I always have some kind of writing in the works. Much of it is just for my eyes; some of it, I allow others to see. I may write to relieve some kind of angst, or to express feelings I have, based on something beautiful I saw, or to comment, for example, on a father running with his child, their jackets fluttering in the wind as they try to catch the bus, their laughter filling the air, and causing me to smile and stare at a moment like that.
This particular writing that I'm about to share has been only for my eyes. Mostly because of embarrassment and the feeling that people will judge the family members involved. As this writing has grown, however, and has seemed to take on a life of its own, I've realized that I am not alone. These issues are very real and touch many of us everyday. Some of us handle it better than others, some ignore it and pretend it doesn't exist. Some of us end up in therapy for our entire lives, trying to learn how to close the wounds that others have unwittingly cast on us with the choices they've made. Some of us collapse.
I'd like to finish this story within a year or so and try to find some interest in it - because if I can help another family, another soul, another mother, father, sister, brother, grandparent, friend, husband, wife, even if it's only one person, then I will feel right in sharing this journey.
This is only a segment of "Collapse." I most likely won't share anymore with you for a very long time. It is private and painful, but I also know that there is hope and redemption on the other side of that long, dark tunnel.
It’s the rare young woman who doesn’t, when accepting a proposal of marriage, firmly believe that her life will be exactly as she dreamt it would be: traditional wedding, pregnancy, family, home, pets, soccer practice and nights filled with laughter as we’d play board games together. At least that was my idea of the perfect American Family.
My own upbringing had been normal, to a degree. Dysfunctional to the nth degree. But whatever our lives are, we seem to survive, grow - and, to us, life is “normal.” Mostly because that’s all we know. Maya Angelou’s book, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” says it all. The bird sings because she doesn’t know anything else and finds happiness within the confines of her own small world.
Despite my childhood ideations of family and happiness, I knew there were things about our life that I didn’t want to bring to my potential future family. Alcoholism and addiction was the biggest of all.
My parents each had alcoholics within their families. Some were rabid alcoholics; others were the occasional binging alcoholics. Still others drank “just a little bit” every night. Sadly, by the time I was 11, my mother had also succumbed to alcoholism.
As a youngster, the drinking didn’t bother me much because it was common practice during the 60s and 70s for most people to come home from work and pour a drink. It wasn’t until my teenage years, when I needed my mother most and she was available to me the least, that I realized the impact alcoholism and addiction had on me, and would continue to have on me for the rest of my life.
My mother’s family was Irish-American with strong roots in Roman Catholicism. My father’s family was Ukrainian, also with strong roots in Catholicism – the Greek Orthodox version. Despite the fact that my Irish Catholic grandmother said the rosary at least twice a day, drinks started at a very early hour, for as long as I can remember. Grandma got silly, danced around the kitchen, and occasionally got mouthy. Whenever one or two gathered at the house, it was cause for a party.
Once, as a teenager, my mother dropped me off at my grandmother’s home on her way to work. There was no school that day and I wanted to spend the day with grandma. Those days were favorites for me. Grandma seemed to make the best buttered toast in the world. After breakfast with toast and tea, we’d play cards all day and she’d call me a little shit when I’d beat her. She’d open herself a beer by noon (or earlier) and she’d take an occasional break to stand at the kitchen window and smoke her non-filtered Pall Mall cigarettes.
On that particular day, my high school boyfriend and his friend, Jim, stopped over. It was 8 am. Grandma saw this as a reason for a party and asked if they’d like a beer. Why, of course two teenage boys would like a beer! I turned her down and insisted that one was enough and no more for each of them. When she offered them another, I glared at “Jeff” and he politely refused before he and Jim rose and left to do whatever guys do on a day off from school.
Little did I know, as I sat at that table playing cards and eating toast, that the foundation was already poured and firmly set for a lifetime battling the wily, ever changing demons of alcohol, addiction, lies, incarceration, health problems, hospitalizations. And I, one of the warriors fighting an ever stronger foe, walked along the brink of madness and fear - amidst what I perceived as a world filled with little hope.
Copyright liamsgrandma 2011