you need your sleep tonight for all the fun aunt stacey has planned for you tomorrow!” that did it.” said Mom. Gabe smiled.” said Dad. He looked across the table at Izzy.” “oh. 89 .” cried both kids.” she said. “It’s been a long day. “you guys have had a full day.12 Sweet Dreams When dinner was over. no. and it seemed like they’d just got there! Mom laughed. “It’s almost eight o’clock. aunt stacey stood up. “she’s beat. Gabe and Izzy jumped up. they hadn’t seen their dad for almost two weeks. “now I think it’s time for us to head back to the motel. who was climbing onto Dad’s lap.” she said. “It sure has.” “But a great day. smiling. too. and the last melting drop of ice cream had been licked off his spoon.
and soon after that they were at the motel. Gross! soon they were back in the car.” she smiled. But don’t tell Izzy. “and I’ll have my recovery work to do.” Gabe heard them say to each other. she’d never let any of them get any sleep tonight. with my counselors. Would you like that?” Dad asked Gabe. “What did Dad mean about fun tomorrow?” aunt stacey smiled. aunt stacey walked ahead with Izzy and Gabe. 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. and your mom and I thought it would be a nice treat for you kids if we went there tomorrow. trying to win a contest.The Secret of Willow Ridge “Will we see you tomorrow. “that sounds perfect. “there’s an amusement park down the road from here. Dad?” Gabe asked. some of them were so terrible! “aunt stacey?” Gabe asked when the commercial came on. some terrible singers were on the screen. and Mom and Dad hung back for one last hug in the lobby. Dad looked happier than Gabe could ever remember seeing him look. then on sunday you can all come back and we’ll shoot some hoops together. thought Gabe. Gabe and aunt stacey couldn’t help laughing. But we’ll have dinner together again tomorrow night. If she’d heard. Good thing Mom was washing Izzy’s hair at that moment. too. 90 . Could this really be happening? Mom nodded her head. Gabe looked at his mother. Gabe sat on the big bed and watched tv with aunt stacey. “your mom will be busy with family sessions most of tomorrow. as Mom gave Izzy a bath.” he said. “I love you.
Gabe didn’t know it. Gabe tried to think about them all. and he closed his eyes to dream of whales and sharks that were all mixed up.sweet dreams But. but he smiled in his sleep. grown up as he was. and as his mom and aunt stacey sat talking quietly while he and Izzy lay in the big bed next to the window. 91 . sleep took over. wearing deep-sea diving suits. Gradually. there were so many things to think about. eating vanilla ice cream under the sea as Gabe and Willis and their dads swam down to see them. But he couldn’t. even he had a hard time falling asleep that night.
Mom and aunt stacey were just stirring in the other big bed next to the wall. “I slept like a log!” “you guys were really tired last night. the sun was seeping into the room around the edges of the blinds covering the window next to Gabe and Izzy’s bed. remembering how different his dad had looked yesterday. Mon.13 Morning Again “Wake.” he heard aunt stacey say. “you take your shower first.” Izzy started to wail. I look different. Gabe thought as he pulled off the covers and went into the bathroom to brush his teeth. Monica. up Izzy!” Gabe yelled. he told himself. “Mo-mmeeee. “look at the time!” “Wow. “Gabe’s bothering me!” Well. He looked at himself in the mirror. so you can get over there 93 . “Yikes. I think I’m growing. too.” his mom said.” aunt stacey said. waking her up was a big mistake. he thought. where his little sister was still sleeping. reaching across the big bed to .
” she started pulling clothes out of the bag for Gabe and Izzy while their mom brushed past Gabe on her way into the bathroom. sticking her tongue out at him. so you’re both in luck!” Izzy looked wonderingly at Gabe. you guys. they could hear their mom singing in the shower. “Do you like roller coasters?” she asked her.” Gabe mumbled. “aunt stacey’s taking us to an amusement park!” he said. uncertainly. “bet you don’t know what we’re going to do today!” “I do. BABY. too.” Izzy returned. kissing the top of Gabe’s head. I’ll take care of the kids. “Morning. but he was eager to get to the amusement park. even though she didn’t! “What?” she asked aunt stacey.” Gabe boasted.” she said. “Don’t be dumb. aunt stacey laughed.” “Hey. today is going to be fun!” she tapped Izzy’s nose with the hairbrush. “where we’re going they have both kinds. “are Mommy and Daddy coming. 94 .” Gabe answered. “Does the treatment center have roller coasters?” she asked.” he teased his sister.The Secret of Willow Ridge to the treatment center. “I like the big ones. He still felt tired. “Well. Mom.” she said. “Behave yourself. “only little ones. they’ll give you breakfast before the family session starts. Izzy gave a little jump.” she said. “Hey. aunt stacey finished putting Izzy’s hair into two ponytails. acting almost like it was his idea. sweetie. too?” she and Gabe both looked at aunt stacey. “I don’t want any fighting or problems today.” said Izzy. Izzy.
” she answered. “leave the door open so I can see you. that’s why I’m taking care of you guys today.” he said.” said aunt stacey.” Gabe grabbed Izzy by the hand.morning again “no. lots of them belonged to families like his. aunt stace?” he asked. “Come on. but he didn’t really like getting dressed in front of all his female relatives! “Can we go outside.” the bathroom door opened and Mom appeared in a puff of steam. and then tomorrow we’ll all get to spend some time there with your dad. “Mommy. It seems like a lot of people have problems just like ours. pulling her out the door. along with kids around his and Izzy’s ages.” said Gabe. tonight we’ll all have dinner again together. Izzy. just like last night. 95 . too. We’ll be out in a minute.” Izzy yelled. “aunt stacey’s taking us to an amusement park!” “that’s nice. Mommy. He was only ten. “Come on. running over to her as Mom picked out some clothes from their luggage. as Gabe could see now. Just then the door to their room opened wide and out came aunt stacey. Mothers or fathers were getting into or out of them.” said Mom. “your mom and dad are going to be busy all day at the treatment center. “as long as you stay right in front of the room. sweetie. tugging on his jeans behind a chair. tucking in his shirt. I bet a lot of them have moms and dads in the treatment center. the parking lot of the motel was filled with cars Gabe hadn’t noticed last night. Gabe could tell her mind was already on Dad and the family session she’d have today. like a genie in a movie. followed by Mom. sweetie. who locked the door behind her. he thought.
” and from behind the big fence. they found themselves turning into another parking lot. that means you. and spaceships. aunt stacey took them to a drive-thru restaurant and bought them breakfast. dragons. “o-K. “the center’s only a few blocks away. “Whoa. they ate corndogs on sticks and washed them down with buckets of 96 . She sure looks like she’s in a hurry to see Dad. too. painted with pictures of clowns. “Hold hands in the parking lot. she was waving three tickets in her hand. He tore off his seat belt and jumped out of the car almost as soon as aunt stacey brought it to a stop.” she waved as she jogged out of the parking lot and down the sidewalk. and Izzy got to pick the prettiest pony on the merry-go-round for her first ride. and by the time they finished eating. I can use the walk. thought Gabe.” he said. there. 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.” said Mom. pirates.” aunt stacey yelled.’” He trudged back to her side. “no. “Come on you guys. Bye. Gabe could hear screams from kids already enjoying the rides. “last one in has to go on all the baby rides!” “I like the baby rides!” said Izzy. ‘Grown-Up Gabe. this one had a huge sign above it saying “Family land.The Secret of Willow Ridge “are you sure you don’t want us to drop you off?” asked aunt stacey. blowing kisses to Izzy and Gabe.” she said. Gabe shook his head.
and Mom wouldn’t really mind!) after the corndogs. the kids each picked out one last ride. Gabe on a lion this time. “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. “Pick one more ride. there was popcorn. “no complaining!” aunt stacey told them.morning again soda (“Don’t tell your mom. once again. and Izzy. and they rode together on the merry-go-round. there were rides of all kinds. smiling. too. aunt stacey looked at her watch. By the time Gabe had ridden on all the big rides at least twice. the sun was getting lower in the sky. on her pretty pink pony. and after the popcorn. 97 . guys. It’s about time to go!” “awwww!” both kids groaned at once. In between all the treats. ice cream. she knew it was a special occasion.” aunt stacey whispered. and Izzy had ridden the baby rides twice.
” said Willis. and Gabe couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen Mom laugh so much. Dinner at the treatment center on saturday night had been even better than the one they had on Friday. in between tales of the rides. “I beat my Dad at hoops!” Gabe told him. although she did cry and complain when they had to leave Dad and head home on sunday night. “I bet he let you. excitedly. In the schoolyard on Monday morning. “I bet you couldn’t beat me. with his crooked smile.14 Gabe’s Dilemma The weekend was over much too soon. 99 . and Gabe’s piece had a maraschino cherry on top! Dad looked stronger and happier every day. grinning. and the motel where they had stayed.” he said. the farms they had driven past. Gabe couldn’t wait to see Willis. even Izzy was less annoying than usual. right now. they had chocolate layer cake for dessert instead of apple pie and ice cream.
” said Gabe. and she told them her name was officer lopez. “your parents are invited to come. “two on two. calling them back into the classroom. the bell rang. boys and girls. but Gabe’s heart wasn’t in it now. and had curly brown hair under her police cap and big brown eyes. that his dad was in jail or in some kind of hospital for crazy people. luckily. Joe shouted encouragement from the sidelines. “you go ahead. “next week. “Come on. Please bring these flyers home to let them know about it. “Good afternoon. lipton had a surprise for them. He stayed to hear more about the treatment center and the amusement park. she stood at the front of the room holding a bundle of green papers. the boys looked over at the basketball court. while luis jumped around.” she told the class. “I don’t feel like it.The Secret of Willow Ridge “I’ll bet you I can. ethan was trying to shoot. row by row. he was sure those guys had been laughing at his family. Gabe looked away. ever since the day they took Dad to treatment.” answered Gabe. waving his arms and trying to block his shot. “Forget it. too. some other local police officers and I will be coming to talk to the whole school. lipton smiled and handed out the green papers.” she said. and to introduce a 100 .” he urged.” But Willis didn’t leave him. while Ms. and that they thought his whole family was bad or crazy or weird.” said Willis. we’ll be having a special assembly.” he said. just then. He still didn’t want to talk to any of them. where Ms. and was handing them out. He was sure they knew his dad was an addict. and there was someone else in the classroom with her—a policewoman! the policewoman was short.
we’ll be back in plenty of time. two rows over. 101 . He could swear he heard him snickering. then asked Gabe’s mom if he could take Gabe to the hardware store. who was scribbling with a marker on his green flyer and looking innocent. you and stacey are eating here with us. and she was eager to get started. she wanted to help Dad in his recovery. He felt the old knot start in his stomach. He couldn’t remember the name of the President. Dinner will be early. Uncle Jimmy drove Gabe and Izzy home. When Uncle Jimmy met him in the hallway after school. stacey’s bringing me to my first meeting for families tonight. don’t forget. thought Gabe. “Don’t worry.” said Mom. He whipped his head around to look at ethan. He looked right behind him. He looks innocent. lipton said.” Gabe blushed red to the tips of his ears! Why was she talking about drugs? Was this about Dad? he wondered. 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.” said Uncle Jimmy. He was the first one who had to sit down in the Math Bee. He didn’t get a sticker. he could tell something was bothering Gabe.gabe’s dilemma special new program to prevent drug and alcohol abuse to you and the other children in the upper grades. He couldn’t find his science homework. “sure. But he didn’t ask him any questions. Gross! Gabe looked over at luis. Joe was picking his nose.” Going to meetings that were for the families of addicts would help Mom learn more about the family disease of addiction. “if it won’t take too long. and he couldn’t pay attention to a word Ms.
He told Uncle Jimmy how he didn’t mind telling Willis all about his dad and the treatment center. too.” he said. teenagers. Gabe told him about the flyers and officer lopez and the special new program and the big assembly next week. He drove carefully and swung into a parking spot right near the entrance to the hardware store as Gabe’s words gushed out. “look at me. he turned to face Gabe. but he was listening. “and she’s gonna tell the whole class!” Uncle Jimmy looked surprised. “Ms.” Gabe looked at the dashboard. and… and… they’re always laughing at me and telling other kids my dad is an addict. “they know my dad’s in the treatment center!” the words poured out of Gabe. 102 . not just ours. “and… and… luis and ethan and Joe know. and even young kids.The Secret of Willow Ridge as Gabe trudged back to the van behind Uncle Jimmy. But they do have something to do with the fact that lots and lots of people in our community have the disease of addiction. First of all. he spoke up.” he said. angrily. almost as young as you. “What makes you say that. Willis was his best friend. as Uncle Jimmy turned off the engine. addiction is a big problem for a lot of families.” he stammered. He just didn’t want ethan and luis and Joe and the whole world to know. Uncle Jimmy was quiet. the new program and the assembly have nothing to do with me or your dad or Janey’s mom going to treatment. lipton knows about Dad’s addiction. but he was listening hard to Gabe. they get pills from their parents’ medicine cabinets or beer from their own ‘fridge. little Dude?” he asked. “Gabe.
” Gabe shrugged. long before your dad decided to get help for his problem. “But it’s more embarrassing to hide it and do nothing about it. we grown-ups hope that maybe you will be able to make better choices when you grow up. “I’ll bet ethan and luis and whoever are talking about other things. “and you know what?” Uncle Jimmy continued. “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. you should be proud of your dad.” Uncle Jimmy said gently. If you kids learn the facts about addiction and the problems that go with it. Gabe’s lower lip trembled. 103 . and we help him. sniffing. We can’t do anything about that.” Uncle Jimmy sighed. I don’t know about that. and ruffled the top of Gabe’s hair. anyway. but I guess Uncle Jimmy knows. the school board decided many months ago to bring this program into our classrooms. “I just don’t want people to laugh at us.” he said. he thought.gabe’s dilemma “It can be embarrassing to admit that someone in your family has addiction. as a tear finally fell from one eye. “little Dude. Gabe looked at him and thought.” Gabe sniffed and nodded his head.” Gabe looked up at his uncle. right now he’s doing the hardest thing he’s ever done in his life. But as long as your dad works hard on his recovery. “…and because this problem affects so many families. Uncle Jimmy was still talking. people are gonna think whatever they’re gonna think. and just let it wreck people’s lives.” “I guess. we don’t have to worry about what other people think.
“Come on. but he still had a knot in his stomach.” said Uncle Jimmy. “they probably have their own problems to talk about! everybody’s not thinking about you all the time.The Secret of Willow Ridge not your dad or our family.” Gabe looked doubtful. He wasn’t crying anymore.” Gabe didn’t feel so sure. “I need you to help me pick out some paint. 104 .” Gabe nodded okay and followed him into the hardware store.
while he was sitting at the table not eating. so she wouldn’t find out about the assembly. but then he realized Uncle Jimmy would probably blab about it anyway. one of those mornings. except for one. which had a big red circle on it. lipton had handed out the green flyers to the day of the big assembly. He hadn’t ever really looked at it before. He’d thought about not giving his mom the green flyer.15 Knots and Butterflies The knot in Gabe’s stomach got worse. from the day Ms. visiting with aunt stacey. but now he saw that it had Xs on each of the days of that month. 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. and going to her family meetings while Uncle Jimmy 107 . she’d been so busy and happy lately. and couldn’t finish it. talking to Dad on the phone when he called every evening. he noticed the calendar hanging on the kitchen wall. He asked his mother about them.
he thought. we had problems. the day he saw ethan and luis on the basketball court.” he said.” Finally. “and this day’s the day he’ll come home. and that was okay with Gabe. But I was used to those problems. Ms. when the 2:30 bell rang. He didn’t want to have to explain to her that he didn’t want her to go to the assembly. the day officer lopez had told them about the upcoming assembly. He didn’t even want to go himself. and. Gabe’s heart sank. When Dad was drinking alcohol and taking other drugs. and all the while. lipton asked him 108 . so how could he explain it to Mom? “those Xs are all the days your dad’s been in treatment. all Gabe could think about was the “Drug assembly. He’s in recovery now!” she pointed to the day with the red circle. he thought.” Mom said. It was the very day before the assembly! “Maybe he can come to the assembly.The Secret of Willow Ridge babysat. one afternoon. the next day and the next were just as bad. the day of the “Drug assembly” kept coming closer. the day Dad would come home from the treatment center began to seem less and less important. brightly. too. too. I wish I had a different family. He didn’t really know how he felt. dragging his backpack. pointing to the calendar proudly. he left for school. she hadn’t seemed to notice how unhappy Gabe was. but he didn’t mean it. “Great. where his day was a repeat of the day after they came home from visiting Dad. But deep down he didn’t mean that. either. He kissed his mom goodbye.” she said. 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.
even in science. But he didn’t like thinking about the other kids knowing his dad was an addict. thought Gabe. Except I don’t know what things are going to be like when my dad gets home. now. He couldn’t look at Ms. “Is everything all right at home?” she asked. “you’re usually such a good student. and acting like other kids’ dads acted. “I…” he began. He didn’t know how to explain to Ms. and he thought he might start to cry right there in front of Ms. This is it! I’m in trouble! But he wasn’t in trouble. He was glad his dad was in recovery now. Ms. and not have them laughing at me and my family. lipton? 109 . and I don’t want to go to this stupid assembly. gently. and start being a real dad. lipton spoke to him very softly. lipton. panicked. 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. lipton.knots and butterflies to stay and talk with her after school. like he had a terrible disease or something! “Gabe. Everything’s okay. lipton or Uncle Jimmy or his mom or even Willis what he was feeling. is something worrying you?” she asked. but didn’t know how to continue. Gabe thought. Why is everything so complicated? he wondered. Oh. It was almost worse. and I know that’s your favorite. He was afraid. no. Oh. sure. But how could he even start to explain any of that to Ms.” Gabe shook his head. He wanted him to come home. But lately you haven’t been doing so well in class.
at that moment. “oh. Gabe is such a good student.” “We sure will. I hate to see him falling behind.” Ms. He had Izzy by the hand. as Izzy and Gabe tugged him out of the classroom door. that’s probably what Gabe’s got on his mind. lipton had said. let me know if there’s anything I can do to help. “Bye. 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. “that’s wonderful. they would 110 . knocked on the classroom door. he didn’t have to. his Uncle Jimmy. “I was just asking Gabe if he’s been feeling well lately.” he called back. But Uncle Jimmy reminded himself to talk to Gabe’s mom and dad about what Ms. He winked at Gabe. so the three of them would be ready when Gabe wanted to talk with them about his feelings. but she sounded doubtful. Uncle Jimmy knew a lot about them. l. thinking it was getting late.” Ms. Ms. I really do. “our family’s been going through a few… changes. Gabe dashed over to Uncle Jimmy’s side. yes. lipton said. I appreciate your concern. “everything all right. even though he and aunt stacey didn’t have any kids. l?” Uncle Jimmy asked.The Secret of Willow Ridge Fortunately. lately. But Uncle Jimmy didn’t talk to Gabe about his schoolwork or anything else on the way home. His schoolwork has been a little off.” “Ms. I’ll talk to his mom and dad.” “oh. and we’ll work with Gabe at home to bring his school work back up to where it should be. lipton said. and eager to get the kids home.” said Uncle Jimmy.” said Uncle Jimmy.
Gabe noticed the school maintenance 111 . and soon he and Izzy were walking to school with Willis. But he did as his mother asked. thought Gabe. Just like on that long-ago saturday when things seemed so weird. Mom woke the kids up.” he heard Mom answer.” Uncle Jimmy reminded himself. I’m going to get him!” Gabe pulled the covers back over his head. Maybe I can say I’m sick. brother. and got up and got dressed. angel. officer lopez was standing in the middle of a little group of parents and kids. pulling his covers and pointing to his freshly ironed clothes. “as soon as I get you guys off to school. the next morning. “oh.” said Gabe. and Gabe lost in his own thoughts. even though she wasn’t going to work. Izzy skipping along. my sweethearts. right in front of the school. as Dad came home from treatment and got into his recovery. Willis trying to get Gabe to talk. excited. “you bet.knots and butterflies also make sure they paid special attention to both Gabe and Izzy in the next few weeks. sleepyhead. “Come on. “It’s a family disease.” she called. pointing. she was dressed before them. “today’s a special day!” Ugh. merrily. thought Gabe. thought Gabe. I don’t know how many more special days I can take! “Is Daddy coming home today?” he heard Izzy ask. “rise and shine. as they approached the school. But there was no fooling Mom. “look!” Willis cried. “officer lopez!” cried Izzy.” she called. brother. handing out more of the green flyers. “time to rise and shine!” Oh.
Let’s get it over with. He just wanted the day to be over. “Come on. Gabe grabbed Izzy’s hand. he thought.The Secret of Willow Ridge workers hanging a big banner over the front door of the school. “Welcome Drug Prevention team.” he growled. and it had barely started! 112 .” it said.
pulling on Uncle Jimmy’s arm. “I can’t wait!” “How about you. as usual. “Come on. I don’t think I’m gonna like it. “Well. Gabe felt the butterflies in his stomach and his heart knocking against his ribs. holding Izzy’s hand. He and Izzy both looked excited. Gabe shrugged. I don’t know what it’s going to be like having Dad at home. come on. though it wasn’t far. kids. “I guess.16 My Dad’s in Recovery! When the bell finally rang at 2:30. all the way home.” said Uncle Jimmy. he thought. “Dad will be waiting for us at home!” “yay!” cried Izzy. Izzy was bouncing on her toes.” said Uncle Jimmy.” he said. Uncle Jimmy was there in the hall outside the classroom. Gabe?” Uncle Jimmy asked. eager to get home. I don’t think I like this family disease Uncle 115 . flatly.
guys!” said Dad. He and Mr. Dad gave Izzy a big hug. He didn’t notice Uncle Jimmy watching him. but he was looking at Gabe.” Gabe said softly. Gabe looked at him. Mcteague hugged.” Mom said. He was wearing a clean shirt and jeans. Before Gabe had a chance to say anything (not that he could think of anything much to say). “this is quite a celebration. Mcteague. then Gabe got another surprise. He had to admit.” said Dad. holding out his arms as Izzy jumped into them. “Come in.” he said. with Gabe trudging slowly behind her.” said Grandpa. laughing and hugging them all. and his hands were steady. Mom was already starting dinner. “It’s not every day a family gets a son back!” 116 . “that’s right. the front door opened and there was their dad. she jumped out the door and dashed up the front walk as soon as she got her seat belt unfastened.” said Mrs. “Hey. “Grandma and Grandpa!” yelled Izzy. his grandparents were pulling them all into the kitchen. Uncle Jimmy reached over and shook his brother’s hand. not shaky. Gabe saw his grandparents’ car in the driveway.” “Hi. “Welcome home. “It’s good to be back.The Secret of Willow Ridge Jimmy keeps talking about! as they pulled up in front of 22 Cherry street. proudly. Dad. Dad looked even better than he had when Gabe saw him in the treatment center that long-ago saturday. Willis appeared in the front doorway with his parents! “Come on in. come in. bro’. carrying both their backpacks. little Dude.
Gabe and Willis looked at each other. and Izzy stayed in the kitchen and sat on Daddy’s lap. so the boys went into the living room and played Xbox. and the grown-ups kept talking and laughing. got ready for an early dinner. the knot in Gabe’s stomach seemed to loosen as the grownups. “Can Willis stay over?” Gabe asked his Mom. after all. “and a brother back. not this time. as it got to be bedtime. “oh. “Wanna play Xbox?” Gabe asked Willis. But the next morning. “Grown-ups!” their eyes seemed to say. too busy talking and laughing to notice him and Willis. “Co-o-ol!” Willis agreed. “Maybe tomorrow night. pulling aunt stacey.” added Uncle Jimmy. I really 117 . and as Gabe and Izzy got ready for bed. It was the day of the Drug assembly. who had appeared at his side.” “Why not tomorrow night?” asked Dad. Gabe began to think that having a dad in recovery might be pretty cool. “and a daddy back!” yelled Izzy.” said Willis’s mom.” Uncle Jimmy said. and as the Mcteagues said goodnight. as he opened his eyes. “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. into a hug. he remembered what day it was.” said Mom. all through dinner and into the night.my dad’s in recovery! “and a husband back. all the grown-ups seemed to think this was hilarious.
Gabe recognized the sound of his footsteps. “Uh-huh. “Mom and I thought we’d walk you to school today and stay for the big assembly. Dad smiled. Gabe took it from him.” he said. “What do you think about that?” Gabe looked at this new. “He’s called Monstro. He’s different. How weird.” said Dad. too. and then I can put them together and make a Megadon. Gabe nodded. Gabe looked at his dad. he thought. “that’d be okay. “Pretty cool. But Izzy and Mom interrupted them.” said Dad. he thought.” said Gabe.” said Dad. shyly. trying to transform it into a truck. “you do it like this. He sighed.The Secret of Willow Ridge do feel sick. 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. Gabe. “Gabe… I’m sorry for…” Dad started to say. Gabe smiled. I’m shy of my own dad! “Kinda seems like we need to get to know each other all over again. and then Dad came into his room.” he said. “Wake up. he thought. nice dad.” said Gabe. suddenly he noticed how quiet it was in his bedroom. and he looked shy. “I need to get his brother. we didn’t have toys like these when I was a kid.” said Dad. then Dad sighed. He closed his eyes again. He was holding one of Gabe’s robots in his hands. Gabe turned the robot into a gleaming monster truck.” he said. sitting on the side of Gabe’s bed. Destroyo.” he said. and with a few twists. 118 . “Well.
shaking hands with all the parents as they filed into the building.” said Mom.my dad’s in recovery! “Come on you guys. Ms. lipton was there. and walked toward the school together with Gabe and his family. and even asked for more! and after breakfast. and officer lopez and her partner. Mom and Dad looked at each other and smiled. then we can all walk to school together!” Gabe dashed past them. too. they crossed the street and joined them. I’m hungry! he realized. 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. But he didn’t really mind when he saw them hug and kiss. Willis and his parents were all going to the big assembly. He didn’t even mind when he saw his mom had fixed eggs the way his dad liked them. sneaking a glimpse at them in the bathroom mirror. into the bathroom to brush his teeth. grown-ups bringing up the rear.” he yelled. this morning! He ate them fast. “Big doin’s today. then broke into a run. the family set off for school. suddenly full of energy. He ran downstairs and threw himself into his chair. “last one finished breakfast is a rotten egg. too. Gabe gave a quick look over his shoulder at his parents. with runny middles. He and Willis waved to the other families they saw as they neared the school. Gabe liked them too. as he finished dressing. were standing on the front steps with the principal. Breakfast is ready. and Gabe didn’t even mind. Izzy kept running ahead. officer lee. 119 . which Gabe finished right down to the last bite. kids in front. thought Gabe. Don’t start any mushy stuff.
The Secret of Willow Ridge “Gabe. smiling. “Hello. at the older kids. He saw luis and ethan and Joe. young man. what’s up?” his mom shouted. He ran across the schoolyard and up the steps and stopped short right in front of officer lopez. “you know what?” he asked officer lopez as his parents caught up to him. he recognized them and waved. 120 . at Willis. He saw Janey over by the fence with her parents. “My dad’s in recovery!” he crowed. He turned and pointed to his dad. “What?” she asked. and at the younger kids all around. at the principal.” she said. at Uncle Jimmy. suddenly. he couldn’t wait to get to school. she waved back. Gabe burst into a big smile. “What’s the hurry?” Gabe looked around. and everyone in the schoolyard burst into cheers. But he didn’t hear. at Ms. lopez.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.