The House on Country Road

forties porch

 The house on Country Road is empty now
The shadows hesitate as the memories linger

Liz
No love is lost as my heart goes back
listening for the melody of the singer

forties shadows dooe

The scent of lives once lived inside the walls
stays upon my skin like notes inside my head

forties smoking

So strange the way life once so alive,
is the part inside of me that is now most dead.

Keri London

1977

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#47 Dear Journal Suicide

ironing board waiting

Dear Journal,

I know it’s been a few weeks since I posted after I told you that Jack and I got engaged and I am sorry but it’s been hard to sit down to even think or gather my thoughts like I like to when I write to you. But let me explain…

I guess there is just NO way to say it but     bluntly.

I am not sure how such joy can turn into such sadness in just the blink of an eye. Like I said, it’s been a few weeks since the funeral and I am not sure how to even begin. I know I need to, because writing in you has become my soft place to fall, a place to perhaps even help me remember someday. But this is something that I don’t need to write down because I know I will never forget these last few days.

I don’t know how to even write it except to just say it. Liz is dead.

We were going to tell her about our being engaged that night of the day that they found her. I guess Rachel had been keeping in touch with her. The pattern usually was Jack would run to her from wherever he was. Even another state going to school. But I was the one who’d stopped him from doing that. I thought I was protecting him. I thought that I was helping them break a bad habit and to stop the madness. I didn’t expect her to kll herself.

I was ironing what I was going to wear that night. I was so happy. I was suprised that a lot of my friends were not thrilled about my news about being engaged, including my mom who kept saying that we should have a LONG engagement. I just knew that Liz would be happy for us. But I wanted to be firm with her and set up boundaries. I kept thinking about if we had babies how I would feel uncomfortable leaving them with her and how I didn’t want to feel that way about my own mother in law and now I didn’t have to worry. She was gone. I would never have to worry about that again.

I kept looking at the clock. Jack was over an hour late. Finally his dad called me and said “Keri honey, I am sorry to have to tell you this over the phone, but Jack’s mom died, he will call you as soon as he can.” At first I thought something had happened to Jack but his dad is a man of few words and cut to the chase. I just hung up the phone and crumpled to the floor and stayed that way sobbing and remembering Liz from the beginnng, the fun times, and the long talks and then the not so good times and the times Jack had shared and wondered what I was thinking butting in. I just hated myself for a while and was feeling so guilty.

crying on the phone

In the days that followed Jack was stoic. We’d learned that she’d taken a lot of valium but not a lethal dose so we don’t think that this was another actual suicide attempt. The findings were that the combination of alcohol and valium is what caused her to die. But I couldn’t help but think if I had just stayed out of it and let Jack go when he wanted to, and bring her the stupid cat food she might still be here. No. She would still be here. I wonder if Jack felt the same. He was being so sweet to me but I couldn’t help it. I truly felt that I killed her and Oh Dear Journal, I am just so sad for Jack and for me and for Liz and for everyone. I can’t stop crying.

sad woman2

 

 

 

 

 

#42 A Change Of Plans

 perinos menu

Dear Journal,

So Jack wandered into the spotless kitchen. And looked concerned when he didn’t find a turkey in the oven or the dining room table set for a holiday meal or anything. Rachel was showing me a mother of pearl necklace that her boyfriend had gotten her when Jack came out and eyed an opened bottle of wine and looked at Rachel who shrugged and told us that it was opened when she got there. Jack’s smile vanished and he looked  worried. I felt so sorry for him. The whole way to her house he talked about his mother’s great cooking.

Finally Liz came floating into the room with a long black velvet skirt and cashmere sweater smelling like cigarettes and chanel #5. She kissed us all on the cheek and poured herself another glass of wine before sitting next to Rachel and said “Lets get this party started.” Poor Jack bless his heart, dutifully began distributing all the gifts in front of the recipents. Rachel and Liz loved their gold crosses and Jack had snuck and bought me one too. We all had to stop and put them on and he helped each one of us with the clasp and then sat smiling as we admired each other’s.

Rachel and Liz loved the Bibles. I’d snuck and gotten one for Jack with his name on it too that he seemed to love. Then I fished out the gift I’d been saving. He thought I’d just gotten him the Bible but I’d also put a digital gold watch he’d eyed at Zales on layaway one of the times we’d been looking for rings. I even had it engraved with “forever K” He was so surprised,  I thought he was going to cry for a minute but he said he loved it and put it on and then made everyone admire it.  Then he began piling presents around me after that. I was so embarrassed. He’d bought me an Elna Sewing machine  and  cross country skiis and his mom bought me a beautiful camel colored coat with a fur collar. And said “You can wear it tonight because I am taking you all to Perinos!”

Wben I heard Rachel say… “Mom I thought that the plan was, that you were cooking?” I was so grateful that she took the lead on that one because I just know Liz would have been on the defense if Jack had asked the same question. But she just lit another cigarette and explained, “Oh no! I want to treat you all to a REAL Christmas Dinner.” And looked at me and said “Keri honey, you wanna hand me that little bottle of merlot sweetie?” I just smiled and poured her some more as Jack looked miserable and Rachel asked, “What time are reservations?” Liz lit another cigarette and told her six thirty. Jack looked at his new watch and said “it’s almost six now.” So we all begain getting up and getting our coats on.  Liz saw Jack’s coat and asked him if he was going to wear THAT and pointed to it as if it were a rag. I saw Jack’s face turn red as he took the keys from his mom’s hand and said “I’ll drive.” As we all walked out the door.

#41

Christmas apartment

Dear Journal

Christmas Eve was wonderful. My parents bought Jack a rawhide suede jacket with a fleece lining and he bought my dad his favorite wine and this book on sail planes and a wine opener that works with helium or something but he loved it. He bought my mom a set of new acrylic paints and Winsor  brushes that she loved. I was kind of hoping that he’d get me a ring because we’d been looking but I really think that we were looking just for fun.Though it was weird because we even went in one store and had my finger sized.

After we opened all our gifts my parents went up to bed and Lonnie was playing with his race car set that Jack bought him. They’d set it up in his room and I think Jack enjoyed it as much as my little brother. But he finally came back downstairs. I made us hot chocolate with marshmallows (his favorite) and we sat in front of the fire kissing.  I don’t think that I will ever grow tired of kissing Jack.  And I think that this was one of his happiest Christmases ever! He didn’t stop smiling all night even when he kissed me goodnight, he stepped off the porch whistling.

He came early to pick me up on Christmas morning and we took his dad his presents. His dad gave me a book of poetry written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Did I tell you that she is supposed to be my ancestor? Well, anyway,  I thought it was very thoughtful!

And then we went to Liz’s. I helped Jack carry in our gifts to his mom and sister and I had mine to him hidden in my purse. He had obviously been there earlier in the week because my presents were all wrapped and under the tree. He seemed so excited for me to see all the gifts because he knew my dad did that for me but if the truth was really known, I would have been happier if he had just one little present in his pocket maybe…. But I am glad he didn’t choose last night to give it to me. For reasons you will soon understand.

When we arrived, his sister Rachel answered the door. It was about 3PM. The plan was that we were going to open our presents and then have dinner that Liz was supposed to be making. Rachel hugged me and we both laughed because we’d worn very similar long velveteen Christmas dresses with black ballet slippers. “Great minds think a like.” She laughed. Then  took Jack’s new  jacket  and admired it. Jack was all proud and told her that my  parents had given it to him. After all the greetings, Jack asked “where’s mom and why am I not smelling the turkey?” Rachel looked stressed and gave him a long worried sideways glance and told us that plans had been changed.

 

Dear Journal #28 Adult Children of Alcoholics

Dear Journal,

I love my new job! The kids are so great! Kathy, the teacher that I am assisting is amazing.

school class

She lives in Newport Beach, right on the water with her gorgeous husband.  John Wayne’s boat is docked just a few boat docks away from their’s.

dock

I have signed up for college at Harbor and am taking a full load at night. I am going to major in Speech Pathology! My dad seemed so proud of me. I was surprised. I didn’t think he cared if I went to college. Jack also said that he was proud too, but he complained when I told him that I have classes every night but Fridays. He didn’t seem too happy about that. So on Friday nights I’ve started to bring him dinner. He is still working at night, at the job my dad got him in the basement of the City Hall and runs the city’s payroll there and then works at Amber Oil a few days a week with his mom (when she shows up.) THAT is another story for another day! But I don’t think that is going to last for too much longer!

The fact that we see each other much less than we used to seems to have helped in one way and yet put more pressure on us in a totally different way. Jack has been talking about looking for a place. It is too hard for us to be alone at his dad’s or at my house and he is really getting more pushy about sex. Even thought I keep telling him that I want to wait until we are married. But I have to admit that we both get pretty carried away at those Friday night breaks.

kiss kiss

Since we are the only ones in the building at night, and there is a lock on the computer room door, Jack usually eats the dinner I bring after I leave and takes his dinner break with me. Maybe it is a little longer than he might normally get if he had the day shift! But his boss told him that as long as he was there in case something went wrong, he didn’t care what he did as long as the work got done. At first it all startes with just  kissing  and then we started messing around a little more each time until we ended up on the office floor!

kissing on the floor

His mom kept bugging me to go to her doctor and so I did get birth control. Liz and I have become good friends but I still find it a little creepy that she talks about sex with me considering it is her son that is the subject. So now I have birth control pills but I’m not taking them because I don’t plan on needing them. There are other things we can do. Which she also talked to me about and I changed the subject. That was way too much information from my boyfriend’s mom! I think she tries to be a parent but I am beginning to realize that she just doesn’t think the same way all the moms I know do.

Liz is different than anyone I have ever known. A few months ago, we went out with her dad and his wife. She was treating them for their anniversary and wanted us to come along to drive. I am not sure what happened but someone said something to tick her off, I think it was her dad. Well, she just flipped out. The thing is, my parents never fight. I just am not used to adults being so crazy. I just wanted to slide under the table. Jack  paid the bill and then wrote down his grandparent’s address for me and told me he’d call a cab and asked if I could stay and go with them and make sure that they got home okay and then have  the driver take me to his mom’s. He handed me a couple twenties and guided his mom out of the door. I just sat there staring at this old couple that I barely knew and started apologizing. I’m not sure why I was apologizing, but I couldn’t help it. They just looked so miserable and helpless. But somehow, I kind of think that this wasn’t their first big scene that they’d experienced with their daughter.

taxi sign

taxi

It is hard for me to look back and remember the details, I think that I have already blocked that night out of my head. Though I am kind of proud that I was able to navigate everyone to the places that we were supposed to be and help Jack. I feel bad for him. He keeps trying to create these normal family times and they always seem to backfire. I think he thought that his mom was doing better. She was on a new medication and showing up to work pretty regularly but she was not supposed to be drinking. I personally don’t think that she can go OUT and not drink. I also think that we shouldn’t have gone to a place that she used to go with Richard.

dancing out

When she ordered that first drink, I saw Jack tense up. By the third drink, I think we both knew that we were in trouble.

drinks

#27 Steep Hills

Dear Journal,

Catching up again… after some missing pages…

Luckily my Senior Year only had one class  I actually had to physically attend. All  the others were Independent Study Classes like this one or Work Experience that already had given me enough credits to graduate early. I just needed my Government credits and finally recived them! Sooo, I am officially out of School!!!! No ceremonies or anything, though I do have the option of walking with my class. I probably won’t. I just needed my days free. Yaaay! Which is a good thing because I’ve had to spend a lot of time helping Jack deal with his mom. He had a heart to heart with her and found out that she’d been hiding something.  After a lot of crying and not making sense we finally  learned that the reason for her suicide attempt was because Richard moved out.

hospital pic

He signed everything over to Jack’s mom and just wanted out. The note said that he was tired of the fighting.  He left it all, their gorgeous home on Country Road, his family business. He even sold his boat in the Marina and took that money and just left in his jaguar. So far he hasn’t contacted anyone and Liz just kind of flipped out . I’m not sure, he even knows that she was in the hospital. I think that when she realized he was really gone, it made her snap out of her self destructive fog and take control again. She’s been back to work for a while now and sadly had to put her house on the market and we’ve been looking at places for her.

house for sale

We got through Christmas and I’m really looking forward to working at the Speech Center in a few weeks. Which brings me to my next piece of news! Since I will be driving an hour a day to work, Jack and my dad surprised me with a new car for Christmas. Well, new to me.  With Lonnie starting sports, my mom really needed her car more and if you remember me telling you that my dad told me that for my eighteenth birthday he’d match anything I made last summer. We’d been looking for several months past my birthday until Jack found this little Fiat and took my dad to see it. My dad said it was an early Christmas present and wouldn’t take my money! He and Jack went together to buy it and I guess it was this horrible green color when they found it but for my gift,  Jack paid to get it painted Canary Yellow. My favorite color. He was so excited to give it to me and so my dad let him be the one to surprise me with it. I think the whole thing really bonded them.  Jack was so impressed with my dad’s negotiation skills. He kept re-telling me the story over and over again about how they almost walked out and how he was so sure that it was over  until the salesman called them back.  My dad seems to enjoy hearing Jack tell the story too.

yellow fiat

 

The only thing that upset me was that it is a stick shift! My heart kind of fell when I went out and saw that. But I didn’t want to ruin the moment. I actually kind of would have liked to pick out my own car period. Do I sound ungrateful?  I already can feel the tension imagining Jack or my dad for that matter, trying to teach me how to drive it! They both aren’t the most patient teachers. We have been out a few times and Jack yelled at me and told me that I was going to strip the gears. But he makes me so nervous. We had a horrible fight during my last driving lesson. He couldn’t seem to understand why I was having such a hard time catching on since I already could drive but I was freaking out on the hills.

police stopping car

A police man pulled us over and he told me to let him do the talking. But I was in the driver’s seat and the officer was talking to me. It just seemed stupid to stay quiet and let Jack lean over so I told him that I was sorry but I was just learning how to drive a stick and gave him my license. He let me go with a warning but Jack and I traded seats. He yelled at me all the way home. My parents were out of town and we’d planned a nice evening alone. But  we were both in no mood when we pulled into my driveway. He parked my car and screeched off and I ran inside. Sometimes I think I hate him!

spitfite green in rain

The next morning was Saturday and  I woke up at 3 AM and tiptoed down the stairs with my keys. I know that what was scaring me was the traffic and so I figured that at that time of the morning I would be alone on the road and I was. I drove all the way to Manhattan Beach and drove all the way home taking every steep street I could find until I mastered stopping and starting on a hill.  I was so happy when I got home because I knew that I really had gotten the concept down.

steep hills 2

I’d totally forgotten our fight as I ran into the house to answer the phone. I still had my keys in my hand and a big old smile on my face when I heard Jack’s voice ask”Where were you!?! I looked at the time and saw that it was almost 9:30.  I was so happy that I’d learned how to drive and there was nobody at home to tell so I told him,”I taught myself to drive!”

Dear Journal Entry #23 Catching up!!!!

Dear Journal,

Liz is back at work and seems to be doing better. I was able to help her get caught up or should I say, had been keeping up with most of her  duties along with mine, so she didn’t have so much to do when she returned. She seemed grateful and pretty surprised. I think that she thought that she was going to come back to a huge mess.

woman sitting at typewriter

I  think that Richard stays on his boat some nights and at their house other nights but they laugh and joke in the office like old friends so it’s nice to  feel the positive change, which has taken some of the pressure off of Jack who always seems to feel as if he has to shoulder the burden of whatever is going on with his mom. He shared more stories  with me about how he received scholarships to go away to two schools and his mom called him both times with emergencies interrupting his semesters, causing him to lose a bunch of credits during both school years. It made me so angry to hear that. It made it a little easier for me to tell her about my job at TheSpeech and Language Develpment School in Buena Park but she sounded so happy for me. Happier then Jack seemed to be. She was so nice when I told her that I had to leave that  I felt a little guilty. Not that I would have stayed longer at Amber Oil, school was starting and it was all supposed to be temporary anyway, but I did learn a lot and I could even have more work experience credits if I needed them, which I don’t! If I took a test, I could probably graduate this month!

I do have some exciting news to catch you up on! My dad came home about a month ago, with a new job possibility for Jack! He is one of the Vice Presidents of Marketing at his computer company in El Segundo and he said that there was an entry level computer operator opening there and I know Jack was touched that my dad would even think of him. And I was happy because I think maybe he was thinking about our future together! Anyway, I wasn’t sure that Jack would even be interested. I mean, he’d never even talked about computers and he was already working for his mom and Richard. But he did seem interested and took the card he gave him and decided to apply and he got the job! My dad just told him that no one but Jack’s bosses boss knew his relationship to my dad and he was to keep it that way!

business card

Jack was so serious and cute and shook my dad’s hand and said “Yes sir.” I laughed so hard later mimicking him. So now he still works for Amber Oil three days a week in the day doing sales and Monday through Thursday nights from 3 to 12 he will work at CSCC!. He is so excited and wants to go back to college to finish his degree in Computer Sciences and my dad seemed so proud and came home the other day and said he heard good reports so far and to keep up the good work.

shaking hands2

We took a drive that night to go celebrate everything while it was still getting dark later. Earlier that summer, we’d found this spot on the cliffs nearby, where we’d watch the sun set and sometimes even watched it rise on the days we’d wake up early enough in the summer when my parents were out of town and it was really warm outside. Jack would pick me up and we’d pile up a bunch of blankets and pillows in the car and go up there when it was still dark.  It was so fun kind of like camping out just waiting for the sun with a thermos of coffee. Half the time we’d  miss  it because we’d get caught up in kissing or whatever else we happened to be doing and lie half naked, tangled up in each other, on the top of the hill looking up at the stars,  as we could hear the waves breaking below.

kissing on the beach

Journal Entry #21 My Summer Job

Dear Journal,

I feel the tension in the air. On Friday nights I have found myself sitting on my floor typing out invoices that I can’t get done at work because I am doing Liz’s job too. I am not sure what is going on. The first month, she was there everyday and was such a wonderful teacher. She said I was a fast learner and Jack seemed so proud. I guess that is a good thing because she hasn’t been IN a lot this month.

writing matters

She has not been feeling well and not been coming in. Richard seems very sad. This company was his mom’s and once when we were talking he told me that sometimes he just wants to go find a broom pushing job and be done with it all. He says he is tired. I felt so bad for him. He just wanted someone to talk to so I stopped and listened and let him talk and he poured his heart out. I wasn’t sure what to say because I’ve never really heard my parent’s fight. But he just seemed happy to have someone to talk to. He just sat there with his hands folded on his desk looking so lost.

hands folded on desk

He said he doesn’t care about the money or the houses or the cars and boats anymore and that he would be happy living on his sailboat that he has docked at the Marina or just a small room somewhere.

sailboat docked2

He just wants to go anywhere where there is not fighting.  Jack seems worried and pretty stressed out and doesn’t seem so happy at work anymmore either. I think that he just wants a normal family so bad and so believed that if we all worked together it would all magically be okay. But it’s not. Like I said, Liz has been a good teacher but I am afraid that I can only do so much. It is pretty busy and one of the truckers that works for Richard  has come in to help me, but for the most part. I am alone in the office and somedays I just want to cry. I think Jack has come into the office a few times when I was just about to, and sat down to answer the phones to try to help out. But there really should be more than two people in there, it is so busy.

typing at desk

I turned 18 right before summer and so I have started looking for dental assisting jobs. The plan was that I would just work for part of the summer anyway so I will finish out next month and  will have saved up enough from my pay checks for my dad to help me buy a car.  I only have a few units left to finish  my Senior year and am hoping  to graduate in December so I can work my way into a full time job somewhere else. I keep looking over at that empty desk and wonder if Jack’s mom is ever coming back.

desk empty corner

 My summer has definitely not turned out to be the way Laurie and I imagined it would be. So much for having the summer off! Jack and I are almost done with our Soaring lessons. We have been faithfully going every Saturday. Sometimes we spend the night in Corona at a motel or we have even camped in a tent at Lake Elsinore. My instructor Glen is so sweet. He is about fifty and from Scotland. He has this great accent and everytime he greets me he says; “Top of the morning!” Instead of hello. So I had a tee shirt made for him and plan to give it to him when I finally solo. Jack is talking about buying a plane. He made friends with an older man named Steve who flies at the Glider Port. He already has a power license and his solo license . He has talked to Jack about maybe buying one together as co-owners. We met him a few weeks ago to look at one in Hemet but it is just a one seater. But that is just fine with me. The plan is that they will take turns sharing it, every other weekend.

 

glidersI know that I can’t suggest it until we have both soloed, because I want to finish what I started. But I really have no desire to do anything more than to maybe say that I actually soloed.  I was hoping that Jack might make some friends of his own so that I can hang out with my friends. They are beginning to get annoyed and Laurie wants me to help her move to her dorms. I am not sure how to bring it up. I am sure he is going to feel that I don’t want to be with him but that’s not it at all. I just want to be with my friends too.

friends talking at a round table