My dad, James Whitmore, Part Two

I was maybe 13 or 14 now. Maybe a bit older. I don’t exactly remember. I was living a huge lie. I was a liar. My life was luxurious. I was living in a beautiful home in Rustic Canyon, just below the Pacific Palisades. We were the last house on the left. There was a natural creek running behind our house. We had a huge back yard, a pool, and I had my own room.

Other celebrities of the day lived nearby; Lee Marvin, Rod Serling of Twilight Zone fame, James Arness of Gunsmoke fame, just to name a few. This was a dream childhood for anybody.

Not me. I had discovered booze and girls. I used to say booze and broads because of the alliteration, but broad sounds too stupid.

I, for some reason, being the selfish imp I was, decided to split from this ideal life and hit the streets. Why, I cannot for the life of me remember. I ended up living in the basement of a friend’s house in Brentwood, California. Another rich enclave. Huge houses.

My parents did not know what had happened. Where’d I gone. Was I OK? I didn’t care.

I used to sneak into the basement by way of a window. I was drinking every chance I got. I loved it. One morning, around 2 a.m., I snuck up the stairs to the kitchen of this home to grab something to eat from the fridge. I ran into the home’s owner, a surgeon of some kind, he looked at me and said something like; “Who are you?” “I am a friend of your sons.” He nodded and left. I grabbed something to eat and sniveled back down the stairs.

That friend died recently and his brother reached out to me. His brother said “I was the inly one that stood by his brother when he was injured.” Funny, I just remember sleeping in the basement. Sometimes, I couldn’t get into the house and was forced to find shelter elsewhere. I did. The streets are rough. Even in Brentwood, California.

Some how my mother found out where I was or she got a message to me. Maybe I reached out to her. I do not remember. But the message was: Meet her at a place in those days called “Goody Goody.” It was a place where you drive your car and park it next to a metal speaker. The speaker served as a device in which the person inside the restaurant would ask what you wanted. I was instructed to meet her there at a certain time.

I did, of course. I met her. Got in the car. She asked if I was all right, said I looked thin. Probably offered me something to eat. Pretty vague. Years cloud the memory. What I do remember clearly, though, is what follows.

My mother looked at me and said without equivocation: “My allegiance is to your father.” I remember her saying that if it was yesterday. “My allegiance is to your father.” The meeting was over. She left. I was back on the streets. Yes, Brentwood, nice and luxurious, but the streets nonetheless.

I was stunned by her reaction. I didn’t understand it. She was tough. I saw that. My dad was supportive but she laid down the law. I wandered around a bit. You do that when you don’t have a permanent address. Night came in. It was cold.

I made my way back to my house in Rustic Canyon. It was early in the morning. The house was locked. My dad loved burning firewood in his fireplaces. He loved that until the day he died. There was this small area in the den, where wood was kept. It had a door inside and out. The door outside could not be locked. I crawled through that door, pushing the wood out of the way, and squirmed into the den. I tried to be quiet. I was not successful.

My dad came into the den. He was wearing a nightgown popular at the time. He looked at me and smiled. “Welcome home,” I think he said something warm to that affect. I slipped off to my room and crawled into my bed and fell asleep.

Part Three: I take pills and drive off with a girl to Oklahoma.

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About stevewhitmore

Former award-winning newspaperman and broadcast journalist, both radio and TV, spanning three decades. Army-trained paralegal, court bailiff and prosecutor's lead investigator for the 8th Infantry Division's Judge Advocate General's Corp., Mainz, Germany. 1973-1975.
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