The Houseguest

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Seung Geel Hong

A woman arrives as a houseguest and stays for two months. And the two children are unaware of who she is until she leaves for home.

The Houseguest

First Edition

By Hong, Seung Geel

© 2020 by Hong, Seung Geel

Edited by Maureen J. Silk

All rights reserved

ISBN:  978-1-71604-289-8


The following story was inspired by true experience; but the names of persons, organizations, and locations were changed to protect the privacy of everyone involved.  Therefore, any similarity between any of the names in this story to any known individual, whether living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Hong, Seung Geel


About a week ago, I rode the public bus to the Junior Seniors Apartment Building to visit my sister Sparky and her husband Dennis.

By the way, the apartment building’s unusual name has an interesting story.  According to one account, the investors Cass Hodak, Jakee Joson, and Maureen Chapen were approached by a group of senior citizens who were in their mid-50’s.  The group somehow had managed to navigate through the proper channels and make contact with someone who represented the investors.

The spokeswoman of the senior citizens group asked:

“Is it possible that your company could name the building anything other than ‘**** ***** Senior Citizens Apartments?’  It sounds too common. . . .”

The representative thought for a moment and replied:

“Well, I don’t exactly know what you mean; could you please elaborate on this? . . .”

The spokeswoman explained:

“We’re tired of seeing the term ‘Senior Citizens’ all the time.  Can’t you think of something that sounds more inviting, such as ‘Active Seniors’ or . . . .”

The representative now understood what the spokeswoman wanted:

“Yes, I see. . . .  I will give your message to my superiors. . . .”

So, that’s how the senior citizens apartment building got its unusual name.  The investors considered several names and eventually settled for “Junior Seniors Apartment Building.”  The name doesn’t really make much sense, but it was catchy.  And the senior citizens group was satisfied with the new name.

Anyway, after about 20 minutes of visiting, Sparky said:

“I was telling Dennis about the houseguest who stayed with us in Kentucky.  She stayed with us for only a month or so.  Her name was . . . Jill, . . . June, . . . No, it was Jan.

Anyway, I was only about seven years old, so I don’t remember much of it.  How about you?  Do you remember why she stayed with us? . . .”

Like usual, I had to think for several seconds before I could respond.  Then, I began the story of our houseguest who had stayed with us 58 years ago. . . .

1.Move to New York

Well, Sparky, . . . I was adopted in the spring of 1955, and you were born in the fall of the same year.

Then, in the following spring of 1956, we packed up our things and moved from Colorado to Delaware.  You were only a year old at the time, so you wouldn’t remember this move at all.  Anyway, there were six of us riding in our green Studebaker hardtop convertible:  Mother, Father, you, me, and two dogs.

  We lived in Delaware for only a year, where Father worked at a hospital during the day and studied at home during the evenings for his Pathology exams.  And after he had passed all the exams (offered by the American Board of Pathology) and became board certified, we headed for New York in the following spring of 1957.

Father was hired as the pathologist in a relatively small city in New York.  And Mother stayed home as a homemaker.

As for you and me, you were the type who had to be watched every minute, while I was the type who couldn’t do or say anything right.

For example, we lived in a house where one of the bedroom windows opened over the roof of the front porch.  And one day, you climbed out onto the roof when Mother was vacuuming the upstairs hall.

Then, when Mother discovered where you were, she somehow managed to calmly coax you to walk toward her as her heart pounded fiercely.  At first, you wanted to stay on the roof and play, but you eventually walked slowly to Mother.

About a week later, our art teacher Mr. T***** (who visited our classroom every two weeks) announced what he had witnessed.  He looked at me and asked:

“Is your sister okay?  She didn’t get hurt?”

My teacher Mrs. B***** looked at him and softly asked him something, whereupon Mr. T***** glanced toward her for a moment before looking back at me, and he said:

“I was driving by your house, and I had to stop to see if my eyes were seeing what I thought I was seeing. . . .”

Mr. T*****, then, paused and once again glanced toward Mrs. B***** before he resumed his speech to me:

“I looked up and saw your sister walking on the roof.  And your mother was coaxing her back toward the window.  My heart almost stopped!  I never saw anything like that in my entire life.  Thank goodness she’s okay. . . . “

Meanwhile, as I mentioned earlier, I could not do or say anything right, because I had the tendency to become confused very easily.  For example, one day, I ate a few bites of orange peel, and Mother scolded me for doing so:

“Don’t eat that!  It’ll make you sick. . . .”

Two or three weeks later, Mother was hand grinding cranberries and orange peels for cranberry sauce.

Hence, I looked bewilderedly at her and said:

“You’re not supposed to eat orange peel:  It’ll make you sick. . . .”

Mother replied:

“It’s okay to eat orange peel this way, because I’m following the directions in the cookbook.  This little bit of orange peel mixed with the cranberries won’t hurt you. . . .”

Even to this day, I still don’t understand why we cannot eat orange peel without the cranberries.  Evidently, my brain must not function properly. . . .

2.Mother and Patrick

Father was the only pathologist at the hospital.  Actually, he was the only pathologist in the city at the time, and he sometimes would stay at work for a whole week, sleeping only two or three hours a night on a couch.

One night, he came home at about 8 o’clock, after he had spent the entire week at work.  And he was so exhausted that he could barely open his eyes, and he walked slowly as a snail.

In the meantime, Mother would become extremely disgusted with Father, because he was always too tired to take her out of the house.  And they eventually began to have marital problems.

Then, after working under such exhausting condition for over three years, Father had a nervous breakdown and had to be hospitalized.  I don’t remember how long he was hospitalized, but I once remember Mother reading to us one of his letters.  And she became stressed because Father had asked her to send him $40 for a mattress that he had damaged by smoking in bed.  Mother immediately sent him the money.

While Father was out-of-town at the mental hospital, one of his lab technicians (named Patrick) would often come to the house and visit for couple hours at a time.  He sometimes would bring along a friend named Jake.

Before long, Mother and Patrick (as a couple) were attending the hospital employees gatherings:  farewell party for one of the employees who was moving away, congratulations celebration for a staff member who had been promoted, and holiday events.

I remember Patrick arriving at the house one evening dressed in a black formal outfit, and Mother apparently had not expected to dress formally that evening.  And for whatever reason, Mother became irritated and snapped at Patrick, whereupon Patrick raised his voice and cursed at Mother.  They spoke sharply at each other for a few minutes before Mother finally settled down and went upstairs to dress more appropriately for the occasion.  Nothing more was ever said about that evening, so I assume that they had a good time at wherever they went.

For a while, Patrick would visit us regularly while Father was away at the mental hospital.

3.Home in Kentucky

Father eventually returned home from the mental hospital, and he had to search for another job.  And after sending out many résumés, he was offered a position in Kentucky.  So, in the summer of 1961, we moved to our new home in Kentucky.

Then, about a year after settling into our new home, Mother informed you and me that a woman would be living with us for a while.  She explained that the woman was a friend who needed a place to stay for a month or so, and we should treat her kindly.

Hence, a few days later, you and I arrived from school and saw a woman named “Jan” preparing dinner.  Apparently, she wanted to feel useful, and she had offered to cook the evening meal.

Mother introduced her to us, and we felt very comfortable speaking to her.

Jan was approximately 5’ 7” with medium blonde hair.  She was quiet and open-minded, and no matter what anyone would say, she never seemed to become upset:  Nothing seemed to bother her.

I don’t remember her going anywhere.  She seemed completely satisfied to remain in the house around-the-clock.  She may have gone to the movies once or twice, but that’s only a possibility, not a fact.

4.Time to Leave

After Jan had lived with us for approximately five weeks, I noticed that she occasionally would become nauseous.  And she also seemed to need a bit more time to rise to her feet whenever she wanted to return to her room.  Moreover, she began to wear looser clothes.  But other than the looser clothes, she looked the same as she did when she joined our family five weeks earlier.  I simply could not tell anything different about her.

However, Mother apparently had noticed the difference, and she decided to tell you and me that Jan would be delivering a baby before long.

Then, three or four weeks later, Jan entered the hospital while we were in school, and we did not see her for five or six days.

She returned home on Friday or Saturday evening after you and I already had gone to bed.  And the next morning around 10:30, Father’s former lab technician Patrick arrived to take Jan and the baby back to New York.

Jan carefully carried the bundled baby down the stairs and thanked Mother and Father for having her as a houseguest.

Mother and Father looked at the sleeping baby and smiled.

Patrick hugged Mother and shook Father’s hand as he thanked them for helping him and Jan out of a difficult situation.

While the grownups were saying their farewells, the baby remained asleep and never made a sound.  As for you and me, we never saw the baby; we only saw the white blanket that covered the precious baby.  We silently remained seated on the couch as Patrick, Jan, and the baby walked out of the house and out of our lives.

None of us ever saw them or heard from them again. . . .

Parting Thoughts

My sister Sparky was too young to understand anything about unwed pregnancy, whereas I at least knew that it was something that society considered as disgraceful at the time.

We don’t know what Patrick and Jan did with the baby.  Did they make the baby available for adoption?  Or did they get married and keep the baby, enduring the social stigma that would have accompanied their decision?

We can only hope that, whatever Patrick and Jan decided, all three of them had a good life. . . .

Submitted: May 08, 2020

© Copyright 2021 Seung Geel Hong. All rights reserved.

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