Month: May 2020


            Hope for a fresh start carried us to a new home in a safer neighborhood with more convenient off street parking.  Moments of true contentment sustained the belief that we could create the life we both longed for – a life with a loving family in a happy home.  Drugs were no longer in the picture, but late nights slowly returned, with alcohol as the mistress.  I still clung to the belief that a flourishing family would somehow support sobriety.  I still believed there was a way I could reroute his need for alcohol as a sedative for painful memories. We decided to expand our family.  Following a difficult pregnancy, but speedy delivery – almost in the car as my mother had delivered me – a daughter created an idyllic family of four.  Seven months as a stay at home mom followed and friends commented they had never seen me so happy.  It was a good life, but not good enough to fill Ron’s need for retreating into the haze of inebriation. 

            I returned to work part time at a new position with preschoolers with special needs.   It became my sanctuary.   I loved the way the kids made me feel.  I loved the rewards of my efforts as their skills grew.  I loved the camaraderie and respect of my coworkers.  I loved the sense of independence and control over my day.  I loved looking forward to picking up my own children after work.  I dreaded not knowing if tonight the door would close, despite my begging or anger or tears, as Ron went out for his fix.  His work, or rather, missing work after late nights out, became a threat to our security.  He was the main breadwinner.  My part time salary could not pay the bills. 

            Illusions of the life I wished for died a very gradual death.  It was inflated with the air of fun vacations, the four of us together and kids excited and happy.  It lost its buoyancy as debt accumulated.  Money was a constant issue.  I had grown up in a home with a tight budget required to just satisfy basic needs.  Vacations were camping trips.  Ron had grown up in a big house with hired help when young, until things went downhill and they ended in an abandoned hotel, and eventually foster care.  But the need to live as if money flowed from a fountain seemed to be deeply rooted.  I constantly scrimped and he constantly spent.  We kept separate bank accounts despite the discrepancy in the size of our paychecks – mine very small and his much larger.    We each took care of designated bills.  Our finances were never shared. As also held true for many parts of our relationship, including trust.

Memorial Day

I will not be entering a new personal post this week, but will be returning next week to continue the story.

In the meantime, you may want to check our the National Moment of Remembrance Act, Public law 106-579, enacted on December 28th 2000 honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. It is an act of unity, a national moment of pause for one minute at 3PM local time on Memorial Day to remember those who have died in military service to the United States. To me, it is not a political statement, it is not a statement of our desired policies for the future on participation in wars, it is a statement of appreciation for those that, through voluntary choice or draft, gave their life in the name of our freedom. My husband returned home and I am grateful. I send my caring thoughts to those families who were not so fortunate. It is a moment of peace to honor those lost in war. May we find ways to in the future to honor peace before we lose more precious lives.

I welcome your thoughts.

Alone Again

            The line between wants and needs was often blurred by desires, cravings, denial, and alternating hopes and fears.  I made demands, he made promises, and we both wanted to believe in the possibility of creating the family we envisioned.  We had taken all the steps to lead there, but the door at the top of the stairs seemed to open onto rough seas rather than a peaceful home, and we were precariously close to being swept under.  Then a lifeline appeared, in the form of a residential rehab program.  It would mean another separation of over a month, our son now six months old.  I had returned to work part time and solid daycare was in place.   The choice was to dive in and swim like hell, or surely drown.  We could not remain balanced on this crest of uncertainty without eventually careening to an end with no return.  

            I was alone again, but this time on steadier ground.  The fussy infant had grown into a rosy cheeked, curly haired, bright eyed little boy who still cried, but also smiled and giggled and played and explored the world around him.  We had found our way into our daily routines as parent and child together.  Total responsibility for getting us both up and out on work days was daunting but doable.  The most challenging task was simply getting a child, gear, groceries and whatever else needed to be transported to and from the house all in the same place at the same time.  We had no garage or driveway and I often had to park a block or more away.  I couldn’t leave a child in the car alone while I transported the other items and couldn’t leave him in the house alone while I carted things to or from the car, so we took multiple trips back and forth with the stroller and as many packages as could be carried.  This part never got easier.  But we managed.  Then there were the visits to the rehab center, two hours away.  Wooded surroundings with a lake and mountain views greeted me as I drove through the gate on my first visit.  Resentment started to blossom again as I took in the vacation like setting.  But it did not take long to see past the bucolic backdrop to the serious challenges mirrored in each face that drifted by.  Ron seemed happy to have us there, but also distracted by the veil of emotions that hung around him.   We sat outside and talked about little things.  I complained some about the struggle of being left alone again.  But those feelings softened as he did not complain of the obstacles that fell in his path each day, simply said that he could not talk about it yet, that it was hard to explain.  The things he didn’t say, and the way he didn’t say them, communicated more than any words.  I was relieved to be able to return to my home with my arms filled with the innocence embodied in our son.

             Six weeks passed by at a pace that only the care of a rapidly growing child can define.  Ron returned with a diagnosis of PTSD – post traumatic stress disorder – a term unfamiliar to most at that time.  He was also drug and alcohol free.   The atmosphere was tense, but in a different way.  Neither of us knew how to respond to the other.  We either tip-toed around each other’s fragile emotions or found something to argue about.  We had met in a bar, gone to bars while dating, even owned a bar before we were married.  Alcohol had connected us and separated us all the way to the altar.  Then, along with drugs, become the elephant in the living room whose weight had finally pinned us to the ground.   He continued attending meetings at the Vet Center and also went to AA meetings for a while.  I tried Al-anon meetings and once again felt like an outsider, as I always did in groups, so did not continue for long.  But I did last long enough to hear the term ‘enabler’ – the person that encourages or enables negative or self-destructive behavior in another.   I knew that was not me, I had been doing everything I could to stop Ron’s addictive behaviors.  I was certainly not encouraging any of it.  How could I be enabling?


            Ten days after the birth of our son, one day after Christmas, Ron boarded a plane for Sweden.  He had received a call to come for a final visit with his mother, who had struggled with cancer for some time.  I never met her in person.  Our relationship was limited to occasional phone conversations and a few letters.  We talked the day after her grandson was born, and she expressed how happy she was to know her son had a son of his own. She also let me know it would most likely be our last conversation.  I believe she held on, waiting for this continuation of family, for the arrival of this new life, before she was willing to let go of her own.   As much as I did not want to be left alone with my newborn first child, I could not ask Ron to miss this final good-bye.

            Now, totally alone with this new little human being, that I had little idea how to care for, still recovering from a long difficult labor, the earth dropped out from under me.  The baby howled with a piercing cry every two hours.  I was breast feeding him, but didn’t really know what I was doing.  I had apparently missed instruction in this area before leaving the hospital.  Each feeding left me gritting my teeth in agony.  No one had ever even suggested how painful this could be, especially when it isn’t done properly.  I didn’t even know there were a right and a wrong way!   I cried, a lot.  Finally, I felt there was no choice but to retreat to my parent’s home for help.  I had not been dependent on their assistance for more than a dozen years.  It was not a choice I made easily. 

            A friend drove me and the baby along with the stroller, car seat, playpen for sleeping and all the rest of the gear suddenly deemed necessities, to the Greyhound bus station, since I was still unable to drive.  I held Erik on my lap for the entire three hour trip and, thankfully, he did not make a sound.  The motion of the bus must have calmed the screech I was so afraid would erupt and disturb the other passengers.  An older woman commented on what a good baby he was as she left the bus, and all I could think was “if you only knew.”  My parents were at the station waiting to pick up their daughter and their first grandson – following four granddaughters my brothers had added to the family.  The tension from the past week relaxed just a little, with my mother by my side to help guide me into this new world of parenthood.  The regular two hour shrieks returned as soon as we arrived at their house.  Mom had never breast fed and did not have a high opinion of the option.  She had little to offer except maybe he wasn’t getting enough to eat.  I was convinced he was, based on the release of pressure as he nursed and the seepage in between.  A healthy burp as I patted his back also seemed to point in that direction.  This was just the first topic where our opinions diverged.  I was exhausted waking for feedings every two hours throughout the nights.  I had not yet learned to use a breast pump to allow someone else to ease the load.  The night rang with his incessant screams, no matter what I did – feed, hold, burp, jiggle, walk, rock, cry, curse… – until I finally had to give in to my own weariness and lay down with him next to me, and let him cry.  Next morning my mother met me with a stern face and angrily grumbled “I don’t care what anyone says, I don’t think you should just let him cry all night!”  Words drenched in sleep deprivation and ragged nerves ripped past my tongue: “LET him cry?!!  You think I LET him cry?!  I have been up all night trying everything I could think of and he wouldn’t stop, no matter what I did!”  Then I broke down sobbing, at a loss for what to do next.  So I called my new pediatrician.  He thought it might be colic and sent me to the drug store for a mixture the pharmacist had to make up.  We drove there as fast as we could.  The concoction seemed to take the edge off the severity, but did not stop the apparent discomfort completely.  It would take two more months before I discovered that the cries were related to sensitivity to the cow’s milk I was drinking.  Upon stopping my consumption of all dairy products a happier baby emerged.   

            After staying at my parent’s house for a couple of weeks, I returned home to await Ron’s return.  He did not return for over a month.  His mother’s final days had lingered on, and then he and his sister needed to empty her very full apartment before he could return.  It felt endless.  I could hear the despair in his voice when we talked.  He ached to hold the son he had waited so long for.  He was helpless to do anything but listen to my frustrations about caring for the baby alone.  He was confronted with the grief of his mother’s death.  He struggled with the major task of taking care of  all her business and belongings.  And there was an entire ocean between us, eliminating the opportunity to come home for a day or two for a break. There was little doubt in my mind as to how he eased his pain and heartache.

            Upon his return, my exhaustion and irritability met his exhaustion and sorrow.  It was not a happy reunion.  Despite understanding that he had needed to leave, my resentment at being left alone with our newborn for such an extended period could not be tamed.  I was angry.  I was worn out.  I expected him to step into his full role as a father, along with all the responsibilities it entailed – immediately.  He was ready to embrace his son, but not ready to embrace the multitude of daily tasks that came along with him: the diapers, the middle of the night feedings (with bottles of pumped breast milk), the crying, the bathing, the constant need to be available and tuned in to the ever-changing moment.  He was also not ready to grasp the loss of freedom to do as you please, when you please. We fought, a lot.  The baby cried, a lot.  So did I.  Ron’s late nights out gradually returned.  Then one day I unexpectedly found his drug stash on a high shelf in the bathroom.   Defeat beat anger to the starting line.  When anger caught up it was sobered with worry and sorrow.  How could I handle motherhood alone?  How could Ron handle not being with his son?