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.


  1. wow this is beautiful. you may think you're not in the same league, but suffering is something we can all relate to. you have experience with misery. you know about despair. you have something to share. she's lucky to have you there.

  2. This post brought tears to my eyes. Thank you.

  3. I read this last night before going to bed, too tired to comment, but I knew this post would be on my mind this morning...and it was.

    This is probably one the most touching, endearing, revealing and downright beautiful posts I have seen...period. This is the stuff of life. This is the kind of thing I want to print and post up somewhere. I don't know where, but I want to put it somewhere. Your description of alcoholism is divine and powerful, and yet the whole post is not whining but winning. This is something I look up to in my own writing. This is the stuff that touches people on so many levels. At least it did for me.

    This is stunning, and I liked how you said you hated connecting or comparing cancer to alcoholism. Many of us do, and I agree with you. Not the same. Painful, yes. Suffering, yes. But there is so much out there that causes us that. But alcoholism is different. But how you put it forth is stunning. Beautiful.

    Blessed to have read this.


  4. I just tweeted it (not that I have many followers) - not sure if you have a twitter account, but if you do, mine is @mssginbottle.

    Hope you get a few more eyeballs on this :)


  5. Wow, thanks Paul. I sat down to write this several times and had interruption after interruption, as you can imagine, so that when I finally posted it last evening it had swirled around in my head so many times, I didn't know if it even made any sense. I'm glad it touched you and I hope it touches others.

  6. Damn woman...damn...

    I am praying for your DIL...I know in my heart she'll beat this thing.

    You take care of yourself okay?

    Love and hugs,

  7. Oh my...I have never commented on a post before, but I have to tell you this is one of the most eloquent and moving pieces of writing I have read in a long time. I am an alcoholic and I identify with and understand every word. I cried and I cringed because I am sure I have made that comparison in the past. Never. Again. I'll be praying.

  8. Beautiful, touching and inspiring.

  9. As I mentioned already, this brought tears to my eyes. I think often of how I fought to quit drinking while my mom fought her cancer, and how SHE would take the time to support me, to send me written notes, to pick me up when I slipped, to love me unconditionally, all while she was fighting for her own life. Looking back it just makes me feel like a little shit. Some lessons we learn long after our teachers have gone from our lives... what a blessing for you to be sober now so that you can help your DIL and to be fully aware of the lessons being offered to you. You may not have been in her league at one time, but it sure sounds like you are now. ((hugs))