A Brief, Amusing Anecdote

There’s been some completely unforeseen events in the aftermath of my sister-in-law’s death, but I don’t really want to write about them until they have come to some sort of a conclusion.  Unfortunately, I can’t say when that might be.  The whole thing has thrown our family for a loop, though.

On a completely unrelated note, I’ve just made it through what I call the Annual Birthday-O-Rama.  January 26 is my daughter’s birthday; January 27th is my youngest son’s AND my husband’s birthday; January 28 is my youngest son’s father’s birthday (mercifully, one I no longer have any responsibility for beyond reminding my 21-old-college student to call his father).  It’s always crazy, even crazy fun, but on the heels of the holidays is probably more exhausting – to say nothing of expensive – than it would otherwise be if it were, say, in early September.

This year, the birthdays were all in the middle of the week.  My daughter spent her day with her significant other and the kids; my youngest spent his with friends at school.  My husband left for an extended business trip on his birthday, so we celebrated Tuesday night, which was technically my daughter’s birthday, as well as Wednesday morning (I made him chicken livers for breakfast, which is what he wanted – and if you haven’t figured out that we’re pretty damn weird by this point, I just don’t know what to tell you).

Anyhoo, it was also my youngest’s 21st birthday.  Despite the alcoholism that runs rampant in our family (or maybe because of it?) I don’t make a big deal out of booze.  When each of the kids reached 18, if they wanted a drink I certainly never denied it.  An occasional glass of wine with dinner, or cocktail during the holidays, or beer at a barbecue.  So it was nothing new for my son to be able to drink around me, but it was the first time he was able to actually order a drink in public venue.

I picked him up from school on Friday and we went to dinner at one of our favorite restaurants.  My son worked there, first as a busboy and then as kitchen help, his first couple of years in high school and our waitress is a family friend who was delighted to bring him (and pay for) his first legal drink.

My kids and I all have great relationships – they are close to each other, as well – and we talk about all sorts of things.  They also know that things have been tense between me and my husband this last year, and that things seem to be oh-so-gradually smoothing out.  At one point during the evening, we discussed my husband’s alcoholism, as well as his marijuana use.  Not in a judgmental manner, just as part of our lives; something we deal with.  I jokingly brought up how bad the grass he smokes smells.

“Ugh – I know!” replied my son.  “He was in the garage smoking while I was home [over the holidays]; I opened the door and told him, ‘Dude – you’re making the kitchen smell like ASS.'”

After I recovered from my bout of hysterical laughter, I asked him how his stepdad reacted; the pre-New Orleans man would NOT have taken that kindly.

My son shrugged and said, “He said, ‘Oops! My bad!  Sorry about that!’ and stopped.”

More than once since the trip to New Orleans happened, I’ve wondered what has caused this almost complete 180 in his attitude; now, I don’t care if I never find out.  I just don’t want it to end.

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A Tragic Death

No, not my husband – he is still in the land of the living.

According to Linda at The Immortal Alcoholic (and if anyone should know, it would be she), few alcoholics get to end stage – most die either from alcohol related illnesses (my therapist says she knows of one alcoholic who died from starvation because they refused to eat) or alcohol related accidents (I imagine a great many of those are car accidents).

My brother-in-law is at end stage – his liver is pretty much gone and he’s on dialysis.  He continues to drink, and the doctors are exasperated with him; they keep threatening to take him off the dialysis.  I don’t believe them, but if they do he won’t last more than 3 or 4 days at the most.

There’s a long, heart-breaking story behind my sister’s journey dealing with her husband’s alcoholism, but this post isn’t about him, either, since he is still “living.” If you can call it that.

My brother and his wife went away for the weekend a couple of weeks ago to celebrate their wedding anniversary.  The checked into one of those cabins made for weekend getaways – a nice living area with cable TV, king-sized beds in the bedrooms, a fully functional kitchen stocked with everything you need to cook meals (you bring the food).  Oftentimes there are game rooms with pool or ping pong tables.  Outside there is a fire pit, and a deck with a hot tub.

They got there and immediately started to drink.  Now, my sister-in-law drinks every day.  Mostly she would begin around dinner time and didn’t stop until it was time to go to bed.  Most nights she didn’t get too terribly drunk – “buzzed” is probably as good a description as any – but there were times, more than I care to recall, where she was totally wasted by the end of the day (I, personally, had seen her pretty damn drunk by 2 in the afternoon).  Most of these were on holidays or other special occasions when she had what she saw as an excuse to begin drinking earlier in the day than was her norm.

(Yes, if you’re thinking about this at all, 3 of my mother’s 4 children are married to people with problems with alcohol.  It might be all four of us, but my youngest sister and I haven’t been on speaking terms for over a decade.  I’m not sure what this says about my mother, or her children, but it can’t be good.)

At any rate, this was one of those occasions when she began drinking early and hard.  Eventually, of course, they both became quite drunk; that’s when my brother decided to go to bed.

He woke up sometime later and my SIL was not in bed with him.  He called for her, but she didn’t answer.  He searched for her in the cabin, but could not find her.  Finally, he went out to the deck where the hot tub was.

I guess she decided she’d take a dip in the hot tub before she, too, went to bed.

She passed out.

She drowned.

She was only 35 years old.

She left behind 3 children and a husband who will never, ever stop blaming himself or let go of the guilt he feels.

Invisible

This is going to be one of those “gotta give the alcoholic husband credit and kudos” posts.

I’m 53 years old.  I’ve often heard women “of a certain age” lament (or, in some cases, celebrate) the fact they’ve become invisible – no one seems to notice them anymore.  Of course people see us – they have to interact with us on some level – but they don’t see us.  It’s as if there’s some sort of filter in the heads of others that goes, “Middle-aged/older woman who is not naked.  Nothing to see here, move along.”

Think I’m joking?  Yesterday, I complained all morning that the collar on my shirt was all wonky and I couldn’t get it to lay down.  One of my co-workers – the only other woman – joked about it momentarily, but the men pretty much ignored it.

(They don’t ignore the tall, attractive 30-year-old woman co-worker – noooooo, they do things like fill her office up with balloons for her birthday and take their lunch hour to install a new mailbox at her home, which is 20 minutes away from the office.  Just sayin’.)

At any rate, just as I was about to leave the office at lunch time, I looked down and noticed there was something else wrong with my shirt.  Do you think ONE of those other 6 people, 5 of which are men, would have noticed my shirt was on inside-out?

I gotta give my husband all sorts of credit – he’d have noticed, and I wouldn’t have made it out of the door like that, much less all fucking morning.

Sheesh.

The Holidays

As I mentioned in my previous post, my husband’s good mood and attentiveness lasted throughout the holidays.

I love the holidays, atheist or not.  By the time Halloween rolls around, I begin craving turkey, dressing and cranberry sauce.   Thanksgiving is my husband’s favorite holiday – you get to eat too much, drink too much, watch too much football (although not this year, as he boycotted the NFL for reasons I have no desire to go into here) and you don’t have to buy anyone a present.  This year, as far as the drinking goes, it wasn’t “too much”; he began first thing in the morning, as is his habit on any day, but he drank more or less moderately and was in a good mood.  He helped me cook, as he always does, and he helped the kids clean up – I cook, they clean – as he always does.  They left; we collapsed.

Now, he does NOT love Christmas but, as he’s always more than ready to announce, “I love my wife” so when the Christmas decorations came out Saturday, he groused but otherwise, with grudging good nature, helped with the frantic decorating that takes place in and outside our home every holiday season.

Afterward, he bitched about every present I bought – not that I was giving gifts, just how much money I was spending (I have a bank account just to cover this every year, so we don’t go into debt), but helped me wrap each and every one.  He even put together the giant plastic “exer-saucer” we’d bought our 4-month-old grandson.

Despite his bitching and moaning (which is really just part of his nature) about the work and money involved in letting me have my Happy Holidays, his newly-rediscovered attentiveness included an almost unprecedented piece of jewelry for my birthday (which, sadly, is 3 lousy days before Christmas) – a gorgeous Pandora charm bracelet with several thoughtfully-chosen charms.  For Christmas, he turned the small atrium in our upstairs hall that had once been a computer nook for our son into a gorgeous crafting space for me.  He rebuilt the closet with drawers and shelves, filled them with sturdy, empty plastic bins of all sizes, then built me a gorgeous sewing/crafting table.

I was, and am, touched and somewhat dumbfounded.  It has literally been years since he’s shown me such thoughtfulness.

Then Christmas day came, and he was pretty much three-sheets-to-the-wind drunk by 11 a.m., and more or less stayed that way all day.  It made me very tense and more than a little resentful, but I ignored it as well as I could – the only option I really have in such situations – and he was in a good, if garrulous, mood all day.

He was pretty hungover Saturday, grumpy and petulant, snapping at everyone over everything until nearly dinnertime, when the kids all came back over for dinner.  He cheered up somewhat then, but I couldn’t help wondering if the pendulum hadn’t swung back to the old, sullen, spiteful pre-New Orleans husband.  I battened down the emotional hatches.

But, lo and behold, by the time my eldest son flew back to Texas earlier the following week, his good mood had returned.  He took the week between Christmas and New Year’s off from work, not even looking at his email until we returned to the office on Monday.  To say I was floored was an understatement – the man simply does not take time off from work.

But, more than that, he announced that he is unhappy with the weight he’s gained over the last few years (going from a 32 waist to a 38), blamed the booze, and said he’s going to “put it away for awhile” while he tries to lose some weight.  He then put away the booze and locked the liquor cabinet (I checked, and there’s nothing but empty bottles in his new hiding place).  He left town the day before yesterday on a business trip and during our evening phone calls he cheerfully announces “there’s no booze in my hotel room” or “nothing to drink so far today!”

I have NO idea where any of this has come from – not the trip to NOLA, the attentiveness at home since, not this current good mood and resolution.  I have no idea if it will last – if prior experience is anything to go by, it will not.  But this doesn’t feel like his previous attempts to quit, which were all prefaced by my nagging or a fight about his drinking.  I haven’t said anything at all to him about his drinking; I’ve just been quietly making plans to leave.

Which begs the question: does he know I’ve been making plans to leave him?  If that’s what has spurred all of this, I’m stunned.

I didn’t think he cared any more.

New Orleans

Oh, dear – it has been awhile, hasn’t it?

In late October, I had an exchange of words with my daughter as I was driving her and my grandson home from a visit at our house.  A little background – she is very estranged from her biological father and very close to my husband, whom she calls Dad.  The exchange began with me lamenting that I wished my husband, who was out of town on business in New Orleans that week, cared as much about me as he does his business (to say nothing of alcohol, but I didn’t add that part).  She asked me if he didn’t have some reason to feel the same way about me?

I knew exactly what she was getting at – like most alcoholics, he bitterly resents the activities I’ve cultivated to help me cope with his alcoholism.  That also meant that he’s been talking to her about me; fair enough, I talk to her about him.  So all I said was, “I’m sure he does.”

We didn’t say anything else for a few more minutes, and she said, “Mom, I don’t want you to think I’m defending his behavior…”

Excuse me – I live with an alcoholic.  He lives with someone who knits in her spare time.  I just cut her off, and I’m ashamed to say I wasn’t exactly nice about it.  “Yes you are,” I said, “but that’s okay.”

We didn’t speak for the rest of the ride home – fortunately, we were almost there – and I was very cool towards my husband the next time he called.  The next several times, as a matter of fact.  My feelings were hurt.

Of course, the minute he got off the phone with me, he called my daughter to find out “what was wrong” and she, of course, told him about our conversation.  The next day when he called, he informed me that he could be held over in NOLA over the weekend and the first couple of days of the following week.  I was thrilled – he hadn’t been out of town in months and I was enjoying my time off.  Then he started pressuring me to join him.

I told him I probably should stay home.

He booked me a ticket anyway.

Oh, what the hell, I thought – it’d been nearly 10 years since I’d been to New Orleans (he proposed to me there), and I was flying first class.  If nothing else, I’d eat well.

My first surprise came when he told me to “make sure you bring your knitting!”  Actually, that was when I realized he’d talked to my daughter.  Well, all righty then (yes, I would have anyway).  I left Friday morning; he’d made arrangements for me to be able to access the hotel room when I got there.

My second surprise was the next four days.  Did he drink?  Of course, and steadily, but moderately (for my husband, anyway) and he maintained a nearly-sober good mood the entire time.  Did he work?  Of course, but he also paid more attention to me than he had in months – years, really.  We went to very nice restaurants every evening, and had a leisurely brunch every morning.  On Saturday, we took a little cruise on one of the only two remaining, genuine steamboats left in the U.S., down the Mississippi.  Afterwards, we walked around down Bourbon street, buying souvenirs for the kids and grandkids, while laughing at the 20-somethings who were already partying (many of them already drunk) at 2 in the afternoon.

Sunday we did nothing – in fact, he spent a good part of the day napping, which I was glad to see.  He’s done nothing but work and drink for so long, and I’ve known for some time that he’s physically and emotionally exhausted.  While he napped, I knitted and watched HBO.  Monday, he had to work, so I mostly stayed in our room and knitted and chatted with friends on Facebook.  It was relaxing.  Tuesday, we flew home.

In short, we had a good time.

Afterwards, and after discussing the trip with my therapist, I decided not to worry about how much, or even if, he was drinking and he stopped hiding it so much.  The bottle of vodka returned to our kitchen counter, rather than the garage, and I made no comment about it, other than to partake of a cocktail or two on the weekends myself.  He went back to mild, “I’ve been drinking/bordering on sober” behavior and continued to pay attention to me, rather than doing nothing but working and talking about work.

And it lasted through the holidays, but more on that in my next post.