Miss Khandie Ch. 04bySweetNightingale©
Real life sometimes catches you buy surprise, so please forgive me for having posted this chapter late. I dedicate this to griffin57, a good friend and a another amazing writer who believes in my talent and work.
Took a one way trip back to Glen Ellyn, Chicago and a cab to the very place I had refused to go back to for so many years after me and my dad's last fight. My dad was a retired veteran, hard ass everything-my way type of guy. I could never really win an argument with the man. He renovated his dad's house, my grandfather and his father before him, after he died and moved in while my mom was pregnant with me. The big house was built near Lake Ellyn a couple miles down from where Lake Glen Ellyn Hotel once had been. It was an old house, stood tall during the day and silent at night, so silent you could hear the mice crawling through the walls. Brown-black hardwood floors that creaked when you walked a crossed them, tall narrow windows, too narrow hallways—you get the gist? The house scared me.
I was hesitant walking up the old cobblestone walkway towards the wraparound porch. The old mailbox just inside was packed and overflowing with old mail. The grass was dead and garbage was strewn out everywhere. The iron gate had been partially open and infested with poison ivy, which was rare, given the paranoid state of my dad; he would have locked it before settling down at night. My great grandmother's old rocking chair was still sitting silently in the same spot it had been when I was just a boy, on the right side of the doubled door beside its matching table in front of the doors side window. The old flower beds were dead with old dirt and weeds. This wasn't right. My mother would have kept up with not only the garden, but the trimming of the poison ivy and she would never have let the yard get as bad as it was.
I climbed the porch stairs, stopping at the front door. My heart raced against my chest, choking up into my throat and fighting butterflies I hardly even wanted. I couldn't imagine what my dad's reaction would be when he opened the door.
Three minutes spoke to me. One said turn around, go back to Tanya, apologize. Two said you're a fucking idiot, why would the old man ever want to see you? Three said do this for your mother, she probably really misses you. Four came around and my head was clear, my heart settled and my hand wrapped on the door with a closed fist. Six snuck up on me, two minutes into the night I'd been standing at the door for seven and nobody responded. My instinct told me someone was inside.
"Mom? Dad?" When nine rolled around, I decided to try my luck with the door knob; surprisingly it surrendered to my prying touch.
The house was dark, silent and almost too lonely. I stepped in, pushing the door closed and letting my eyes adjust before reaching out to the left and flipping the foyer light on. I set my suitcase down letting my eyes roam over the small desk sitting just below the mirror against the hallway's wall which was located right a crossed from the stairs. A sudden rush of regret and sorrow overtook me. What if my dad over the years had convinced my mom not to speak to me? There were so many questions that were shooting through my mind that it hurt.
I moved towards the stairs, slowly climbing them and calling out to my dad. With as much silence as there was in the house, I began to think I was the only one as I journeyed through room after room, hall after hall reminiscing on my childhood. I was an only child at the time that played with older cousins and teased nieces for the hell of it until I had sprouted into a teen, which was when my little sister was born. Then that horrible day came. . .hardly eighteen years old, kicked out all because. . .why does it really matter? It's been five years, I'm twenty three now almost old enough to understand his reasons, yet the child in me is still confused.
I'd made my way to the living rooms threshold which was right beside the wall of the stairs, flipping the light on and feeling my heart flutter with a rush of panic, you know that feeling you get when someone's already in the room and it silently scares you? That's how I was feeling. Moving around towards the end of the couch so I could get a better look of the shadowed figure, due to the dull overhead light, I slowly began to realize who it was. My dad seemed to have aged a hundred years. His figure wasn't that toned soldier build he used to have during the days that I knew him. He was gaunt with a hunched figure and hair whiter than a set of pearls. Even from where I stood I could see the mark of old age, the spots people begin to inherit when they're in their late fifties going on sixty. His blue eyes were dull and sad, so sad it made my heart ache.
Even moving towards him, he didn't move or acknowledge my presence, he just stared blankly at the floor with his bony wrists resting on the arm of his chair and his fingers curled lazily around it. I knelt down beside his right knee, glancing over his face, hesitantly placing my hand on his. Slowly, he came back, turning his head towards mine and looking into my eyes.
"Hi dad. . ." I was surprised at how soft the words had come out. His eyes danced back and forth between mine, masking his thoughts and never uttering a word. "Where's mom?" I asked. No response. He incoherently mumbled something before pulling his hand back and struggling to stand. I had to help him.
"Dad-" He interrupted me, walking as slow as a tortoise through the living room, waving a hand.
"Your room." Was all he said before disappearing around the corner.
Through the months that followed I dedicated my time to rejuvenating the yard and my mothers old flower beds. I trimmed away the poison ivy, cleaned up the garbage, bagged the old mail and made sure the old iron gate was secure enough to lock and keep intruders out if the need to really be alone ever came. And despite all the work I tried to do to keep myself busy, Tanya's pretty face still plagued my mind.
Three months into my stay, I had finally gotten the time to sit down in the living room and separate my dad's mail from old to up-to-date, to current. There were unpaid bills, notices, companies and people who wanted him to return their calls even the bank had sent a letter of warning. He was almost two thousand dollars overdue in bills, which I couldn't understand because my mother was always on top of things like this. So being the good son that I am and knowing that something possibly was happening to my dad, mentally and physically—I returned the calls, I promised to pay the bills before they cut the power along with the water and heat. Prior to that, I received a phone call through all the havoc of having to return so many other phone calls. It was one that made my heart race and kept me up for two days worrying.
It was a call from Adventist GlenOaks Hospital, a woman named Ruth Barren, my father's nurse advised that he be brought in for a check up on a cancerous cell that they had found on his liver and a tumor on his brain that had removed four years ago that was re-accruing. I booked an appointment for this coming Monday before hanging up with her and nearly breaking down with surprise, not the crying type, the cat-got-your-tongue-I-can't-believe-this-is-happening type. My dad was all that was left of my family besides my sister, but god knows where she was now after so many years. There was a distant uncle and a few cousins I never talked too but that wasn't my concern. To add onto the stress that was building inside of me, I found a letter addressed to me from my mom, dated last April four years ago, unsent and hidden inside an old book lying on the corner of the coffee table. It was really an accident and one I wish I hadn't stumbled on but it was inevitable and the letter stared right at me as soon as that book hit the floor. Not only had I found that letter, I had also found her memorial card stuffed away inside that book with a picture of just the three of us, her holding me as a little boy and one of the only ones where my dad had actually looked happy. You can only imagine what someone could be feeling if nobody had ever told them that their mother or father or anyone so close to their soul and heart had died four years prior.
Apologies, wishes, reminisces, problems, your father had surgery, your great grandmother just passed away, your third cousin was in a horrible car accident and in intensive car; he'll be released in a month or so, your father's tumor hasn't resurfaced, your father had a stroke, heart attack, won't take his medicine, please come home, come home, come home. . .
Come home echoed through my head, her voice echoed through my head. . .wavering my heart and almost bringing tears to my eyes.
Come home, this is all I'm asking of my darling son. It would do your father good to see you and be able to speak to you. We have so many things to discuss—so on and so forth, signed Janette Louis-Françoise Kearn.
Yes, my heart felt as if it had just shattered into a million pieces. My mother's image flashed through my mind as the tears welled up and my fingers slowly crushed the edge of that letter in my hand. I was angry, betrayed, and hated by the one man who had given her the gift of life and the child she had always dreamt of. He hadn't told me because the very day I left he disowned me, cast me out and cursed my very name. I swore to myself I would never come back, but not everyone can hold what they cross their fingers on, especially when they need out from another nightmare that had bristled itself around them.
Darkness wouldn't be the correct term for what I was feeling then. It was more of regret than anything, regret and a cloud of grey sorrow and failure that towered over me for what weeks were to come. This was something that couldn't be forgiven, replaced, mended, taken back or treated away. This was a scar, a scar so deep that not even my own body could fight it away or make it fade over the years to come. This was fresh and something I would have to deal with until my father's last breath.
Monday morning rolled around and I found it almost impossible to get out of bed, but I did. The night before was a blur and even still I could smell the faint scent of alcohol and whisky on my breath. I showered and spent almost ten minutes brushing away the smell. I packed my dad a bag of clothes and a few books incase the hospital decided to keep him for additional tests.
Out in his garage I found that his old 1967 Cadillac Eldorado occupied the wide space and had hardly been driven. The leather seats were a treat to my sense of smell and the damned thing had been shined to perfection. We drove to Adventist GlenOaks Hospital, a good thirty mile drive from where we were. Sat in the waiting room for over an hour or longer before the very nurse I had spoken to over the phone called his name. She made him sit in a wheelchair while another nurse wheeled him to an examination room.
For the next seven hours nurses and a couple of doctors were in and out of the room, leaving with him, coming back, talking to him, taking him for more tests, asking him questions so on and so forth. His speech was slow when he spoke to them, aged to a quality that was almost nice to hear in a man as old as him. He had married my mother in his late thirties while she was in her early twenties, a fixed marriage by each of their parents who were close friends. It wasn't until his early fifties and her late thirties that she had me.
Around five-thirty in the evening Ruth Barren came into the room with a concerned look on her face.
"So many tests and you can't come up with a goddamn answer." My father said in a quiet tone before looking up at her with tired eyes.
"Mr. Kearn, from the x-rays we have taken. . .and the recent blood work you let us take from just a few weeks ago. . ." She paused watching him as he sat idle watching her. "We strongly advise you to get yourself a stay at home care provider." I stared at her for a few minutes before looking at my dad who looked down mumbling.
"Wait a second," I started. "What's this with the care provider?" I asked her.
"Has no one informed you the health difficulties your father has been dealing with?" She asked me. Uh, no—he didn't even notify me of my own mother's funeral.
"No." I finally said. Ruth Barren took a deep breath before speaking and looking me directly in the eyes.
"Your father is currently in stage five of Alzheimer's disease. I have papers on it before you leave here today that will explain the condition of the disease and what may occur during the next few months to a year in a half. His liver is not our biggest concern, although we would like to schedule him in for surgery of this coming month. The tumor we removed years ago is reoccurring and his doctors fear that if we don't take it out soon it will be too late." Even if I was angry at him for keeping my moms passing a secret from me, I couldn't hold back that bowling ball sitting in the pit of my throat. I swallowed hard clamping my jaw shut and looking at my dad who was now staring at the shiny floor. After a few minutes I felt her warm hand on my arm. I couldn't help but look at her. "I strongly recommend you start looking for someone who is willing to stay for awhile and care for him. Someone with a good back ground, patience and a good heart. It will take some digging, but it will be worth it for him. In his condition, his memory is one of our other concerns."
That was the end of that. I walked him to the car with a heavy burden on my shoulders. The bad thing was, I didn't have the money for how much the surgery would cost or for the care provider. I hardly had any money at all.
A couple weeks later I was spending hours on end interviewing nurses from all over Chicago and Glen Ellyn. None of them sparked my attention or gave me a good, safe feeling about their presence. So I stopped looking, decided to put an ad in the paper, one that would reach out to more than just Chicago, forgetting about my battle with Tanya and her psycho uncle.
Two weeks into a month there was a knock on the front door. Her name was Connie Davis, a tall, pale skinned, chocolate brown haired woman with big hazel eyes and natural pink lips. She reminded me somewhat of Jayne Mansfield, only with fuller lips and more breathtaking than the actress herself. She couldn't any older than twenty-eight, but god was she beautiful. I wouldn't mind dating someone five years older than I was. . .Her figure was perfect and her long hair stopped just below the small of her back. Natural volume and perfect waves that shined in the suns light. She wore a pair of white rimmed glasses that looked good with her fashion and features.
She was one of those women that didn't like to show too much skin, one that enjoyed burying her own body in fancy knit-sweaters and long sleeved shirts, turtle necks and vests. Tight blue jeans or beige khaki's were her thing. I guess you could imagine her as a foxy librarian.
"Mr. Kearn?" She asked, glancing at the newspaper in her hand before looking at me.
"Trevor-" I had almost stuttered it but my mouth new it's words better than I did. "I mean call me
Trevor." I put my hand out and she gleefully took it, smiling big, revealing a set of straight white teeth.
"I saw your ad in the paper and figured I'd take a trip down here and introduce myself to you." I made way for her as she stepped inside forgetting the two suitcases she had brought with her. I happily grabbed them for her and lead her into the living room where my dad sat staring out the window. I had that good feeling creeping up on me and her presence felt even better to me. She was the right person for the job.
I didn't have to think twice.
"This must be your father." She said. Her eyes grew sad as she fiddled with the corner of her hand purse. I followed her glance, realizing how sad he looked. I knew without mom, he was more than just lonely.
"Yeah, that's him." I answered. "Listen," I looked at her drawing her attention away from my dad and to me. "I really don't have time to look around for anymore people so. . ."
"Oh don't worry Mr. Kearn-Trevor," She corrected. "This is what I do for a living and if you need to do a background check or whatever-"
"We'll worry about that later. I just have one issue I need to talk to you about." She watched me intently. "I just paid two thousand dollars worth of passed due bills plus recent ones. . .I can pay you I just don't have the money right now, I mean it will be a couple of weeks."
"Oh, that's fine. Don't worry about it." She gave one last smile before moving towards my father, kneeling down beside him and successfully winning over his attention.
Months went by as if they were days. Connie and I had quickly befriended one another. She came in and out of the house freely, buying groceries, cleaning, taking care of my dad—reading to him, having small conversations with him and even surprising me with an outstanding performance on an old viola she had brought with her. She was able to emanate such feeling just from the tunes she played that even I could feel the devilish tug gripping at my soul.
Stress picked up again after the hospital refused to do the surgery on my father to remove his brain tumor because I didn't have the money. I tried to convince them that I would have it a week after the surgery but they wouldn't have it.
"Come back when you have the money and we'll be able to do what is necessary for your father's health." That's when Frank and Al showed up, in Al's shiny Lincoln limo, parked outside of my father's iron gate and marching up the cobblestone walkway towards our front door. Not good. . .
"Trevor," Connie was the one who had warned me, asking who the people were pilling up on my front porch.
"What are you talking about?" I asked her moving towards the window and pushing the curtain to the side. My heart had exploded and my blood thickened. There was no way in hell they could have known where I would go when I left Tanya that night. The ad in the newspaper hadn't crossed my mind at that point in time either. "Shit." I breathed, pulling the curtain closed and hearing a knock at the front door. I looked at Connie, then to my dad sitting beside the window again, mindlessly peering out of it. "Take him upstairs to his bedroom." I moved towards the front door as she obeyed.
"Who is it?"
"Chicago my boy!" Al was the one to speak. "I have much to discuss with you, why don't you open up and let's have a talk you and I?"
"I'd rather talk somewhere else." I told him through the door.
"Chicago, don't make things difficult. . ." He paused for almost a minute before speaking again. "You've already damaged my niece, open the goddamn door up and let's have a talk." I could never forget about the day he drove me around in his limo suggesting how fast he could get rid of me if I ever hurt her.
I opened the door slowly, scared out of my mind and trying to put the pieces together. Al opened his arms up with a smile, raising his eyebrows and waiting for me to embrace him. Frank was standing right behind his right shoulder. There were men dressed in casual suite, black glasses and earpieces; they kind of reminded me of government scum undercover. But they were far from that and there were at least twelve of them. Finally, I took a step out the front door and hugged Al. I felt like he could feel my heart thudding against my chest at how tight he was squeezing me.
This was a show of dominance and you had better do as I ask and say these next few minutes, because it's dyer to your well being. That's what this embrace told me.
"Good to see you Chicago, real good." He gave me a good smack on my back, released then walked right passed me into the house. Frank put a hand on my shoulder, squeezed it softly then followed Al's lead. "Nice place, very nice." I turned stepping back into the house watching as two of Al's men came inside and the rest spread out along the property. I had hardly realized the guns. "So," Al began. I closed the door, following him into the kitchen as he sat down, rubbing his thumb over his eyebrow while crossing a knee over the other.