Earthy, With Hints of Floral

Last night, we had my favorite agnolotti (which is prissy for ravioli) for dinner. It's nothing too exceptional; just some frozen thing you can pick up at any old King or Queen Soopers for like $5.99 a package, but it's really good. It's filled with a blend of ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan, Romano, and the very final moments of my marriage. 

For the first 16 years of our life together, he'd been home for dinner, on average, one night a week. I'd never been able to cook dinners that included him, and I'd never had help getting the kids settled for the night, because that's just not how the restaurant industry, or addiction, works. We wives and children to chefs and GMs are widowed and orphaned by Open Table. Add vodka and wine to that equation, and we were lucky to see him at all from Tuesday morning through Sunday night.

The new job he had taken in 2011 had him home for dinner three or four evenings a week, which was new for us - and quite nice in a normal-life sort of way. It wasn't very good in the hide-the-drinking-while-the-family-sleeps sort of way, which - as these things are wont to do - caught up with us with a vengeance eventually. 

The thing with co-dependency is that we want to believe so badly that we will twist and warp reality to make it believable to us no matter what pesky facts lie in our way. He had more late tables than any GM in the history of restaurant management, his drawers would never, ever balance, he'd have to work on national and corporate holidays when no one else is the entire company of hundreds was working, the makeup bags under my seat of the car were left by thieves digging through the car looking for change or ironic Robyn Hitchcock cassettes - and I'd find some way to believe it, always.  

I'm still not sure if I believed it because I didn't want to face the reality of what he was doing to himself and by proxy me and my children, or if I didn't want to face him when and if I called him on it. I'm still not sure it actually matters. 

So when he started working mornings, when he started coming home to us at night, I found a way to believe that we'd found the answer to our prayers. He was with us during the one time he could drink himself stupid; ergo, he couldn't drink himself stupid anymore. That's called science, bitches. It's logic. I beliiiiiiiiieeeeeved it. 

And I had hope. For him, for us, for my children, for his insane dog, for all of it. There was hope for the first time in a very long time. 

Because that's how addiction to addicts works. 

So this one night - after almost a full year of pure hell in which I had watched, listened, and smelled him nearly kill himself with vodka, watched my kids realize for the first time that their father had a problem, saw him physically hurt one of our children while he was drunk, saw him repeatedly emotionally hurt another child, dodged fists that went through doors instead of my face, asked for divorce, was denied a divorce, endured his long bouts of depression followed by long bouts of rage, given up all hope of saving him or leaving him - after all of that he got this job that made him feel useful and challenged amd secure again, one that had him home with his family more nights than not almost like a normal person, one that I convinced myself could keep him from drinking even though it was a wine bar and he had every key to it, and this one night I decided to bury the hachet, be a nice human being, make him a nice dinner, wear something cute, and welcome him home like I always imagined wives welcomed their husbands home at the end of a long day in a world that I didn't live in, but wanted to. 

So I made this dinner he'd never had before, this agnolotti (which is prissy for ravioli), and a big old salad that had all of his favorite salady-type-things in it. I put on a skirt and my nice makeup. I straightened my hair. I dabbed some perfume on. Then I waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And he never came home

He never came home because if he couldn't drink at night, he was going to drink during the day, dammit, and drinking during the day means drinking during work and drinking during work at a wine bar means blacking out at 11am and not remembering anything until 7pm that night, across town, with no idea how you got there, were your car is, or how you are going to fix this. 

Because you can't fix this. Because this is your rock bottom. And it is mine, too. 

I sat on my corduroy double-wide arm chair that I loved more than just about any other earthly possession, the one I had to leave behind when we made our abrupt exodus from Texas because we didn't have enough money to rent a truck big enough to bring it, or any of my living room furniture that, I was told, was "just stuff" I "need to let go of". I sat on that chair under the warm orange glow of the table lamp I also don't own anymore and most of everything inside of me died.

It's funny how quickly fear gives way to anger, then humiliation, then resignation. 

By the time he came in the door, without a car or a job, I had already put all the children to bed sweetly and calmly, I had already cleared the table of his wilted salad and hardened pasta, and I had changed out of my skirt and sweater into the oversized sweats that had room enough in them for me and the waves of alternating panic and rage and sadness ebbing inside of me. It was over; the dream I had clutched in the palm of my foolishly-determined fist all those 16 years was finally over, and I'd finally, with finality, let it go.

He has no idea what happened to either one of us that night. I've never spoken of the details of that night with him, or with anyone for that matter. He never found the car he lost that night, and he never found the job he lost that night, and I never found the person I lost that night, the one inside of me that was willing, always, to give one last chance, to find one last reason to believe in him, in us, in that reality. 

On January 25th of this year, I made that same dinner again for the first time since that night, this time just for me and my children. I wore a skirt, I put on some makeup, I dabbed on some perfume, and I quietly counted the distance between that place I was a year ago and the reality I ended up living, 365 days later. 

Now we have it again on the seim-regular dinner rotation. It still tastes a bit like brown corduroy and grace, which will always be a bittersweet thing to swallow, but I think I am finally at the place where I like the taste of what is done, and what is becoming because of it. 

A Vague Connection

I keep trying to write a post about the bailout, but this is all that will come out.  I'm not sure the connection between the two will translate, so I'll just apologize in advance, and continue the story of my relatives where I left it off here:

My cousin Donna was something in the neighborhood of 10 years older than me, maybe more; I honestly don't know.  She was my father's first niece, his sister's first child, my grandmother's first grandchild.  She had a great laugh, beautiful red hair, and was smart and loving and kind.  My father was in LOVE with his nieces and up until my parents divorced when I was 6, they were a huge part of our daily life.  After that, we only saw them on my dad's time with us.  My parents had one of those divorces where both sides of the family completely parted ways, and my mother took us.  We didn't have a whole ton of contact with his side until they all started dying.

My brother, I have to add, was much better than me at saying Fuck It and seeing my father's side of the family anyway.  I was entirely too afraid of my mother to attempt such a mutiny, and not a day goes by that I don't envy him the contact he had with our family after the rest of us were secluded from them.  That boy had balls.

My cousin was married to a man (who we'll just call Tee) at some point, I don't really know, and had a baby who we'll just call Jr.  I did get to see Jr quite a bit; my mother was a bitch, but she wasn't that bad.  I couldn't see my aunt, but her kid was totally in-limits.  He was cute, they were happy, blah blah blah.

They lived far from us, in Bethany which is in the very southern, beachy tip of Delaware, and I just didn't know anything about her as an adult.  I know she later had another baby (maybe twins?) and that her marriage sounded fine on the surface.  I'd seen her at our grandmother's funeral when I was 15, and Donna was the family member who was given our grandmother's folded flag at her military funeral.  She was wearing a black dress-suit and pumps, and looked she fine to me.  Apparently, she had a major drug problem that I didn't know about until I moved to Colorado with my dad when I was 17.

I remember one night when she called, crying to my father that she didn't have money for rent.  My dad sat up with her all night on the phone, trying to get the number of her landlord out of her, promising he'd get her caught up.  She wouldn't give the number over, made some bullshit story up, pleaded with him to send money that night, and after a while my dad just gave up and called her husband back the next day.

Turns out, they were behind on their rent.  Turns out, all their money was going up her nose (and in her arm, I'd be willing to bet.)  Turns out, Donna's father, my asshole uncle, was keeping her pretty hooked on some drug or the other, because he didn't want to party alone.  Turns out, the problem was bigger than most of us knew.  Tee had thrown her out of the house for the sake of the children's and his sanity, and they did need help.  My father sent the landlord the rent, rather than giving it to Donna, who was just going to snort it anyway, ensuring that money went to the family and not to the addiction, or the addict.  And there's my bailout paragraph in a nutshell.  Moving on...

Apparently, Donna had taken to sneaking in the house in the middle of the night to sleep.  Tee knew this, but didn't want to let on that he knew, so he'd just leave a small window unlocked at night that she could get in and out of.  The neighbors and her friends had seen her pushing a ladder up to her house in the middle of the night to get in before; it wasn't really a secret or anything.  She would just leave before everyone was up the next morning, and in that silent arrangement she had shelter and safety, and Tee knew his wife and the mother of his children was warm and fed at the very least.

One day, when I was at the end of being 21, my father started calling me at my boyfriend's house.  We were fighting about something or the other, so I ignored his calls all day until, eventually, I realized something was wrong.  He NEVER called, let alone that many times in a row.  When I finally answered, he asked me with tears in his throat to sit down.

Donna had gone out with her friends, maybe her father (the jury is still out on that one) and they were all doing drugs.  She mixed too many substances, or took too much of one, no one really knows.  What we do know is that her friends, rather than dumping her off at the ER, took her as she O.D.'d back to her house.  They grabbed the ladder that she'd used before to get in, pushed it up to the house, and shoved her into the open window.  They drove off, and one of them called 911 to report "what looks like a break in attempt" at her house.  Of course, the neighbors all knew about the ladder thing, and the cops thought nothing of it.

The kicker here is that they shoved her in the wrong window.  They shoved her into her oldest son's window, who wasn't even 10 yet, where she cracked her head on the bedframe on the fall down.  Tee had the kids out that night, I think at his mother's, and the next morning when they came home Jr walked into his room and found his mother dead, overdosed, suffocated on her own vomit, soaked in it and her urine and her feces, crumpled over in the corner of his bed.

And that is how I lost my cousin.  And that is how her son lost his mother.  My father, well, I didn't think he'd ever recover from it.  When he told me, I sat on the corner of my boyfriend's bed and I couldn't breath.  I couldn't think.  All I could do was scream and scream and scream.  It took that boyfriend longer than I can remember to get the story of what happened out of me, and that night he asked me to marry him because he didn't ever want something to happen to me and for him to not know what it was ever again.  I spent most of that night hunting my brother down, who had taken off years before never to be heard from again, and I reunited with him over the phone under these circumstances.

We all flew to Delaware to lay her to rest, and in her death, my family found each other.

Every anniversary that boyfriend and I celebrate, she is still there with me.  Every baby of ours, each one born with a shock of red hair and a beautiful smile, they are each a reminder of her.  Each comment my brother leaves on this blog, she's in there somewhere.  She was taken from my life twice in the 21 years I'd known her, once by divorce, once by addiction and irresponsible, selfish behavior, but this time, I know I'll never find her again.  I just have to hold a little tighter to what she left in her wake.