Friday, March 20, 2009

Leaving On A Jet Plane

I'll be heading for Victoria, British Columbia, Canada tomorrow. I will bring my computer but will be working on a design job up there so I don't know how much writing I'll get to. But I will blog about Victoria, which is a lovely city. Down here the temps have been in the seventies, even reaching the eighties but I guess it's colder than a witches tit up there. I will have to adapt! Maybe spring will arrive with me, I'll drag it up from Sunny California. So then I can see the flowers bloom, as in the picture posted here. Victoria is so pretty in the spring.

All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Can’t see what good it does to say so now, but the truth is, I never liked the bastard from day one. My son brought Jim Mead fishing, and I ended up spending an entire afternoon out on the boat with the two of them. “Gee Dad,” Adam began, just after we’d dropped Jim off in front of his palatial house, a squall had forced us to give up the ghost and head on home, “You sure were quiet today.”

I couldn’t very well confess to Adam that I didn’t like his new friend, and for no particular reason either. I just flat out didn’t care for the damn kid. You meet certain people and they put you off. It’s as if you can’t stand the way they smile, what they choose to talk about, the sound of their voice. Certain people just can’t help but rub you the wrong way. “Was I that quiet?”

“You sure were,” he said, studying my reaction. “The quieter you were, the more Jim talked. I think all that silence made him nervous. Plus, he’s never been fishing before.”

“Ah, sorry, I got a lot on my mind these days.”

Adam ran his bony hand up and down his pant leg and said, “Yeah Dad, I know.”

“I thought being out on the lake would take the edge off. And it did. Thanks for coming.” Many of my friends couldn’t get their kids to go anywhere with them. I was glad my son still wanted to fish with the old man. It seemed petty for me to have developed an aversion to his pal the way I had.

“I’m glad,” he said. “I know it’s hard, being forced to move out for no good reason, having to live alone and stuff. I can’t help but be mad at Mom. She just doesn’t make any sense. I can’t see how she’s better off without you around.”

“I make her feel bad about herself.” Discussing my problems with his mother was absolutely not the right thing to do. But I couldn’t seem to stop myself. My mouth started running like a sick bird’s ass. “I’m such a fool, when she asked me if I thought she was too fat, I said yes. That was my first mistake. And then she told me that her weight gain made her feel more substantial, and what did I do? I scoffed. Not a smart move. She said I wasn’t interested in listening to her feelings. Even now. I hear her wrong. I can’t seem to find my footing with that woman.” I needed to replace my wiper blades. It was raining so hard that I could barely make out the road ahead of us through the torrent of water rushing over the windshield.

From the seat next to me I sensed Adam’s breathing quicken. He didn’t deserve to listen while I unloaded my crap. I knew that. “But you guys used to get along,” he pointed out. I felt bad, glancing over momentarily I saw his forehead crinkle up.

“I thought we did,” I said, turning my attention back to the blurred view. “But your mother told me that she was unhappy with me from the beginning. Seems I’ve always been terribly evasive, that I’m a snide jerk. In these last years especially. I promised to change—but she’s not interested in waiting for a miracle. Those are her words, not mine.”

When I pulled up to my old house a familiar sadness strangled what little warmth I had left inside. I began to shiver, said goodbye to my son, and struggled to hold back a sob. Swallowing agony down like some nasty horse pill.

The next time I saw Jim he was standing outside my old house on the lawn talking to my ex wife. When they spotted me driving up the road their smiles turned into frowns. What could the kid possibly have against me? Surely Donna wouldn’t badmouth me to Adam’s friend. Would she?

“What’s up?” I asked, once I’d climbed out of the Corvette. “Where’s Adam?”

“He’s got practice,” Donna told me, using that exasperated tone she liked to use when she found herself disappointed with my actions. “It’s Wednesday Russ.”

“Oh crap,” I shook my head. “I was supposed to go to the school. Too much on my mind, I guess. I’ll hurry over there.”

“No point going now, you’re too late. I’ll call him and tell him to ride home with Mandy.” Donna pulled her cell phone out of her pocket.

I felt like a fool. “Hold on,” I said. “Adam can stay put for a few minutes. I’ll rush over there. We’re going to the movies. It just makes sense for him stay where he is.”

I waited for Donna to get a hold of Adam. In the meantime Jim asked me how I liked my car. He said his father had considered buying a Corvette, but decided on a Viper instead. Well, the guy was a freaking oncologist. I’m only a lowly finance manager at the Chevy dealership.

Adam would wait for me. I headed back towards my car. Anxious to get in one last dig, Donna called out to me, “Don’t forget where you’re going.” I bristled to see Donna and Jim yucking it up at my expense as I drove away. Another reason to dislike him lengthened my list. That, and the fact that the little pecker-head had figured out how to make Donna smile.

By summer I had come to the conclusion that it was time to move on. I would never return to live in my old house. We were going to sell. Donna had her eye on a condo complex near Universal Studios. I had finally broken down and hired a divorce lawyer to make sure that I wouldn’t be taken to the cleaners.

At the end of June I stopped by the house to pick up my son because we were driving up to San Francisco. I thought Adam would get a kick out of the city. Jim helped load his bags. “Have fun,” he mumbled. “I wish I was driving up the coast with my dad. As if that would ever happen.”

We were flying north on the 101 and Adam said, “I feel sorry for Jim. His dad’s never home and his mother’s a bimbo.”

“I’m sure they’ll take him somewhere this summer.”

“No Dad. They won’t. They just send him off to New York to visit his big sister. His parents live in their own little world. They pretty much ignore him.”

“That’s too bad,” I say. “At least you know that your mother and I love you.”

I agreed to go on a date with a rather forward girl from work. Amber was a shapely divorcee with a couple of little kids, quite a bit younger than I was. Despite my efforts to dissuade her from pursuing me she just wouldn’t give up. “Look,” I said, “I’m not ready for a relationship.”

“Me neither,” she said. “I just want to fool around.”

I took Amber at her word. Because there was no way in hell I was about to get involved with a young chick with two little chicks of her own. No way.

We’d gone on a few dates and Amber asked to come over one weekend so she might meet Adam. Warning bells sounded through my distressed brain. “No,” I told her, “we agreed not to drag the kids into this. Remember? Keep it light. No involvement. None of that. You do remember, don’t you?” Of course she claimed that she did but I had my doubts.

On Saturday mornings I always took Adam out for breakfast. He stayed with me almost every weekend unless his mother had something going on. We were sitting at Jerry’s Famous Deli eating pastrami and eggs and I asked him if his mother was seeing anyone. “I couldn’t help noticing that she’s dropped a few pounds, and had her hair styled.”

“Who knows?” Adam’s eyes were so uncharacteristically vacant as he added, “She’s up to something though. I don’t ask because I don’t care.”

Like a fool I let his comment go. I sipped my coffee and changed the subject.

The neighbor heard three shots. Donna and Jim were naked in her bed. Adam had taken aim from the doorway, shooting his mother and his friend point blank with my rifle. Then he turned the smoking gun on himself.

Adam left a note in his room. I read it and then burnt it. My son’s words still haunt me and I wake up at three o’clock in the morning almost every single night. Boatloads of whiskey can’t make me sleep. Neither can those tiny sleeping pills the doctor prescribed. I may never see a full night sleep again. I don’t deserve one.

All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

My Irish Papa

My father was proud of his Irish blood. St. Paddy’s Day was a big deal to him. He always cooked up a batch of corned beef with cabbage and potatoes. And, he would play those same old records. Danny Boy, Irish Eyes Are Smiling. Corny? Maybe, but not to his way of thinking.

Some sort of party was usually thrown. Big or small, it didn’t matter, as long as there was an audience after he’d thrown back a few and was ready to launch into one of his always riveting yarns about the old days and our ancestors.

Papa passed away December 17th, 2009. I can tell you this, we’ll be missing him tonight when we dig into our version of his corned beef and cabbage. We’ll make a toast to his memory and we might even try to do justice while telling one or two of his stories. It’s important that the kids don’t forget where they came from.

All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Neville died at four o’clock in the morning. Darci watched him take his last ragged breath and that was the end of that. She lay her head on the bed next to him and fell asleep. It was her daughter Rose that woke her. A hand on her shoulder, and a voice calling, “Mom. Mom! Wake up.”

Wouldn’t you know it—her neck had a kink? Well, of course, it was almost nine o’clock.

“Daddy’s gone,” Rose said, her face contorting.

“I know,” Darci declared, rising from the chair.

“When?” Rose asked, she was standing at her father’s side, touching his cold cheek.

“A few hours ago.”

“We better call.”

“I suppose we should,” Darci said, feeling sick and tired of the word “should”.


We buried my sweet husband at Forest Lawn, next to our son Slade. Rose was upset with me for leaving on a cruise two weeks after Neville’s funeral. I explained that his long drawn out illness had already provided me with more than enough time to mourn—more than enough. I had willed him to die at the end. I couldn’t wait. Don't get your panties in a bunch, I’m not stupid, I didn’t tell my daughter that I willed him to go. She couldn’t begin to understand.

Neville had always wanted to take an Alaskan cruise but we’d never gotten around to it. He was only forty-six, and like most couples do, we assumed that we had all the time in the world to grow old together. We planned on making fun of each other’s wrinkles and liver spots. But Cancer robbed us of our future together.

I sigh when I sit on the bed in the cabin on the ship. I don’t cry yet. I just sigh. Since Neville wouldn’t stand for cremation I don’t have any ashes to spread. The cruise is my version of moving on. I know a little something about moving on. You don’t lose a child without learning a little something about moving on. Good God. Here I am, on my way to Alaska, and I can’t wait for the ship to pull out of the harbor. I can’t wait to see whales and the icebergs. I can’t wait to eat, drink, and be merry. I can use a little merriness. Is merriness a word? I can’t wait to escape. That’s a better way to put it. I am making a great escape.

I met a couple of ladies the second day out to sea. Frankie and Anita are widows too. We’ve banded together. I guess you could say I belong to a club of sorts. It doesn’t matter that they’re both a good fifteen years older than I am. We find common ground. My new friends are from Seattle. They live in the same condo complex. I tell them about my sprawling acreage, the big house, the animals, and all the responsibility waiting at home. I learn about their old lives, how they’ve managed to pare all that mumbo jumbo down. Things change drastically when you lose your man, they confide. I begin to ponder letting go. Deciding to give the horses and goats to Rose. I make up my mind to sell the house. This information is kept a secret for the time being. The deconstruction and reconstruction of my life is in the planning stages.

The cruise ends and we pledge to keep in touch: Frankie, Anita, and me.

Once home I begin to deconstruct. The son-in-law comes for the animals. I keep the dog. Boss is ancient. He’s on his way out. I could never expect the kids to take him. He pees all over the place and reeks from the inside out. No amount of bathing can improve my dog’s odor. 

I’ve made arrangements to only work a few days a week. It takes weeks to clean out the closets. I use e-bay, Craigslist, The Pennysaver. I purge. Good-bye sterling silver, (who has time to polish silver?) Good-bye Neville’s wardrobe, (many people will benefit from his good taste.) Good-bye books, (I bought an electronic reading device.) Good-bye piano, (I never did get lessons.) Good-bye pool table, (the son-in-law nabbed that one!) Good-bye old life.

“Mom,” Rose says, when she sees how empty the living room is, “I think you better slow down. You aren’t old. You’re only forty-six. When I see you reacting this way I have to wonder if you wouldn’t benefit from some grief counseling. You never went to see anyone after Slade…”

I cut her off. “I’m fine,” I tell her. “Don’t go there.”

This is what happens—right? Change? I’m embracing the inevitable. I’m being proactive in my own life. From here on in I decide to have a say in what I am forced to give up.

“It’s just…”

I cut Rose off again. “Do you want the rug?” I ask, pointing to my mother’s pastel pride and joy. A Persian family of five worked their fingers to the bones for years and years to produce the silken wonder back at the turn of the century.

“Mom!” Rose cries. “That rug’s worth a fortune. Have you lost your mind?”

“If you don’t want it I will sell it,” I say.

“No offense, but the colors don’t match anything in my house.” Rose is staring at the giant pink cabbage roses and the turquoise border. Her brow's all furrowed and I think she might break out in tears. “But, Grandma loved Her Oriental so much.”

“Grandma’s gone,” I say. “I’ll give that rug merchant in San Francisco a call. He’ll want it. The colors are all wrong for your place.”

A week later I bring in a hotshot realtor. “I want to buy your house for myself,” she says, and she hasn't even seen the upstairs.

So I sell the realtor my house for a fair price. Lower than market. Hey, it does my broken heart good, knowing that someone loves the place as much as Neville and I did.

Laugh all you want but I bought a motor home. I finally quit my job, so Boss and I hit the road. I had always wanted to see The Deep South, so we headed east. Funny, how that old dog has adapted to life on the road so well. We'll drive a spell, and then stop to eat lunch. Then I take him for a walk. We get back in the motor home, drive a bit longer, and then stop for the night.

One fine sunny spring day, just outside of Charleston, I pull into McDonald’s for an ice cream cone. I call to Boss, (he just loves chicken McNuggets), but he doesn’t respond. Which isn’t all that unusual. The old boy sleeps so soundly lately. I find a parking place, touch his wiry fur, and I know. The dog has left the building. I get down on the floor for one last hug. Then I feel it, an eruption from way deep inside causes me to make sounds that I never thought I’d be capable of making. Every sad song, every sad movie, every loss and every miserable moment converge to send me right over the edge. I remember my mother talking about those pour souls that can’t hold on and I worry that I have become one. I cry and wail and scream and curse. I throw everything and anything that I can get my hands on. I bang my head against the window. I cannot choose what I will lose. I can only choose what to do next. If Boss smells now he will only smell worse if I don’t do something. So I use my phone to find the address of the closest vet and I drive there and take care of business. After depositing my dog for disposal, I look at the open page of the atlas I decide to drive to The Great Lakes. I have no way of knowing just what will happen next, but then, who the hell does?

All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.