One way or another, everything that he loved he lost.
Isaiah Edwards was a man whose life had been marked by spurts of great loss. He lost his first wife and daughter to fever. He lost his son to murder. He lost his second wife and other son and daughter to divorce. He lost the young girl he fell in love with in order to let her see the world. He lost the boy he had fostered to the boy's father. Finally, he had lost the daily companionship of his friends and the town he called home.
Walnut Grove had been blown up and everyone had gone their separate ways. Of course his best friend Charles had offered to take Isaiah back to Burr Oak with him, and the others had told him he was welcome to visit. But Isaiah knew he needed to be on his own again.
Another new start, but in name only. The past was already peering over his shoulder.
His second wife Grace was remarried now. She had married Nathan Simms, the brother of a man who once lived in Walnut Grove. It was too late from him and Grace. But maybe he could repair his relationship with Carl and Alicia.
He had hurt them, embarrassed them at Carl's birthday party. Grace had finally had enough of his drunkenness and kicked him out. Soon he received Grace's letter informing him of the divoorce.
Isaiah knew that he had ruined he at having a family. Grace was his second chance at love and he had wasted it. It was no wonder he was denied his third.
He knew that Grace and the children had moved into Nathan's home. Nathan was a farmer like himself, but more prosperous. Nathan wasn't wealthy, but he was comfortable.
But Isaiah had never told anyone the worst news. It came about a year after he received the notice of divorce. His rights as Carl and Alicia's adoptive father had been terminated, due to his drunkenness. And Carl and Alicia returned to using Sanderson has their legal last name.
Of course he was offered the chance to fight in court, but he had been a coward, and lost the case by default because of his absence. But a part of him was angry at Grace. Not because she had turned her back on him, but because she had let the children, too.
Isaiah knew that he would never be Carl and Alicia's father again. But he hoped he could be their friend, because he would always love them.
Grace Simms's hands were shaking. In her hands was a telegram that read, "In town for a few days STOP. Would like to see Carl and Alicia STOP." It was signed Isaiah Edwards. Grace had a notion just to throw the telegram away. Why did Isaiah want back in Carl and Alicia's lives now? He had his chance to fight for them in court, but he never showed.
However, Grace couldn't forget the man that Isaiah had once been. Maybe he was that man again, or maybe an even a better man. But she had to be cautious.
She would discuss it with Nathan first.
"Carl, Alicia, I got a telegram today," Grace began.
Carl and Alicia were both now grown, but neither had left home. They looked at Grace expectantly. Nathan had an arm on Grace's shoulder as she cleared her throat nervously.
"I got a telegram from Isaiah." Even now it felt strange not to refer to him as their father.
Grace couldn't read their looks, but Alicia looked up sharply, angrily, while Carl's face remained neutral.
"Why's he bothern' you?" said Alicia angrily.
"He's not," said Grace. "He wants to see you two."
"He coud have done that in court," Alicia continued, her red hair seeming to grow brighter in her anger. "But he didn't come. He didn't even bother to write an excuse!"
"She's right," Carl agreed. "Tell him we don't want to see him."
"I think you two should," said Grace after a long pause.
"You didn't," said Alicia coldly as she walked out of the room.
"Nathan can I talk to Ma in private?" Carl asked.
"Of course," he said.
When they were alone Grace said, "She's just so angry," said Grace sadly. "I thought you would be the one to get angry," she admitted.
"I loved him," said Carl "But John and Alicia were always closer to him. I get it didn't affect me as much."
"Oh it did," Grace almost whispered to herself. "Just differently."
"But Ma I don't understand why we have to go to him when you gave up on him. You divorced him."
"What happens between a husband and wife shouldn't ruin what happens between a father and his children."
"But we're not his children. We're yours."
"I know," she replied. "And as my children, I would like you to see him. Please talk to your sister."
"I won't promise anyhin'" Carl replied.
But the three of them went into town the next day. Nathan the bystander in all this, decided he would let them face this on their own. After all it wasn't his place to interfere.
Grace knocked on Isaiah's hotel room door lightly. She wondered would she find the drunken man from a few years ago on the other side.
But Isaiah opened the door sober. He was wearing his Sunday shirt. Alicia scowled at his attempt to impress them.
Isaiah wanted to jump for joy when he saw Carl and Alicia. Carl's hair had darkened and Alicia now wore hers up. But Isaiah controlled himself.
He would never be their father again.
"Come in," he said quietly.
They entered. Carl and Alicia sat stiffly in the two chairs while Isaiah sat on his bed. Grace stood in the comer discreetly.
"I see you two have grown," Isaiah began. Carl looked at him but Alicia was staring out the window. "So I see you wear your hair up, like a woman now Alicia," he said.
"You would have seen it down if you had come to court," said Alicia angrily.
"I was a coward," Isaiah admitted.
"Too cowardly to fight for your own children?" Carl interjected.
"Grace divorced me," said Isaiah. "I thought you wanted nothin' to do with me."
"Yeah, Ma divorced you," said Alicia, "not us."
This took everyone in the room by surprise. Grace stepped forward, and opened her mouth, but thought better of it.
"What did you think 'cause Ma wanted noting' to do with you that we didn't?" said Alicia. She stuck out her chin at Isaiah.
"Well I thought-" Isaiah began.
"We waited a year," said Carl.
"But you said you hated me," said Isaiah. "That I embarrassed you."
"We did and you did," said Carl. "But you just ran away instead of tryin' to fix things."
"Grace didn't want me around any more," Isaiah explained.
"Yeah," said Carl his voice getting stronger, "but we're not Ma. You could have wrote to us. Even if we didn't answer, you could have wrote."
"I guess I was too scared," he admitted. "I did a lot of dumb things during that time."
"And what brings you here now Isaiah?" said Grace speaking for the first time.
Isaiah took a good look at his ex-wife and knew she no longer loved him. Even if she hadn't remarried, he could see her love for him had gone, replaced by pity and anger.
He clear his throat, recovering from this realization. "Well you know I ended up in Walnut Grove…" He told him almost the whole story about how he because Rose's godfather, cared for Matthew Rogers, and then moved into the boarding house. He decided to leave out the part about falling in love again.
"But why should we believe you've changed?" said Carl. Isaiah was surprised. These were words he expected Grace to utter.
"I guess I don't know," said Isaiah frankly. "But I recok'n if you were 'round me long enough, you'd see that I have." No one would look at him. "I see you can't trust me," he said. "I guess it was silly for me to come. You've got a new Pa anyway."
"No!" Alicia screamed. "You come here, and now you're going to leave again. Don't do what Ma did and give up!"
"Alicia," said Grace with tears in her eyes. "I didn't-"
"Yes you did," said Alicia. "You know what? I heard that Albert Ingalls was addicted to morphine for awhile, but his Pa's didn't give up on him. Why did you give up on our Pa?"
Grace walked over to Alicia and took her by the shoulders. She made eye contract with the young woman. "Sometimes, things go so wrong that you don't know how to make them right again. That's what happened with my marriage to Isaiah."
"I think you were a coward, too" said Alicia coldly. She stood up, turned, and walked out.
"Isaiah," said Grace. "I am sorry, but I did the best I could." She left as well.
Carl and Isaiah stared at each other. Before Isaiah make a move, Carl spoke.
"I'm not sure why you came here," said Carl. "But you did. You were always closer to John and Alicia, maybe because you and I were too much alike. We both liked adventure, and even to make a little trouble. But I'm not like you in one way. I'm not goin' to give up. I don't have a Pa. We never made Nathan our Pa, because we didn't want to be hurt again. And we didn't want to see Ma hurt, so I guess that's why we stayed even after we were old enough to leave home." Isaiah was surprised at the news about Nathan. "No you won't be my Pa," said Carl. "But maybe you can be someone I talk to, sometimes."
Carl took a pencil and paper from the desk and wrote their address on it. "Here," he said. "If you write me, I'll write you. I'm not sure about Alicia.
Isaiah nodded. Both men stood and Isaiah shook Carl's hand. "You've grown into a fine young man," he said.
"Part of that's thanks to you," Carl replied.
Isaiah smiled, grateful that Carl carried some good memories of him. "You've changed me for the better, too Carl."
Carl turned and left. Ma had given up on Isaiah, because he had changed from the man she loved. But now Ma was married again. If she regretted anything, it was her choice to live with, not his or Alicia's, Carl realized. But maybe Ma had a good reason. But it was not for Carl to think about.
In his hotel room, Isaiah decided not to try put the past behind him anymore. The past would stand beside him, as he made his way through life.