“Sometimes, when chaos burns like wildfire around us, we have no other choice but to fall in love with the warmth.” Christopher Poindexter
Alana Concetta Carpenter was our warmth.
Have you ever loved someone so much that you would suffer any indignity to remain with them? Someone you loved so fully you’d forgive them anything? Someone you couldn’t imagine living without?
I have. In time, I hope someone will love me with that level of intensity.
Leaving a relationship like that is hard. The mind is a great deceiver when the heart is involved. Sometimes to protect ourselves, we have to flee. And that’s what I did.
How many miles do you need to put between yourself and your broken heart? In my case it’s 1027 miles. That’s how far I had to run to allow my mind to accept what my heart had known for over five years.
It’s been a tough year. So tough that it’s been difficult to write and too dangerous to blog. Most of the venomous, mental vomit I’ve had to spew has been confined to composition books inked with my favorite Pilot G2 pens rather than committed to the internet to live on forever, a toxic reminder of a difficult time. Because even though I know leaving was the right thing, late at night my inner mean girl whispers that if I’d been stronger, I could have stayed and detached rather than running.
But in leaving I found boldness and courage and the opportunity to remake my life into something I’m proud of. I’ve found that the things my old life told me I sucked at aren’t true. I can finish things. I can stick it out. I can take care of myself financially. I can be alone. I can make friends. I’m not great at everything I attempt, but I can ask for help. I make mistakes. I recover from them.
I’ve found my voice.
It amazes me how much of my old life was based on fear: fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of looking foolish, fear of being thought of as weak. Now I base my decision on my needs, and if things don’t work out the way I want them to, I make a new plan.
I’ve learned that even the worst plan can be reworked.
Most of all, I’ve realized that there is nothing worse than being with someone that makes you feel alone.
I left New Hampshire because I was weak. In leaving I discovered how strong I really am.
He wasn’t the best father, but he was my father. When my sister called and asked me to accompany her and my brother to his deathbed, I went, even though I hadn’t spoken to my dad in 22 years. I did it, I thought, for my siblings. Turns out I really did it for me.
When we entered the room where my dad lay dying, he looked exactly like his father had 22 years before. His head, covered with silvery gray hair, was thrown back on the pillow, his mouth gaped open, and harsh, irregular breathing filled the room. Though the nurses said he could hear us, he was unresponsive.
Unlike my grandfather, who died at home in his living room, my father began his death in an intensive medical care unit. Outside the unit a sign warned us to wear masks due to a flu outbreak. He was on contact precautions so before we entered his room we added gowns and gloves to the masks that covered our faces. The constant beep of monitors and the intrusion of nurses to empty his catheter, titrate his medications, and turn and position him widened the space between us and him.
It was hard to break that space.
The death of a parent, even a parent that never embraced the traditional role and remained more of a Peter Pan man-child than a King Triton type of dad, is hard. When it’s a father you’ve only seen from a distance for the past 22 years, one you’ve ducked down grocery store aisles to avoid and maintained at least a one room separation from at family gatherings, it’s a little harder.
In Al-Anon they say one can detach with love or detach with dynamite. I’d always seen my choice, dynamite, as irrevocable. As I smoothed his hair, wrapped his hand around mine, and reminisced about our shared past, I realized I was wrong.
Even though it was too late to repair the damage done to our relationship, it wasn’t too late to remember the good times we once shared.
In the time we spent alone, I played him the songs we knew together and the ones I’d grown to love since then. Kenny Chesney sang “Boys of Summer” in the background and I talked about fall in New Hampshire, football games my older brother played in, and towns we had rivalries with. Willie Nelson crooned “Always on my Mind” while I told him about the toast my youngest gave at her sister’s wedding and how it reminded me of him. Craig Morgan sang “Almost Home” as I retold stories of the friends and family that had predeceased him. Over and over, I told him it was okay to let go.
But, he hung on.
The palliative care nurse practitioner said he wouldn’t survive once they stopped the medications, but the medications stopped and he didn’t. Then they said the ambulance ride to the hospice might kill him. One last road trip, I murmured as the stretcher rolled into the Florida sun and bumped up into the ambulance, yet still he hung on. We can keep him pain-free, they said at the hospice, but it might hasten his death. It doesn’t matter, we told them, yet in spite of the pain and anti anxiety medicine, he breathed on. We sat by his bedside and laughed, prayed, told stories, cried. We watched him take one agonizing breath after another and we held our breath each time they stopped. But he kept breathing.
It wasn’t until late the second night, with all of his children around his bed, that he opened his eyes, took one last breath, and died.
My clearest memory of childhood is my father’s lectures at the dinner table. He’d tell us look around this table, these are the only people you can trust. These are the only people who love you unconditionally and will love you even if you grow up to be a murderer, a rapist, or a thief. For years I joked about his low expectations for us instead of focusing on the other part, how much he loved us and how much he wanted us to love and look out for each other.
Perhaps he hung on to make sure we’d learned the lessons he’d taught us. Even me, the daughter who had ignored him for 22 years.
If we get to make our own heaven, I have no doubt he’s in a place where the Jameson flows freely and the stories and laughter never stop and he is surrounded by people who love him.
He wasn’t the best father, but he was my father, and, in the end, I loved him still.
It takes an enormous amount of energy to live in an alcoholic family in denial. “Loose lips sink ships,” my father said and our family currency became half-truths and lies. My dad wasn’t a drunk. He liked to drink. He wasn’t an alcoholic because he didn’t go to AA. Even thirty days in rehab didn’t stop the denial. We unknowingly snuck him out one night when he begged us to visit and then told us we could take him into town for an outing. I knew it wasn’t because he missed us, but because he missed the liquor store.
See, no matter how many drunken speeches an alcoholic makes about how he loves his family, he loves the alcohol more. Deep down, his family knows this. We did. We heard it in the next-day apologies for his drunken behavior. We saw it in the glaze of his eyes. It reverberated in the clink of empty bottles.
As I grew older, it became harder and harder to convince myself that I was content in a relationship where I came in second to a bottle of booze. Eventually, he succeeded in pushing me away and I let him. For that, I am grateful.
Growing up with an alcoholic taught me to be careful and cautious and scared. It made me evaluate every drink I take. It forces me to analyze every slurred word or stumble I make when I’m drinking. All of my interactions with alcohol are judged on a strict scale because, due to my family history, I’m only a few drinks away from being an alcoholic. I carry that burden with every drink I take.
Maybe that’s where I break the cycle. I love my kids more than I’ll ever love booze.
Yes, alcoholism is a disease. Yes, some of us are genetically predisposed. And it might be unfair, and un-politically correct, but on some level I still believe that if my father had loved us enough, he would have given up alcohol and I guess I’ll never forgive him for that decision.
All I can do is not make the same mistake he did.
No one wants to sit on someone else’s toilet seat, particularly if it’s one of those soft padded seats. Doesn’t make a difference how much bleach or Mr. Clean with Febreeze is used, the warm little squish it makes as you settle your buttocks down is a constant reminder that someone else’s behind has come before you. My recent move came complete with a padded toilet seat. I added a new toilet seat to the Wal-Mart list and, though it was a DEFCON 3 priority, I didn’t change it out until a few days ago.
Now, I understood that long, plastic screws fasten down through the seat and into the actual porcelain of the bowl. I’ve always considered it an inferior design as there’s no purchase for the screws, they sort of drop through the holes and hope for the best. At least that’s what I thought.
A few years ago, one of my husband’s friendshits (see previous post on the difference between friendship and friendshit) renovated our bathroom. As befits the motto I bestowed upon him after enduring many years of his repairs and hearing the horror stories of others who hired him, “crappy work doesn’t come cheap,” he made a mess of the bathroom renovation. A corner shower, the identical model that I’d had installed in another house, was obviously not plumb and a gap of 3-4 inches between the walls and base was liberally plugged with caulk. He lost ambition after installing 3 out of 4 shelves in the medicine cabinet. The sink stopper was never installed and never found in the wreckage. Couldn’t hazard a guess as to whether he didn’t know how to install it or thought we didn’t mind losing toothpaste tubes down the drain on a regular basis. All of these mistakes paled, though, next to the toilet seat.
Though he is a contractor, wiki how has this helpful post on installing a new toilet seat to avoid unpleasantness. Basically, in addition to what I believed were useless plastic screws, toilet seats come with plastic nuts. If our fearless, friendshit carpenter had installed the toilet seat properly, it wouldn’t have come loose on one side. Not loose enough to slide off, but loose enough to jump if you sat on it wrong.
Nothing more unpleasant than a loose toilet seat.
My husband, good friend that he is, cautioned us all not to jump on the toilet seat or make hasty movements. Like somehow we were responsible for the problem. And then I changed my first toilet seat.
Imagine my surprise when I unscrewed the plastic screws and couldn’t pull the seat off. I tugged, and swore, and tugged some more. Then I felt underneath.
At first I thought perhaps the nuts on the bottom were new to toilet seats, the result of class action lawsuits from people falling off them. See, I try to give people the benefit of the doubt. But, I knew I was once again the victim of 21st Century Roofing‘s shoddy practices. Strangely enough, when I googled the name to ensure I had it right, they had a Better Business Bureau Rating of F. Wait, that’s not strange at all. This man has left a trail of incompetence and screwed up jobs in his wake. He works damn hard for that F.
Anyhow, I installed my new wood toilet seat correctly. Bye-bye former tenant germs and no fear of knocking the seat loose if I come in for a hard landing. As far as my former toilet seat, that’s now someone else’s business.
I think my birthday is pretty special. So special, in fact, that during my working career there has only been one year that I worked on the day of my birth. Every other year I have indulged in a minimum of my birthday off, though most of the time I extend it into a long weekend. (How, you ask. A Monday birthday requires the previous Friday, Saturday, and Sunday off as well as the subsequent Tuesday. A Tuesday birthday requires the weekend, Monday and Tuesday off. A Wednesday birthday rolls into a premature weekend starting on that day. Get it? Good.)
On particularly significant years I like to spend my birthday on vacation. One milestone birthday was spent in Key West, last year’s festivities included a trip to Ireland. My birthday is probably the one time of year I indulge myself without guilt. It’s like I’m two years old again and the world revolves around me. Makes me think of my nephew, Jack, who, on being told he was loved one day, said “Everyone loves Jack,” as if I was stupid for not knowing that fact. That’s how my birthdays feel. Everyone loves me and I can do whatever I want.
But, much as I love to pamper myself, I hate any sort of celebration initiated by others. I’ll tolerate a small family birthday party with a cake (but please make it vanilla) and a few presents (but, trust me, I have myself covered birthday-wise, there’s no need for anyone else to even try). I’ll smile and make nice if someone slips and tells the waiter or waitress it’s a birthday celebration, but don’t expect a tip if I get the birthday song or a lone candle on my desert and the attention of other diners. It makes me uncomfortable.
If you check my Facebook page,you won’t find my birthday listed. I love the option of wishing my friends a happy day, but not so sure how to respond when I’m the one getting well wishes. Do I thank everyone individually? Post a group thank you to my timeline? Graciously accept like the Queen, but make no mention of the fuss? With so many questions tormenting me, it’s easier to let it slip by unnoticed. Those of you who know when it is, your use of private messages rather than wall will prevent me from having to decide any of the above questions. Thank you.
I make no judgement on those of you who like a big fuss on your birthday. I know people who do the slightly embarrassed, yet grateful “you shouldn’t have” when entering a surprise party. I’ve worked with those who are genuinely surprised and pleased when a birthday cake appears at the monthly staff meeting. I’ve watched fellow diners react with delight when the entire restaurant staff appears table-side to sing birthday greetings. None of those people are me.
I think of birthdays the same way I think of births. I prefer a quiet, private affair with attendance limited to those few who are directly affected. Though I admire those people who love the public hoopla of birthdays, I’m not one of them, and at this stage of the game, that isn’t going to change.
By Lisa Smith Molinari
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