Steve and I headed south after work Thursday. After stopping part way for dinner, we made it to Bakersfield by about 11:00 and checked into The Red Lion. I figured this would be a great way to break up the trip and it worked well. We got to Spike's in the early afternoon Friday, in time to help with party preparations.
Trevor is an amazing cook. I only rarely get to taste his masterpieces, but every time has been a treat. He stuffed huge slabs of pork roast with yumminess and grilled them. Yum! Here's Trev showing off his major food groups.
Bettie rounded out the buffet-style dinner with baked beans, potato salad, corn pudding, apples stewed with onions, and a caprese salad.
Steve was amazing. How many guys say, "You want to go visit your ex-husband's family? Heck yeah, I'm in!" But that's not all. He washed dishes almost the entire evening! One of the cousins jokingly dubbed him The Queen of Dishwashing. (Sorry, Steve.)
It was so great to be together with all the Mussos again. Friends, family and neighbors came out to wish Spike a happy birthday. Several of us took thousands upon thousands of pictures, but I won't post them all here. A link may be forthcoming if we can compile them all. Anyway, after a song and cheers of encouragement, Spike managed to blow out all his candles. (We didn't torture him with 95 of them.)
Steve and I spent that night at the Anaheim Plaza Hotel, only to discover the next morning that they did not have any hot water! Back to Spike's house for showers and breakfast. We hung around until Uncle Al was picked up for his ride back to Morro Bay, then it was time for us to head out.
Saturday afternoon we headed up to Van Nuys to visit George and Carlene. Although their world was recently unbearably shaken, they welcomed us warmly and we had a very nice visit with them. I worked on Carlene's computer a bit, they took us to dinner, we spent the night there and had breakfast with them Sunday morning. All in all, I think we accomplished what I had hoped, which was to give them a bit of a diversion.
We learned a few more things about the accident. The Viper was not Doug's. It belonged to the owner of the company he worked for, a man who has been Doug's friend since they were in grade school together. Doug was out making sales calls and picked Jessica up to tag along. About 10 minutes from home he lost control and the car spun around into the oncoming lane. Although no one knows completely for sure at this point, they believe it may have come to a complete stop before the SUV came around the corner - speeding - and plowed head first into them.
Jodi, at the time, was at home. A little after 4:0o she called her parents, concerned that Doug and Jessica weren't home when they said they would be, and telling them she wasn't able to reach Doug on his cell phone. Since they were normally very punctual, and since Doug basically lived out of his cell phone, she was extremely concerned. George started calling the police and CHP. No accidents had been reported, however, because, as it turned out, the location of the accident fell within the jurisdiction of the County Sheriff's Department. While George was between calls, Jodi called back, hysterical, saying Jessica was dead and Doug was severely injured.
Most of what falls between then and now has already been reported, either in this blog or via email to family. Jessica was buried on a hill under a tree. The plots surrounding her have been reserved for the remainder of the family - Jodi, Doug, Michael, George and Carlene - when they go.
Jodi is pressing through this tragedy with amazing strength. While she has a very strong support system surrounding her, she stays by Doug's side nearly every day and goes home to an empty house at night to care for her dog and nurse her emotional wounds. She doesn't blame Doug for the accident. The consensus is that it is his employer's responsibility. He never should have let Doug take his car out without so much as a warning of its power, let alone demanding completion of a safety course - or, better yet, not letting him take it at all. As the bills for Doug's care have begun to be delivered to Jodi's house, she sends them to the employer and those bills are getting paid.
Doug is improving. On Friday evening, his family and Jodi reported that he had begun blinking in response to questions.
"Do you know who I am?"
Last week, surgery was done to repair his jaw. It had broken in four places. He was moved from UCLA to a small facility that specializes in traumatic head injuries. The scrapes on his face have healed and the staff has been able to shave him. His body is beginning to wake up and show some restlessness as his nervous system begins fully communicating with his brain again.
As of Sunday evening, Doug had not been told of Jessica's death.
After we left on Sunday, George and Carlene went to visit Doug. When we arrived home, we got the report that the visit went very, very well. Although Doug is not able to speak yet, he was able to communicate with both of them by blinking his eyes and squeezing George's hand. It was just the medicine they needed!
During our visit, George shared the following newspaper article with us: