Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Home is Found: Excerpt from Follow the Dog Home

Excerpt #2, Follow the Dog Home Book

I called my Aunt Jean (Walsh) Bryant. I learned a few
weeks after moving to Wellesley that Aunt Jean had lived
there for thirty-five years before retiring to Cape Cod
in the late eighties. I figured if anyone might be able to
explain the attraction, it would be Aunt Jean. Was the
house on Atwood Street once hers?
“No, no, no,” Aunt Jean answered. “We lived on Abbott
Road. It was your father who lived on Atwood Street.
You do know your family history in Wellesley don’t you
dee-ah?” Aunt Jean asked leadingly in her most loving of
Boston accents.

Jean (Walsh) Bryant is the family
historian. At age eighty-four, she
remembers just about everything,
which was instrumental in the
amazing connection uncovered in
this story. Even though she’s my
father’s cousin many of us call
her “Aunt Jean.”

 Her answer shocked me. “No, actually I don’t,” I said,
“other than your family living here.”
“Your father lived on Atwood Street behind St. Paul’s
right before the war. He was just a baby when they moved
out. He probably doesn’t even remember it, dear.”
When Aunt Jean shared the address of Dad’s house, I
was floored. It was the same house that Beverly sniffed
around and made me do a double take.
While Aunt Jean was talking my mind started drifting
back in time. I wondered whether there were any photos
of the old house. I remembered years ago that Dad had
been cleaning out his basement in Ledyard, Connecticut.
He sent me a dusty suitcase filled with old black and
whites. I had looked at the pictures briefly before closing
the suitcase up, not expecting to open it again for a while.
My lasting memory—there’s a lot of history in there that
I don’t understand—and I sure do look like my dad and
grandfather when they were younger. Aunt Jean’s voiced
snapped me back to our conversation.
“Is St. Paul’s going to be your church?” Aunt Jean asked
Still shocked by the revelation I could hardly answer.
“Yes, it will be,” I managed to say a moment later.
“Well, great. When you get there, go to the back of the
church and you’ll see your grandfather’s name on the
back wall. He’s on The Roll of Honor for having served
in the war.”
When we went to Mass the next Sunday, I walked
through the stained oak doors that give St. Paul’s
additional character to its red bricks. To the left, I saw The
Roll of Honor with names of dozens of parishioners who
served in the World War and World War II. I looked to
the bottom right and there it was, Albert J. Walsh, in gold
letters looking right back at me. I was just two years old
when he passed away in 1972.
To see your family name for the first time in a place
of honor, and in the Lord’s house, is a lot to handle. It is
spiritual and profound—something you feel as much as
you see. That visual evoked an internal validation that I
had work to do beyond the original job that brought us to
suburban Boston, and to Wellesley in particular.

In the fall of 2010, I started to put together the outline
of this book with my dad and Samantha. I went through
boxes, drawers, envelopes, you name it. When I got to
Dad’s dusty suitcase, one photo stopped me dead in my
tracks. I saw my father as a child, posing with his family
and his first dog Dee Dee on the stoop of a home. It looked
so familiar. When I saw the house number above the door
I knew why.

Bob Walsh (Kevin’s dad), left,
and his twin brother, Dick, as
toddlers just months prior to
Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor,
sitting on the front stoop of the
family home—on Atwood Street—with their dog Dee
Dee, sister Boots, and mom.

Albert Walsh (Bob’s dad) would later join
the war effort serving with the Navy.

* In the next blog posting, Bob returns to his childhood home on Atwood Street
in Wellesley for a very special reunion, 70 years later.

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