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Friday, July 30, 2010


After I settled in and allowed myself to hear her, instead of simply feel overwhelmed, I learned some things. I suppose I knew them, at one time, but my mind files things in a haphazard manner, sometimes sticking memories in drawers they don't belong.

I learned my maternal Grandmother was a practicing alcoholic who sobered up in time to watch my Mom get sober, and my Grandfather was a beaten man.

I learned I was a little older than I remembered when my parents divorced, and remembered doing my second grade homework in a beer joint my Mom had bought.

I learned that when we moved to Las Vegas, when I was seven, McDonald's was new. When my Fathers child support check arrived, weekly, I went with my Mom to cash it, and we would pass McDonald's, and their new .15 cent hamburger. I would always ask for one, and she would always say, "No honey, not today." She needed the money for wine.

I learned of her pain, her denial, and her running across the country from herself.

And I learned of her death wish, every time she drank.

She had also been sold on the American Dream, husband and house bullshit, and she craved it as much as she ever craved a morning drink.

Above all I suppose, I learned how much alike we were, in denial and circumstance.

And when she was on husband number four, an outlaw Indian in Guyman, Oklahoma, she had a black banty rooster for a pet. She kept it in an oriental birdcage, and she would take it for drives in her rusted out, 65 Ford pickup.

I have not done her story justice with this, my head is too full of conflict, still processing, I suppose.

I think I want a rooster.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

I wish I had known her Rooster...

I recently heard my dead Mother's voice after fifteen years.

She had been a circuit speaker in recovery, and told her story at conferences and conventions. Through the years I contacted the people who make cd's and tapes of speakers in hopes of finding one, but I never could. Figured she was lost to the ages.

I had been contracted to do some writing for a friend, who is also a circuit speaker, and he needed to find his first taped talk. He made a phone call to Oklahoma, found his tape, and mentioned my Mother. The voice on the phone said he'd look.

He called me last week and asked, "Was your Mother Patty Palmer?" I said she was.
"I have her tape."

I became lost for a moment. Then excited. Then frightened. Could I hear her again, and retain my composure? Could I hear her again and feel anything at all?

I spend Mondays working on my friends story, transcribing, writing, getting into his head. Last Monday I sat on his couch, armed with coffee and he took a little black and white cassette, inserted it into the tape player and I waited.

A brief bit of static then a little twangy, East Texas drawel, with a laugh behind every sentence covered my world. My Mom, and she was talking to me.

It took me fifteen years to be ready to hear her again. I resented her death, I resented her drinking again wich led to her death and I resented her abandoning me, for the last and final time.

In my minds eye I could see her at the podium at the Missouri State Conference she was speaking for and see the twinkle in her eyes.

She related what she had been like, what happened and what she was like then. At the time she had been sober nine years, and was in love with life.

It wasn't always that way.

to be continued...

Monday, July 5, 2010

A friend goes queitly into that good night...

I never expected him to go quietly. It was unimaginable.

Blood in his throat, a gun in his hand and a scream in his mouth was more his speed.

The horrors that life could throw at you, well, at least he could wrap his hands around those. But the ones in his head, the slippery, faint whispers only he could hear? He would pin them in a corner and give them the rush and he would have nothing more than smoke in his hands. Eventually the whispers grew louder.

His larger than life heart broke in stages, as I remember. Fifteen years of marriage, all of it, gone in the time it took for his wife to screw a carpenter and smoke crack.

His ten year old son was all he kept from the union. That and memories.

He tried to hate her, and publicly managed quite well, but in those long, dark nights of the soul he would have forgiven her in a blink, just to hold her one more time.

He had given her almost all of him-the rest he gave to The Army. Eighteen years, a bootstrap Major, risen from the ranks, and they turned him out, two years before his twenty. The Army had an image, and he didn't fit it, not anymore.

The booze, the depression, the suicide attempts-none of these made for good public relations. Sure, they sent him to counseling, and treatment, and hospitals, and of course medication. But the damage was done.

The week before he left Texas to retire in his home town in Wisconsin, I pulled a loaded forty five from his hand. We were standing outside his apartment on the second floor landing, two police cars and an ambulance parked below. The cops were letting me try to talk him down. I threw it behind me and the cops made it to where we were. It was never pointed at me, just his head. "I would never hurt you," he said, and started to cry. I was impressed with the officers, they were gentle and calm, and allowed him to make it to the ambulance without handcuffs and on his own.

I don't know what hurt worse, another drunken suicide attempt, or a 6 foot 5, 250 lb. warrior, breaking down and crying because he thought I might be in danger.

He went back to his small, Wisconsin farm town a broken man. He tried rehab, again, and more medication. He went to a few recovery meetings but he just couldn't handle asking for help. I don't know if self-reliance failed him or he failed it, but he was a man, a soldier, and he felt he should get it together on his own. It never happened.

He tried to date, to ease the loneliness but it ended ugly, leaving him even more alone. The only solace he found was helping his son grow up. They would hunt, and watch British comedy and he introduced his son to my writing, "See son, I'm not the only one that's completely screwed up," and he would laugh.

A few years passed and the drinking escalated. He would go to the local tavern, to be with adults, but he would drink alone. The medications would change and he would forget to take them, or take too many and wind up screwed to the floor.

His son had gotten older and more world wise. He could see the problems and he missed his Dad. The boy moved in with his grandparents because he never knew when the upswings would spiral downward into an abysmal downswing, and he had gotten scared.

He wound up on full mental disability, and it crushed his spirit.

The last time I spoke with him, a week before his death, I knew he had been drinking but he said, "I may be a lot of things, a blackout drunk-manic depressive and a failed husband...but I'm glad I'm still you're friend."

He showed up at his parent's house to take his son to get his scout gear for camp. The boy was leaving in the morning. He had been drinking and the boy knew it and his son decided not to go with him.

The boy told him goodbye and he left, wounded, one more time.

A few days later his Father tried to call, but got no answer. Over the next six days he kept getting voice mail. Eventually he got the duplex manager to meet him and together they entered the duplex. It was silent. Completely, and the pungent, sweet- sick odor of death was in the air.

They found him in the kitchen, on his knees, head and torso forward, with his face resting on the tile. Rigor had come and gone, but the blood had pooled in the lower portions of his arms and face.

His Father called me that night and left a sobbing message. When I heard it, the rest of the world went silent and all I could think was "No..."

The autopsy revealed nothing, no aneurysm, no heart attack, not suicide. The were waiting on the toxicology report.

They ruled the cause of death "accidental."

It's what they always say when one dies of a broken heart.

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...