Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Chapter 40

“What do you mean Steph? Why do you think something’s wrong with your dad?”

“He’s acting weird and he’s drinking...a lot.”

Richie frowned. “What do you mean he’s acting weird? What’s he doing?”

“He’s...quiet. He doesn’t talk much, he’s not working, doesn’t answer his phone most of the time, he watches us like...I don’t know, like he hasn’t seen us before. Especially Romeo. He hugs us all the time. He’s not talking to Grandma at all, and he looks sad. Do you know what’s the matter?”

Richie had a strong feeling that he did, but it wasn’t his place to tell her. “I think he’s just got a lot on his mind right now with the tour and the Soul and the Foundation and everything. And he’s missed you kids.”

“You think that’s it?” Her doubt was evident in her voice.

“Tell you what. I’ll come to Jersey a couple days early and talk to him. Okay?”

“Thanks Uncle Mookie.”

A few days later Richie kissed Molly’s cheek when she opened the door for him. “Hi darlin’.”

“Hi Richie. He’s in his office.”

“Thanks. How is he?”

Molly hesitated. “He’s...not himself. He’s very quiet, and rarely comes out of the office unless the kids are here. And he’s hardly eating enough to keep a bird alive.”

Richie sighed, nodded, and headed down the hallway. He stood in the doorway to the office and looked at his friend for a long moment. Jon was sitting at his desk staring out the window, a bottle of wine and a half empty glass in front of him. “Hey man.”

Jon glanced up. “Hey. You’re early.”

“Yeah, I came to see how you were doing.”

“Me? I’m fine.”

“Uh huh, I can see that. You look like shit man, what are you doing to yourself?”

“What? I’m fine.” He reached for the glass.

“Self medicating? It won’t work. Trust me. It doesn’t kill the pain, it only numbs it temporarily.” He walked over and dropped into the chair across the desk. “You’ve got to pull yourself together.”

“What are you talking about?”

“You. On a path to self-destruction.”

Jon waved a dismissive hand. “Nonsense. I’m...”

“Fine, yeah, I heard you the first two times. Sure you are. That’s why I got a phone call from your daughter, upset, scared, telling me that you were acting weird and that she was sure something was wrong. That’s why Paul and Obie can’t get you to answer the phone half the time. That’s why you’re pale and your eyes are sunken and have black circles under them. Molly says you’re not eating properly either.” When Jon’s expression turned mulish, Richie sighed. “I know you’re hurting man, but you’ve got to pull it together. There’s too many people depending on you for you to indulge in a pity party right now.”

Jon glared at him. “I’m not having a pity party!”

“Aren’t you? You’re freaking your kids out, ignoring the work that has been your driving force for almost twenty years, locking yourself away in this office, drinking instead of eating....sounds like depression to me.” He searched his friends face. “Do you want to talk about it?”

Jon was silent for long minutes, then sighed. “I let her go through hell alone Rich. How could I do that to someone I professed to love? I let my mother and Doc convince me not to call her and to stay away after the baby died, that she didn’t want me and I should forget about her...about them. And I did for awhile. I hooked up with Dorothea again and got on with my life. But I couldn’t forget them for long. Their loss was like a black hole in my soul that I tried to fill with projects. I guess I thought that if I became successful then it wouldn’t have been in vain. But it was never enough. No matter how many records we sold or how many awards we won or how much money I made or how many charities I supported, it didn’t fill that hole or relieve that deep down feeling of guilt. And in my quest to justify the pain I caused Ronnie, I ended up just causing more pain – to Dorothea and my kids. I never realized how much until Dot told me she wanted a divorce and described how she saw me as a man, husband and father and pointed out that she should have seen it with the way I treated Ronnie. She’d hoped I’d change once we ‘made it’, but I never did. She finally couldn’t wait anymore.” He lifted the glass and took a sip. “I’m a selfish, self-centred man who only cares about his own success. I’ve used and abused people who were trying to help me and stepped over and left behind those that couldn’t. My family has always come second to my career.” He paused. “What kind of a man does that? I’m at the stage of my life where I’m looking to leave a legacy.” He snorted. “Some legacy. I see nothing to be proud of in my life. I look in the mirror and feel nothing but disgust. I thought that finding Ronnie and learning the details of what happened all those years ago would help me put closure to the past and finally fill that hole deep inside. But it didn’t. In fact, it made the hole bigger.” He swallowed heavily and blinked rapidly against the tears filling his eyes. “What she went God Rich, I don’t know how she survived it! It’s no wonder she hates me and doesn’t want anything to do with me! I don’t blame her. And I forced her to relive it to serve my own purposes!” He shook his head in self disgust.

Richie could feel his friend’s pain, and wasn’t sure how to ease it. “She doesn’t hate you. And she needed to tell you the details as much as you needed to hear them.” At Jon’s disbelieving look he continued. “It’s true. You may not be able to see it, but I can. The shadows in her eyes are lighter and she seems to be peace. She admitted herself that she feels better than she has in a long time.”

“But she won’t let me get close. She’s keeping me at a distance. She wanted me to let her out of the rest of the tour since she’d done what I brought her on board to do. How can I try to make up for what I did if she won’t let me try?”

“She’s scared Jon. She loved you so much and it ended in pain and heartache. Of course she’s not going to rush to jump into that pool again!” Richie hesitated. “I don’t think you can make up for what happened. You can’t turn back time, and you can’t fix it. You’ve apologized and that’s really about all that you can do, other than show her that you’re not the same man who abandoned her. You can’t try to pick up where you left off. You need to start over. Did you let her out of the tour?”

Jon grimaced. “No, I told her I was holding her to her commitment.” He took another sip of wine. “I told her that I was feeling a little lost and unsettled and that I needed people I can trust around me. I begged her to stay.”

“And she agreed?”


“Did she send you cookies at Christmas?”

Jon’s brows rose. “Yes. How did you know about that?”

“She sent me some too. She probably sent them to all of us. But that just proves my point. She doesn’t hate you. If she did she wouldn’t have thought to send you cookies – she had to know that it would bring back happy memories of your time together. Plus she wouldn’t have agreed to stay on. We all know she doesn’t really need to be on the road with us. If she didn’t care, she would have walked away and left you to sort yourself out.” He hesitated. “About that, well, recognizing and admitting there’s a problem is the first step to recovery. You are aware of what you need to change. Put that Bongiovi stubbornness and single-minded determination to good use.” He paused. “You should be proud of what you’ve achieved in your life, even if you’re not proud of how you got there. You’ve managed to keep all of us on board, so you can’t be all bad.”

Jon smiled. “Thanks man.”

“That’s what brothers are for. Besides, I owed you one.” He stood up. “Now, let’s go see what Molly’s got cooked up for dinner.” He pointed at the glass. “And ease up on that or you’ll find yourself in the same mess I was.”

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