As I answered the door that Saturday morning I had no inkling of the sort of day I was to have. There stood a strangely subdued neighbor girl, this youngest of four. She was holding some library books.
“Mrs. Park, will you take these over to the school for me? They are due next week.”
“I’ll be glad to Susie. Has something happened to your father? I know your mother just got home, and she was sure that he was out of danger.”
“He was real good, but now he’s dead and we are all going to San Diego as soon as we are ready.”
“How will you go? Your station wagon is down there, and you wont be able to fit in the VW. Who is going with you?”
“I don’t know, but we called the police.”
Suddenly realizing that I might be ‘up to bat’ I hurried next door. Sure enough a speechless police officer stood helplessly by. I looked around. The mother in-law, two high school girls, and two young ones stood quietly near their hastily assembled luggage. I began to put two and two together.
The woman standing before me was a zombie. Her eyes were fired, and she appeared to be detached. Over and over she stated in a self-accusing tone, “I killed him. I killed him. I killed him.”
In desperation I appealed to the officer, requesting permission to take her to my doctor. It was plain to see that she was in no shape to make the trip. As my mind considered – and rejected various possibilities, I found only one feasible solution.
Just as we were ready to go to the doctor’s, I rushed home and spoke to my daughters. “Tell Dad we’ll take our Falcon and their Volkswagen. We’ll need a thermos of cold water as it’s going to be a hot trip.
When the doctor was told the circumstances he was quick to give Marie a sedative. He handed me an envelope containing some extra pills which I promised to leave with her sister-in-law who was a nurse.
Two of the girls, one a Junior in High School, and their mother climbed in the Volkswagen. I knew little if anything about driving one, but I could always ask questions. My young companion should have given the answers but her mother was able to instruct me. Shelly did not volunteer any kind of information as she may have been in shock.
Fortunately I had a close idea of the route to follow and all events well except for the unseasonable heat. I doubt that either car had air conditioning, yet there were no complaints. It was fortunate that there were no sounds of grief. I was not prepared for such outbursts.
Somewhere between L.A. and San Diego we felt the need for a break as some refreshment would be advisable, and my left leg was in desperate need of straightening out. The leg space was very cramped. We found a small grocery and bough bread, cold cuts, fruit and drinks. That appeared to lighten our spirits quite a bit.
As we reached San Diego I followed the directions to the home of the sister of the deceased. She may have been surprised but at the same time relieved. Decisions needed to be made.
The members of the miller family were too numb to function except for Marie. The older girls were capable of helping with the house work which was wise. The little ones were meanwhile reassured. The father had been in the hospital for a week or more before his surgery. A blood clot had formed and caused his death.
My husband and I did not feel ready to return to Santa Maria in the heat. We contacted a family we had known in Santa Maria and whose son was a close friend of one our our sons. After a light meal we drove to their home and visited for an hour or more. The ice cream we all enjoyed was a treat.
During our homeward trip we kept hearing some unfamiliar road noises. We checked all the tires but to no avail. Eventually we found one of the rear windows partially open. After it was closed the frustrating sound no longer existed. We reached home at about 4:00 a.m. and stretched out in our own bed.
From time to time we have had numerous visits from Marie or one of the daughters with a bridegroom in tow. Some of their memories in this home were good ones. Strangely our relationship has been closer since the unfortunate occurrence that we were able to help them get through.