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Monday, July 21, 2008

Never trust an 'institution'.

Marriage. The very word makes me shudder. Not that I think the institution is inherently wrong, just that we've outgrown it. To be fair, that I have outgrown it. The days of being married for the long haul seem to be a very long time ago.

We live in a disposable society. If something breaks, don't fix it, get a new one, a better one, a shinier one.

I have three failed marriages to my credit, and as I am the common denominator in all three take the blame for all three. And I'm not proud of any of them, or should I say I'm not proud of my behaviour during and after the marriages. Yes...honesty counts.

(I am proud of my three daughters...I have four but the oldest only views me as an ATM machine and wants nothing to do with me. Fair enough. I have to be bigger than shutting down completely on that front but there are days when I'm just not up to it. But I digress...)

My parents were married five times each. They were my role models, my examples of how things worked.
On the flip side I'm close to my Aunt and Uncle, who have been married to one another a very long time indeed. Irish Catholics to the bone, five kids...they made the long haul work, but in my world they were the exception, not the rule.

I've now been marriage free for eight years. I've learned how to be alone. I've even learned to like it. This was not always the case.

I joined the army when I was seventeen. After three disastrous years I was somehow honorably discharged. Three years of drugs, alcohol, European travel, the cold war, and headbutting authority every chance I got. When I enlisted my head was filled with naive romance and adventure. I performed well in basic training, but knew I didn't fit. Skinny assed white kid with a big mouth and a decent vocabulary. I should have known.

When I reported to my permanent duty station in Germany I tried to fit in, but knew I was different. Then I started trying to make the burnt out lifers see it my way, so I threw down the gauntlet, and they responded in kind. They begged me to pick it up, and when I did, I'd find myself picking up teeth. It was then I read James Crumley's 'One to Count Cadence'. That, along with Earl Thompson's 'A Garden of Sand' and 'Tattoo' sparked the romance into a fire and I yearned to write, and drink, and travel. Life imitated art, and I stayed a private for three years, and stayed drunk for even longer.

I was a mess, but so were all my literary hero's. I thought that was the way it should be done, so I drank, and threw typewriters out of windows, and screwed my way across south Texas. After my enlistment, I stayed with my father and his last wife for a bit, until I backed my grandmothers car over a gas meter one night, drunk, after a one night stand. So I packed and got on a bus for South Texas. I had cousins who would put me up while I tried to get it together. The only thing was, they expected me to have it together already. Who knew?

It was written I should be loyal to the nightmare of my choice.-Joseph Conrad

My mother died before I was ready for her to go. I suppose that's the way it always is.

I was living in a converted attic; renting space from a friend and dubious business partner. The room was in the top of a one hundred year-old home in the historic part of Irving, Texas. My landlord had been my business partner for several months while we attempted to breathe life into a fledgling private investigations business, I hadn't had a drink in almost seven years but I was on the marijuana maintenance plan. Smoking almost a quarter ounce a day didn't seem to be helping. Not many folks wanted to hire a stoned P.I.

To make ends meet I was working as a banquet waiter; corporate functions, private parties. This freed me up to smoke weed, read Raymond Chandler and play disc golf.

It was the week of Christmas, 1994, and the banquet business was decent. A jumping Friday night and I was working a gig in Ft. Worth. A big corporation, open bar and rubbery chicken-with a special appearance by Chuck Berry. That was surreal, but pretty run of the mill. Chuck had finished duck walking through his set, which for someone 107 years old was pretty commendable.

We had cleared away the main course dishes-black tennis shoes, silent on the thick carpet, which complimented the cheesy bullshit tuxedo's we were forced to wear, and I was due a break. My fantasy of seducing a society matron was not playing out. It must have been the shoes.

I slithered into my overcoat, walked to the parking garage and cranked up the heater in my pickup, the Ft. Worth Skyline, frosty in my windshield. This was no way to make a living, but it kept the wolves at a reasonable distance. As we still had to serve dessert, I held off on the joint in my pocket. I finished smoking a camel and returned to the kitchen.

The headwaiter stopped me as I entered the hot, noisy space.
"You need to call your wife." His eyes were big.
"I'm not married." I shed the overcoat and threw it onto a serving cart.
He stammered, "She said it was about your Mother." Ex-wife. Great. What the hell could be wrong with mom. I lived three blocks from her and her last husband, whom I loathed with every fiber of my being, but I hadn't called for a week or two.
I was sure this could wait but I was in no mood to sling watery creme brulee.

I sat in the beverage managers office and dialed my ex. She answered. "it's me," I said, opting for curt instead of pleasant.
"Oh..." I could hear her breathing."I don't know how to say this....Patty's dead." Her voice quivered and the line buzzed. I had gone deaf and all I could see in front of me was the heavy, black telephone. I faintly heard the sound of my own voice from the bottom of a well.

"How..." was all I could manage.
"They think it was a heart attack. They found her at home. I'm at the hospital."
"I'm on my way." I was numb, and had no idea where I was going, my mother's house, the hospital, I just had to drive in an easterly direction and figure it out when I got there. Then I remembered, my ex-was going to meet me at the hospital. I thought, "Why the hospital, she's already dead."

I wheeled out of the parking garage with the weird soundtrack, "My mother's dead..." playing in an endless loop in my head. I figured I had every reason now to smoke that joint. As if I needed one.

I wondered if I would grieve, or how stoned I would have to stay so I couldn't.

The scene with her husband was fucking grim as he was in the hospital having been victim to a stroke. Thanks God...she goes and he stays, albeit pretty fucked up, but he was still alive. I couldn't see me coming to visit, or bringing him soup, in fact I couldn't see me doing anything at all.

I guess she died the way she wanted to; dressed in her favorite nightgown, curled up in bed watching an old movie, a glass of scotch within easy reach. The drink was next to the telephone. I wished I had called.

My new disclaimer...yeah I know.

Okay, the old disclaimer was tired. The ideas were outdated and keeping me stuck in a place I don't want to be now for something more refreshing.

I have recently changed my views regarding women. Seems I had some issues with the fairer sex due to past pain and self- centered fear. (Yes...duh applies.)

I'm done with that.

Being in recovery has helped me change my entire life, perceptions and attitudes. I cannot change my history but I can change my today and my future.

I recently realized that the women I know in recovery are some of the strongest, bravest, most gentle and kind teachers I have ever had. You exemplify integrity and spiritual growth, and I hope you know who you are.

Some may know of my past marital and relationship history and been a participant in them as well. It's past and that's where it the past.

I own my part in those failures but claim no more responsibility in any misery you may be experiencing. I am sorry, but it's time to get off the cross. We need the wood.

Thank you all...