In 2006, when I was in college, focusing mainly on my creative writing courses, I wrote a very choppy poem entitled, "Indistinct Daylight." At the time, most of my love-themed pros took on a poetic license of their own but this particular poem focused on my memories of being young during my Mom's coming to terms with her alcoholism. It was only read by a selected few. I never did much with the piece until last Christmas, on holiday break when I received an email-list update from Coyote Grace, a folk band I'd seen live a few times. I was shocked but very proud to hear the news that Joe, the lead guitarist was facing his addiction problems, seeking help and taking a hiatus. I was provoked to share my own experiences with him to provide emotional support, so I quickly pulled out my MacBook and typed in a search for my choppy poem "Indistinct Daylight" and from there, it took form as the finished product poured out of me.
September marked my Mom's 18th year of sobriety.
Ten and Two 2011
I am 24 years old. 25 in April. I am an only-child, a stubborn, yet well-grounded, earthly Taurus.
My grandfather died in 2007. He had emphysema, among other health issues. Throughout his life, he was a businessman. He owned a newspaper. He met my grandmother, married her, granted her with five precious children and eventually left her in the early 1960s'. My grandfather eventually had two other wives. He was a good man but my grandfather was an alcoholic. In the early 1990's when he was in his early 60's, he made the choice to sober up. He met Gail in AA and they remained sober together for about 15 years. My grandfather made changes in his life and remained a good man, a businessman, until the day he died.
My mother is a saint. She may still be a smoker but is still alive. She is a nurse, pediatrics but took care of my grandmother, who was not an alcoholic, who my grandfather left in the early 1960's, as her kidneys deteriorated for the past six years until my grandmother suddenly passed away, three months ago. I am still grieving but am reminded that a little extra life lives on in each and everyone of us.
Since, once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic, my mother is an alcoholic, though has been sober for 17 years now. I don't tell her enough how proud of her I am.
My parents tried for ten years to conceive my little self. I think the alcohol had a part in preventing it from happening. Everything happens for a reason and when she quit, I was born. When I was born, she started to drink again. When my dad would go off to work for the day and when I wasn't in school, I was raised by an alcoholic.
I remember the early morning bottles in the indistinct daylight. I would ask for her fingers to dial my father's extension and I would breathe into the phone about my fright and terror.
"What If…?" lingered through the line. My mother has a seizure disorder since before she had brain surgery to remove the clotted nerves when I was 1 and though she is on medication for the writhing curse, the alcohol did not help the disorder. I knew what to do if one ever occurred but
"What if…" lay lingering on the line and I pretended to rest reassured.
I remember one day, leaving the bedroom, descending down the staircase, my mother missed a step and tumbled to the perfectly-placed beanbag, that was beneath the final few feet of collapse, waiting to grab hold of her fall and prop her back up into her fog of reality. A laugh from her. Silence from me. Luck. Grateful.
One day, the little voice from little me, standing in the corner of my bedroom, with enormous sodden eyes, arms down at my side, caused so much frustration that anger hurled metal-toothed, zippered jeans across the room to zip my lips. Little me, with enormous sodden eyes, in the corner, now stood with a hand over my mouth. She cried. She apologized. I forgave because I thought it was ordinary.
I remember being lost in stores, not because I wandered too far but because my mother would.
I remember listening from the top of the stairs to the shouting between my parents. I clutched a stuffed dog with a zipper and inside, hidden, was a family portrait of the three of us. I feared then like the the way I feared the house would someday burn down; how I would pack my "valuables" and sit by the door. It was the fear of abandonment, I suppose.
I remember dreaming. In the car, after stopping to get gas in our city in Massachusetts, while the key was at half-turn to keep the battery running, I would drift aloof, listening to my mothers favorite adult-contemporary on the radio. I was envisioning I could drive. Assuming ease. In my mind, I had my arms out, both hands on the wheel at ten and two, slightly steering and jostling the petal to the floor. I would look over to my left and it was only indistinct daylight and me. The car was moving but behind the wheel: irregular void. Fear. But with a blink, a break, a jolt and a soccer-mom-arm-save I would awake to see she had never really gone away.
I remember on a couple occasions, late at night, after recovering from a seizure, while my father was making calls, I would wonder,
"If I walked around the kitchen table enough times, would I create a furrow?" A moat around the most important place a family can sit. I knew the alcohol was not helping the writhing curse. I suppose I knew life around me wasn't ordinary. I wanted it to be "normal" but what is "normal," anyway? There is no "normal." I was lucky that things weren't worse. Grateful.
I can't remember the excuse given when I asked my father why he took me to the zoo in Maine for a weekend but I do remember the hotel room. I remember hiding Teddy, with my mothers handkerchief tied around him, in the nightstand amid the two unmade beds just incase housekeeping, dressed in black and white French maid outfits adorn with whips and chains tried to shackle him away from me.
That weekend had been the last straw. An ultimatum. A choice. My father and I or the booze?
A decision. My father and I.
I can not remember the month without my mother, when she had gone to rehab at Beach Hill but I do remember the weekend I visited her. I remember walking, talking with my father around the tennis courts and I remember being in the front lobby, seeing her walk down the ramp, down the hall from where the bedrooms were hidden. I was excited. I was scared. I forgave, because I thought it was ordinary.
After that, the soccer-mom-arm-save never stopped. She's still here, sober. She cared enough about me and about herself and with the wave of an arm, someone saved her. She woke up from an irregular void in indistinct daylight and realized she was never alone.
I am an angel, with an openness to listen. I am an angel with a passion to teach the lessons I've learned and to learn the lessons to be taught, to fill the head on my sturdy shoulders and to overcome the battles I've fought. I am an angel with ever-growing wings. I am an angel and I need you to sing.
Continue to be an inspiration, shine and triumph.