“The family business continued to flourish and all was well until late 1976, when Nicholas was nine years old and Theo was six. As youngsters, they were finely attuned, as children are, to the relationship between their parents. They could recognise tension, even though they didn’t know the cause, and they knew that tension meant things were not well, but that it didn’t usually last very long.
One day, the boys knew a tension that didn’t lift or go away. Their father suddenly became moody and withdrawn. He was over-anxious about Charis and the children, wanting to know where they were at all times, and panicking if they were out of his sight. At other times he was angry, easily losing his temper. He no longer took the boys to visit Spyridon at the travel agency, and the few times he needed to go away for a weekend on business the whole family went with him, or they were left in the care of other family members.
Theo remembered staying with Caterina once when Dymas was away during this time. He eavesdropped on his mother talking to Caterina, to try to make sense of what was happening. He heard them discussing Uncle Stepan. Nicholas and Theo never knew Uncle Stepan, as he had mysteriously disappeared before they were born.
In these conversations, Theo heard words like ‘sane’ and ‘insane’, and phrases such as ‘losing his mind like Stepan’. These words and phrases meant nothing to him as a six-year-old boy. He told Nicholas the things he overheard, and Nicholas tried to reassure his younger brother that all was well.
Later, when they were older, Nicholas told Theo that he had also overheard such conversations. Being older than Theo, he understood more of what was said, but wanted to spare his younger brother the worry.
Both of them, however, understood simple phrases such as, ‘When Stepan disappeared’, and questions like, ‘Have you thought about getting him to see the doctor?’
This gave them enough understanding to think that maybe their father was sick. They also concluded that whatever was wrong with him was the same thing that had been wrong with Uncle Stepan. They also heard Yia-Yia Caterina say that Papou Alcandor ‘went through the same thing’. This scared them, because they knew that Uncle Stepan was gone, and that Papou Alcandor eventually died.
This was a dreadful time for Nicholas and Theo. Charis did her best to reassure them that all was well, but it was difficult because she didn't believe it herself.”