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