May 27th, 2016

saints need sinners

Today’s a really special day for me. And as is my custom, I made y’all a little mixtape.

Click on the image to get m3u download and CD cover, zipped:

May 27th, 2016

Streaming: [ gmusic link ]

playlist:

1. Shadows Of The Night / Pat Benatar
2. Shadow People / Dr. Dog
3. Guitar Town / Steve Earle
4. Going To California / Led Zeppelin
5. Operate / Peaches
6. The Passenger / Iggy Pop
7. Missionary Man / Eurythmics
8. Airbag / Radiohead
9. Disparate Youth / Santigold
10. Turn to Stone / Electric Light Orchestra
11. The Only Living Boy in New York / Simon & Garfunkel
12. Hopeless Wanderer / Mumford & Sons
13. Electric Love / BØRNS
14. My Shit’s Fucked Up / Warren Zevon
15. Moonage Daydream / David Bowie

faithfulness the best relationship

Tonight a woman looked right at me and said, “I remember when – “. She’d tried to get sober, came in a couple weeks before I did. I remember her so well, as I’d jumped right on her real quick-like and bummed rides (and offered rides, when my car worked) and invested myself in this woman. Even with only a couple more weeks on me, back then I believed with all my heart she was tougher, and smarter. She had the secret. Because she had a few more days. It’s hard to explain unless you’ve given into an addiction, really felt it in your bones and got honest about it. The most slender bit of hope, if it seems real enough, looms huge.

She tells me how she used to try to race me through recovery. I remember this a little. And I remember soon after we met she drank again, then tried to get sober, then drank and I didn’t see her for all this time, except once in her car on a summer night. “And now you have five years,” she says. Her eyes are swimming with hot tears but they are gorgeous, huge and liquid brown, her most stunning feature really.

You can imagine how glad I am to see her back. It’s like we were in a shipwreck and separated off the lifeboats and here we are years later, and she’s still alive and our friendship is as real and keen as it was back when our lives were in that kind of peril.

I’m thinking about medicine, too. See three years ago yesterday was my last cigarette – I wrote it down, May 17th, because I somehow knew it might be the day. With that sort of thing I’m never sure, it’s like a growing excitement. I don’t remember that particular last cigarette and after the first year or so, the cravings passed and I rarely thought about smoking. Smoking’s not that big a deal maybe but nevertheless I am glad. I remember what it felt like to want a cigarette. It’s like fun for a while (years!) then one day you don’t want to want it because it’s starting to be a need, and at that point things have changed.

Of course human beings love to lie to themselves about dependency. The truth is, we have many. All of us. Some dependencies are healthy, some less so. I remember my first mentor telling me: “If you came up behind me and put your hand around my nose and mouth I could act hip, slick and cool for a bit.” She leans back in her chair, folding her arms and feigning nonchalance. “Maybe a whole couple minutes. Then if you keep cutting off my air supply I’m going to start to get uncomfortable. And then pretty soon I’m in a panic and I’ll do anything it takes to get that gasp of air!”

I never forgot this. I never forgot that I’m not so independent, not so very powerful after all. I’m lying to myself if I say I am.

The smoking is gone. The drinking, the drugs. All of these things have fallen away, all of these “bad habits”, these distractions, these little obsessions. The need to be esteemed in work or avocation. The need to gorge, the need to starve, the need to be liked by any particular person. The need for certain things not to go wrong for my kids. (That’s the biggest one of all, I think!) So it’s all falling away and sometimes I get this prescient sense it’s about to happen and that is like a tingling feeling. Who knows? One dares not to hope or to grasp. But maybe I’m changing from within!

I had a big change recently so right now, I’m just stepping along. I’m the little girl with her feet along the narrow curb, looking down to walk in that line. Taking a bit of focus but not taking it too seriously right now.

Because the sun’s out and it’s a beautiful day and I’ve got somewhere I’m stepping to.

Sir Digby

scuffing one’s toe at the abyss

Today my lithotripsy procedure was moved up a few hours. As it worked out, the family and friend who’d planned to accompany me – to give me moral support and to drive me home – weren’t able to be there. I got to check in alone, fill out paperwork alone, receive my IV alone, and be wheeled into general anesthesia without saying goodbye to anyone.

It suited me, to be honest.

Illness, accident, and then death: they come for us all. When I arrived at the hospital I parked my car in the sunshine and looked out over my beloved Aberdeen. Any time could be one’s last; I suppose when heading off for a drug-induced near-death sleep, it’s as good a time as any to appreciate these sorts of experiences. I wouldn’t want anything different. I am happy with what I have.

But of course – I woke again, and lived to see another day.

And now that I’m home, and the house is quiet, I’m thinking on how quickly life changes. We have yet another mama kitty here in our home, with her five (thankfully healthy) little two-week old kittens. My children are navigating teen- and preteen-life and there have been a few surprises: some pleasant, and some less so. My halftime job is heading into a period of intensity: Friday, a man screamed at me on the phone, for no other reason than he is a very unhappy human being and he thinks abusing a woman in the clerical field will make him feel better.

A friend of mine passed, suddenly, on April 27th. My heart still hurts over this one. Thanks to the internet, and a passionate community of friends, I have been able to trade stories, to see old photos, and to process the grief. It is a welcome experience. I need people. Maybe on the terms that suit me best, but I need them all the same.

Then home. And housework, laundry, filing papers, paying bills. And kitten handling and maintenance. Life’s a full time job!

Sir Digby

your electric love!

Tonight I attend a small meeting, of alcoholics and addicts. I hadn’t intended on staying – I was picking up some information to help with the local community – but my heart softened and I told my husband to come back for me. I mean… this room, these people, they raised me. I gotta stay.

So Ralph picks me up an hour later and we head off in the car for a household errand. In the sunshine in his busted-ass BMW, feeling content, I laugh and say to him, “Why don’t I trust men?” He laughs along with me and says, “I don’t know, maybe something happened [in your life] to make you feel that way.”

I tell him I’m thinking about the men in the meeting. I say, “I was going to get a ride from one of them so you didn’t have to get me – but out of all of them there’s only one I’d trust to ask. And even him -” I see-saw my hand a bit. He knows what I mean, though. I don’t know these men. I know how many men have treated me my whole life, how some of them treat me today. I don’t mind avoiding their company, keeping it social, not spending a lot of one-on-one time.

But we’re standing in line and he says something then I tell him, I say it right as I am realizing it: “No man has hurt me more than you.” He smiles but he flinches a bit. Because he and I know it’s true. It’s so painful that it’s true. But there it is. And even as I say it I reach for his hand because I love him so, so much. We’ve been through so very much. I’ve forgiven him entirely. I wonder if he feels the same. It doesn’t matter. I can feel his hand in mind; precious to me, his beautiful hands, rough to the touch, expressive and tender.

There’s a love there that is unlike anything I’ve known. I’d never give him up and I think he feels the same. He is my best defender and my best friend and the strongest man I’ve met. I don’t think I’d stay with anyone less.

R.I.P.

how could such a little thing as this / Hold death

It’s a perfect kind of night for a funeral. It’s dark and quiet, no wind. A chill in the air, but nothing a car coat won’t stave off.

My husband, son, and I make our way a mile down the hill and the bluff stairs, back through a quiet neighborhood along a canal, under a bridge into a wooded area my children are now calling Chu’s Crick. With us: our dog, cheerfully taking his favorite walk of the day. Our kitty Herbert Pocket, whisking alongside, and then ahead. Brave and proud. Nels carries a flashlight; my husband, a shovel. I follow last with a cigar box. Inside: a nubbly bit of soft cotton fabric swaddling four tiny babies, their little mouths peeking open to nurse, which they never will. Lucky, who was born without breath. Sardine, who passed soon after. Chu and Anchovy. Anchovy was the strongest. The little blonde head I held close, and so carefully.

They are silent, and hold no warmth, but they are still soft, their limbs loose. Their weight in the little box is somber. They are sharing sleep.

The night lights are orange, burning in the midnight deep, a senseless flame. The woods are foreboding enough I would not venture there without company. On the path, with my family, I am safe. The earth is soft with spring promise. Water trickles through the loden banks, icy and careless of my feelings.

Nels finds us a sturdy tree. It is good soil. My husband digs deep, very deep. I read a small eulogy.

It is harder than I make it sound.

It only takes a moment to fill the grave. My son collects his hands in a prayer, summoning us to be silent. Then he walks into the wood and finds a green leafy branch, plants it in the earth. “There,” he says grimly. I put my arms around him. What a birthday present!

We are walking back. A funeral in the night, it is good for being alone with your thoughts.

I feel terrible leaving those littles in the cold earth. There is no comfort for me as I climb the mute steps back up the hill.

R.I.P.

Trout

2 smol

The children were outside playing a game, after a swim date and a full spread of party fare and a special birthday cake, when we discovered Trout had delivered her kittens.

Trout

She came to us Tuesday, as a foster. She was a very ill, beat up, stressed out pregnant kitty – very young, herself. She’d been fending her way and she’d sustained an attack or two – facial injuries and a nasty cold, with thick ropy discharge coming from her mouth and nose. We took her to the clinic on Thursday where a very kind veterinarian gave her a thorough examination. He said her injuries were healing, and she had feline rhinotracheitis. He said she might get over her cold before her kittens were born, which would be a stroke of luck. He told us she smelled so horrid because she’d been too stressed to groom herself properly.

We brought her home, and I knew we’d care for her very well.

Comfort
Yesterday she was already feeling better. Her eyes were bright and she would purr and stretch out while I pet her.

No one told me, nor did I think on it, that she might deliver her babies catastrophically early.

One was dead soon after birth (if not before); the other died in my hands. 

2 Smol
Two remain, and Nels and I check on them every two hours and give them care as per veterinary instruction. We give Trout some love as well. She vacillates between calm and loving – then protective and stressed. She is, however, finally grooming herself – and her appetite is better. Even as her younglings die, she is recovering.

I don’t know what’s worse. To be up tonight on this vigil, or to think of relieving my shift – waking my husband – and sleeping, only to wake to bad news.

2 Smol

Nels, 12 Years Old

And we’re having fun / with no money

Nels, 12 Years Old
This morning, a moment after my husband left the bed, I sensed our son climbing in beside me, under our comforter and quilt. He came in close to me and, half asleep, I put my arms around him as I’ve done thousands of times. We held one another close for a while, then we turned away from one another and fell back into our own kingdoms, our own sleep sanctuaries. For all the years we’ve known one another we’ve shared sleep, every night.

I think this is so incredibly special.

My son turns twelve today. I used to think of twelve as the “age of accountability”, the age of reason according to Scriptural sources. Later I discovered there was no such age set-upon in the Bible. But the impression has stayed with me. At twelve I remember coming to believe I was more a citizen of the world. I remember feeling by turns fierce and gentle, elated and despondent. I talked back to my teachers and was reprimanded. Twelve was the age where I began to sense this was bullshit. I also began to experience depression. This is The Way Things Are?

My children are given more freedom than most, at least in this country. I am glad of this. It hasn’t always been easy to live so differently, but it has been the right thing for us. All of this experience is showing, coming to fruition, as they near adulthood. It has helped heal me, as well.

This time last year my son was in his first year of public school – his only, so far. This morning as I stroked his hair – right before or after I took the above picture –  I told him, “I’m glad you’re not in school this year.” He asked, “Really?” and I responded, “Yes, because I missed you.” Then thought a beat, and added: “and you seem happier now.” And he said, “Oh, yes.” without hesitation.

It came to me that his choice to stay enrolled for a full year was a fair-minded one on his part. He stuck with it and gave it a shot. He has learned more through that process than I could.

Today as I type this, and my son finishes sleeping, I am doorman to a host of boys in the neighborhood – three, one of them twice. They all want him to play. They want to tell him happy birthday.

Perhaps the most precious thing to me about Nels this last year concerns these boys. When we first moved in, several of them were throwing rocks, catching voles and cutting their heads off, smashing insects. That sort of thing. I felt a reflexive anger at these boys but then tried to soften. After all, it was their fathers who hadn’t been teaching them better.

From the beginning, my son was a model of different behavior. I remember early on in our tenure here, he rounded up a few boys in our backyard raking leaves. As they unearthed humus they came across large soft caterpillars, and the boys began destroying them. Nels intervened, told the boys not to harm them. He made a little hut out of twigs, with a hydrangea roof and a small square of dried moss as a welcome mat. He relocated every grub there and within only minutes the boys did the same.

Several months later these same boys are kinder. One of them today, as I talk to him in the doorway, spies a spider dangling from the doorknob. I tell the boy to relocate the spider to the nearby bush. “Spiders like bushes,” I tell him, and the boy does so, without hesitation. These children have learned our cats’ names and are very tender to them, instead of chasing them or grabbing them.

It occurs to me that children are quicker than adults to want to do better, to leave off old harmful habits. They just need to be shown, with love, another way to do it.

Now my son showers, and watches a bit of Minecraft on YouTube. He makes some breakfast and walks the dog as he waits for the dishes to finish their cycle. I know that after he finishes his morning routine, he’ll be outside all day playing. I know even if I catch him up and apply sunscreen that in a couple weeks he’ll be brown as a nut. This time next year he will be taller than I, if not sooner.

I would cry a little bit and sometime today I expect I will.

Every year I post Nels’ birth story on this date. Several families have told me the story has influenced their birth choices; several women that it was the (beginning) inspiration for their home birth! Thank you to all who read. Much love, to you all.

Nels David Hogaboom
a birth story

Born at home to mom Kelly, dad Ralph, and sister Sophia [/Phoenix]
1:20 AM Wednesday April 7, 2004
8 pounds 7 ounces
21 inches long

April 6th, 9 AM – is it or isn’t it?

A couple hours after I wake up on Tuesday I’m having mild contractions that are only a tiny bit more intense than the Braxton Hicks contractions I’d had throughout the last half of my pregnancy. These contractions are only slightly painful and certainly not too intense. Nevertheless, they are somewhat distracting and never truly subside, coming anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes apart. Ralph senses things are going to go into motion and comes home at noon, starting his two weeks off of work. He calls my mom at about 3 PM and tells her to head up to see us (she leaves about 5 PM). At this point I am hopeful of labor but also feeling somewhat silly at the thought I might be treating everyone to a false alarm. My mom arrives at about 9 PM time and she and Ralph start writing down my contractions, calling midwives, and cleaning the house up a bit.

April 6th, 10 PM – the real thing

My mom and I are watching a movie together and my contractions are still coming about 10 minutes apart. I still claim I am unsure if labor is going someplace. But everyone is noticing I pause the movie during each contraction so I can concentrate on getting though it. I’m undecided if I should walk around to “get things moving” or lie down and rest in between contractions. I’m trying not to be too fearful of another long labor like I had with my first child. Suddenly at about 10:30 PM I hop up from the bed and turn off the movie, since contractions have sped up to about 4 minutes apart. Naturally my mom and Ralph are very excited and go about making phone calls and preparations while I pace the floor and cope with each contraction. It is going quite well but I keep telling myself these are the “easy” contractions and I try not to worry about what’s to come.

Around 10:30 my midwives and my doula start arriving and I am focusing inward in the classic “Laborland” manner. I notice peripherally how efficient and friendly everyone is, setting up the bed, laying out blankets and birth supplies and getting snacks. Everyone is wonderful to me and provides me with water and encouragement between contractions, respectful silence and privacy during. I feel very protected and honored and so it is easy not to be fearful. My doula Elizabeth arrives and strokes my back and speaks softly to me. She puts me nearly to sleep in between contractions. I am feeling so grateful for the love and encouragement I am getting. I know I am coping very well and in fact since I am doing so well I don’t think I am very far along.

April 7th, Midnight – silliest labor quote

Things are intense but I don’t want a check to see how far I’ve dilated. I am somewhat afraid to discover all the work I am doing hasn’t gotten me anywhere. Laura (one of the midwives) suggests I get into the tub. I’d always thought of the tub as what you use as a last resort toward the end of labor so I tell her I can wait. After a few more contractions I decide to get in, hoping for some pain relief. I spend about 40 minutes in the tub with contractions edging up their intensity. Everyone is around me encouraging me and vocalizing though my contractions. Elizabeth holds my hands and breathes with me through the contractions, then puts a cold cloth on my head and neck in between. Everyone helps keep me calm and focused, as does the knowledge I have to take each contraction one at a time. Close to 1 AM I feel the urge to have Ralph hold and kiss me while I rest, and help talk me through contractions (he’s repeating something I read from Birthing From Within: “Labor is hard work, it hurts, and you can do it”). I don’t realize at the time but I am going through transition. After a few contractions I start to feel a little of that, well — grunting urge. I know it is perfectly okay to grunt and push a little to help with the pain and I instinctively do so. The midwives clue into what I am doing and are back in the room. Laura says, “Gee Kelly, it sounds like you’re pushing” and I reply (idiotically) “I’m not really pushing, it just feels good to bear down a little bit”. These contractions are pretty rough but everyone is helping me so much it is still very manageable.

April 7th, 1:10 AM – OUCH, OUCH, OUCH!

Kathy convinces me to let her check me and informs me not only am I completely dilated, but that the baby’s head has descended quite a bit. I am completely amazed at this (despite knowing I am feeling the urge to push) and even accuse everyone of just saying that to make me feel better! (I feel a little silly about this later). During each contraction I am feeling the pain in my hips, all the way to the bone, which my midwives tell me is a sign the baby is moving. Kathy tells me later I comment that it is like a crowbar prying my pelvis apart. Despite the pain I am coping well and in between the contractions I am still calm. I comment that I am not feeling any pressure in my bottom yet and I think to myself this means I have a ways to go. Oops, I speak too soon — with the next contraction I feel the baby AT THE DOOR, so to speak. This takes me by surprise and my labor sounds change from low and powerful to very alarmed and – well – a little screechy. Everyone is talking to me and trying to help me calm down and focus. I am amazed at the pain and pressure and overcome with an almost frantic need to push. I am pushing, pushing, pushing, before I can tune into my midwives telling me to ease off. I do the best I can and manage to ease off a bit and direct my energies more constructively. Despite the pain I am overjoyed to know I am so close and my baby will be here any minute. “I know I will feel so good when I see my baby”, I tell myself and this helps me. Kathy tells me to reach down and feel the head and after an initial hesitation I do, surprised again at how soft and smooth it is. I can feel each part of the child’s head I deliver. It hurts! But I know I am close. The head is out and then I am surprised by the fullness and difficulty of the shoulders, which I do not remember from my first birth.

April 7th, 1:20 AM – Nels is born

With one final push I feel my baby being delivered and I am surprised it is already over. I have been kneeling in the tub and so immediately turn around and Ralph tells me later I am saying, “Give me my baby! I want to hold my baby!” to the midwives who are doing their thing. I have a vision of my baby’s long, smooth body floating in the water, the room lit by candlelight in a soft glow. Within seconds he is in my arms and I am crying and Ralph is crying and the whole room is full of a collective soft and surprised murmur. I am holding my child to my chest and saying, “I can’t believe it, I can’t believe it” over and over, feeling so filled with surprise and happiness. The child is perfect and so soft and I feel wonderful. I realize I have done it, I have given birth to a healthy baby in my own home, with my own power.

April 7th, early morning – getting to know you

I stay in the water crying and holding my baby for several minutes before anyone thinks to discover the baby’s sex. I hold my newborn away from my chest and in between squirming legs and the umbilical cord I see we have a boy! Of course, this is perfect. Everything feels perfect! After a few more minutes I am ready to get out of the water and get cleaned up, but I know we have to wait for the delivery of the placenta. I feel like this takes forever but it probably is only a fifteen minute wait. Another surprising feeling of fullness and then the placenta is delivered. Kathy has to pull the cord a bit and gently massage my tummy to get the whole thing in one piece. My mom is on the phone with my dad and has to pass the phone around so she can cut the cord. I am ready to get out and dry off and nurse my second child.

I am helped out of the tub and into some dry clothes. I am so happy to have so much loving help. I prop myself up on the bed and hold my son to my breast. He latches almost immediately like a pro. I keep asking my husband, “Is this really happening?” because it has gone like a dream and I am so happy. After some time of nursing the midwife eventually takes my son to the foot of the bed to weigh him and check his limbs and reflexes. Elizabeth brings me food — cheese, bread, apples and oranges. My pulse is checked and found to be high (100) so I am encouraged to drink a huge glass of water (this happened with my first child, too). My afterpains are intense, more so than with my daughter’s birth, but I know this to be normal. I breathe through them. My daughter Sophie wakes up and is brought into the room, looking cranky and confused. I kiss her and introduce her to her brother (she is unimpressed) and Ralph takes her back to the bedroom to settle her back to sleep. Kathy checks my bottom out and finds only two tiny tears, no need for sutures. The energy of the house is settling, people are packing things, Elizabeth says goodbye. Laura leaves too and I take a shower with Kathy’s help. She stays long enough to give postpartum instructions and asks me to page her when I can pee. I am a little anxious about this myself, for vague fear of a catheter. Kathy leaves about 3:20 and as her car is pulling out I am able to pee, feeling now finally that everything is alright.

My husband is looking dead tired. I am wired and unable to sleep. We send my mom off to bed. I hold my son who is still awake! He is drowsy though and wants to snuggle. At about 4:30 AM I finally fall asleep on the bed, Ralph on the couch, holding his son. We are awakened just before 7 AM to the joyful sounds of our firstborn running through the house talking excitedly to Grandma. Grandma looks like she really needs a cup of coffee.

milk-fang

My dreams have been restless of late. Two nights ago my husband and I were entertaining suitors, men and women who wanted to carry off and then marry our girlchild. In the dream my daughter was so young she was still Sophia; her fine blonde hair and had that childish fullness in her cheeks. And in the dream Ralph and I had no choice but to find the best stranger for her, in a whirlwind speed-dating scenario. I remember a desperation, a hopelessness, as I interviewed strangers with smiling mouths but who knew what lurked behind. Last night dreams were not so frightful, but were exhausting nevertheless. I held a man’s hand, or rather he held mine. He was old enough to be my father but he only meant it in the friendliest of way. I still felt odd. As with the child-marrying dream, it was I who was out of sync, out of touch with what the world expected. My own secret life. Being different.

Tonight my daughter and I, tonight in real life that is, we take our dog on a long walk, a mile there and back to Canyon Court where our littlest kitty, Herbert Pocket, seemed to have stranded herself on an earlier walk. We have up to three cats at a time go on long walks with us, trailing us silently and racing through dark yards and up birch trees then back down. Earlier today Herbert Pocket had accompanied Phoenix into the small forest, back out – but not all the way back home. This evening, my daughter and I were unsure if we’d find her, or if she’d already made her way back to our neighborhood. I try not to worry, because what good would that do?

Sure enough, at the precise household Phoenix remembered seeing her hours before, our kitty’s sleek little body – black with dainty white mittens and long white “socks” on her back legs – joins us silently, trotting alongside. We’re as thrilled as you can imagine us to be. Tonight’s other walker, Harris – our oldest, age nine, is along for the trip as well. A half mile from home, though, he starts to flop in the road. Figuring he’s tired, I laughingly pick him up. He lets me carry him half a block then, with no apparent tension in his body or display of tooth or claw, a horrible deep growl wells up in his body. Figuring he might be serious, I set him back again on the cool concrete and he continues on with us.

It is cold out; my daughter is in the lovely down coat my sister bought her, for Christmas. And my daughter wears the warm alpaca hat I bought my husband – another Christmas gift, but many Christmases ago.

My body is tired. I’ve been cold all day; drinking a gallon and a half of water, perhaps that is why. Today my paid work was provincial and satisfying; the situation in the department has sorted itself out miles better than when I first started, half a year ago. I am able to do my duties well and not rush through clerical detail. My husband was home with the kids, and he spent the day cooking a curry – sweet potato, peas, and cauliflower fragrant with coconut milk, ginger, and garlic – and painted a table and scrubbed the floor. The kids spent the day playing; Phoenix is on a welcome break from school. She is drawing and playing Minecraft. Nels is doing the same – until the neighborhood boys are released from school, or homework or whatever, and mill around in our driveway waiting for Nels to enrich their play. Then we don’t see Nels again, just glimpses through our windows, until the boys have gone back to their homes.

Spring is feeling good.

“Do not injure any being, either strong or weak, in the world”

With my husband and eldest gone for the weekend, it was a slow and steady, and homey couple of days for Nels and I. We embark on more than one walk together, including a quiet midnight mile. I make simple food – tomato soup and sandwiches, cut-up fruit and crudités. I stay home instead of go out. When I do run an errand or go to a meeting, I leave my son home with explicit instructions. A bit of housework but not much. He is content to play, all day long. He and the tribe of preteen boys in our neighborhood are happy to be outside. They have some huge blow-up punch-out dummy, and walkie talkies.When the other boys go home, Nels comes in and fixes a snack, and hops on his computer.  

Today, we feed a bunch of these boys whatever they ask for – as it turns out: popcorn, Doritos, popsicles, chocolate chip cookies, cherry Dr. Pepper, and 7Up. I laugh because their parents probably make these things the occasional treat, or only let them eat them after they’ve had something else. In the neighborhood I know the kids like me, but who knows what their parents think. For one thing, my youngest is unabashedly touting the vegan lifestyle. Today a tot comes up to me with a huge glass and large eyes and says, “Can I have some almond milk?” as if it’s the most special treat there is.

Supply List

the thaw-out

My mother delivers my son home, including a rather handsome cork bulletin board. Nels’ penmanship has shifted – without any teaching or coercion on our part, without schooling of course – and his hand is taking a stately, yet arcane bent. He has taken to concocting recipes for sweet beverages. He posts a grocery list.

Supply List

“Help Wanted

“I need soda-water for my
next recipe.
“Name: Nels
“Reward: a free orange Navy

“Not urgent”

I am dying, here. Not urgent. Thank you. I didn’t want to have to pick up at midnight and head out for soda-water! My son’s father would, though. He is that tender-hearted for the family.

I am having lunch yesterday with my mother. She is dieting. She is trying not to drink. We talk about these things a bit. I tell her a week and a half ago on my drive home from work I was hit with a craving for fried chicken, which I haven’t tasted in about a year and a half. She tells me she sometimes craves hard alcohol, when she sees someone drink in a film. I say, “Now that? That hasn’t happened to me.” She then says, “Well, I think you were never addicted to alcohol.”

I tell her it is completely not okay to ever tell anyone what they were, or weren’t, addicted to!

She says, “You didn’t drink that much.” As if she knows!

We alcoholics are treated abysmally. If we drink and people know we drink, they hate or pity us. Not a day goes by I don’t hear people speaking in belittling, pitying terms about an addict or alcoholic – I heard it today, at work. We all know the words they use.

But if we stop drinking, if we get clean and sober, we are patently ignored (by most). We are told we never had a problem in the first place.

It’s hard to imagine someone telling a cancer survivor that she never had cancer in the first place. Insulting.

I’m going to pause for the few people reading here, who remember the personal hell I went through when I got sober.

I know people don’t mean to be condescending, but what they mean, what they intend, is half the story. The other half is: those of us who’ve experienced the agonies of addiction. How do we feel about it? What do we think? Stop belittling our experience! It is real. I lived through it. I help others who are battling the disease, every day. Every day!

Today, though, something else is on my mind. I’m passing a kidney stone and I’m feeling sick, feeling low. Suddenly set back and I can’t work the way I used to. The weekend I worked, a few things here or there. Today, I am tired. I feel it in my face, stepping into work and feeling as if I’ve had a few slaps to the noggin. I come home from a six hour shift and I take a hot shower and have dinner and I park on the couch for a bit and watch a terrible British exploitation film. I try to do a little handsewing.

What I struggle with isn’t the pain. But the nausea, the fatigue. And worst of all: what do my kids think? Who wants a sick mother? I tell myself that the way I am ill, and how I handle it, and being loving and matter-of-fact and grateful, is good for the kids. It helps them. Maybe a little today, maybe a lot tomorrow.

I drink my last quart of water for the day. I take my potassium citrate. Ralph will start a fire. I’ll curl up next to someone. Maybe a cat on my lap! The evening will transpire, as it often does, in peace and quietude.

Frenemies