Sunday, April 14, 2013
The robin and cardinal are quibbling among the sprouting green tops of the bulbs that were buried last fall in hopes of an April resurrection of swaying yellow daffodils, slender red tulips, and sweet hyacinths in every color of a sugared almond rainbow. I point to the bickering pair through the window and she smiles wanly, a pale lemon sliver of sun behind the dark clouds of a gray Kansas afternoon sky, the kind of sky that heralds the devastation of a poker hand of natural disasters. Young seedlings, barely taken root, torn from their holdings and pummeled flat by a relentless onslaught or lifetimes swept away by the nonchalant flick of catastrophe's tail.
I want to tell her that I know how she feels, trying so hard to come out from behind her pain.
I spoon cereal into my grandson's mouth and wipe as half of it dribbles down his chin while I watch out of the corner of my eye as she scrambles the eggs that she intends to will herself to eat. Furiously resolute, the fork makes staccato taps against the bowl. Her shoulders are stooped and she is bent at the waist as if the stretch to full upright is too much to ask of her brittle carriage, she might snap and crumble like the fall leaves that were forgotten in the backyard and now lay splayed like winter's fallen soldiers on the bright green patches of new grass. Today she is wearing a paisley scarf, misshapen tear drops of turquoise and maroon swirl about her head.
I want to tell her that I, too, know what it feels like to go through the motions of doing what you have to do to make yourself well when everything in your body is screaming against it.
I strap my grandson into his stroller and take off down the sidewalk, my stepson and other grandson are loading up the car to go to a' baseball game. I wave good-bye as they back out down the driveway. My grandson warbles and reaches for the red balloons tied to a neighbors mailbox, his chubby fingers curling and unfurling. Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!
A family going through the rituals of spring on a Sunday morning. Without her. She is curled back in bed, the layers of quilts pulled up around her shoulders, her bare head a pale orb against her pillow in the dimness of the shuttered bedroom.
I want to tell her that I know how that feels too, to see everyone going about their lives, about your life, without you, while you watch, while you feel like you are dying.
But I say nothing and I go on my way through the neighborhood pushing my grandson in his stroller while tears roll down my face. I cry tears of sadness, and gratitude and fear. And shame.
I am ashamed for every time I've compared my alcoholism to cancer. My daughter-in-law has poison pumped through her veins in a valiant attempt to save her life, to watch her children grow up, to grow old with her husband. I willfully poured poison into my veins in a never ending quest for a "good time.", or to feel more at ease, to fit in, to relax, to celebrate a winning team, to mourn an unknown celebrity, because it tasted good with lasagna, because my friends expected me to, because I couldn't dance without it, because it rained, because it snowed, because the sun was shining, because someone made me mad, because someone made me sad, because I was mowing the grass, because I was laying by the pool, because I couldn't make a decision, because I deserved it, because I earned it, because everyone else was, because I was disappointed, because I was elated, because I was bored....
I squandered precious years like they were pennies in a jar, not valuable enough to bother with. Springs, summers, snowflakes, daffodils, baby's smiles, a five year old's goodnight kisses, a robin with a worm, midnight thunderstorms, shooting stars falling from a predawn sky...Plenty of those to go around.
Unlike my daughter-in-law, I could have walked away at any time but I clung to my "disease" like a spoiled child with a favorite toy, whining when someone took it away from me, clinging to it like a grimy security blanket, it's threads seeped in disgrace and regret. I made all kinds of worthless excuses for my sickness and threw blame around like a frisbee. Hands curling and unfurling around bottle after bottle.
Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!
I won't tell her I know what it's like. It's not the same. Not even. I have no right to claim a fellowship with her.
I'm not even in her league.