Darkest Night in 500 years

You know who I am

for I am you

I am your demons, your dark side, and you know I am true

 

You call me “Him”

You Know I am here

You know I am all you ever will fear

 

Ignore me, deny me

Insist you don’t care

That I am the one who decides how you fare

 

Your sickness unleashed me

TO molest you, to rape

To try and drink you finally to Hell’s gate

 

I will triumph, I’ll beat you

You don’t stand a chance

I am your past, you future

I am your last stand

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Alcoholism Pays Off!

I‘ve been unemployed for going on 2 months now. I never thought I would go this long without a job, but there it is. So far, I’ve completely cleaned out and reorganized the house pantry and today I took disinfectant spray to the garage refrigerator. I never thought I would be this guy. But then, I didn’t think I wouldn’t be this guy either. I guess you could say I’m cleaning bi-polar. At least, I am in my new life. Let’s not talk about the dark years, ‘kay?

 

But it’s all or nothing with me. Sure, I got accustomed to doing regular cleaning as per the house rules. And when Tim made Matt the chore coordinator, I winced. But it was actually a good idea because the house is cleaner than it has been in many, many months. The man would think the sterilization that occurs before major surgery is half-assing it. So when I took it upon myself to do major household tasks like cleaning out and reorganizing the pantry, it was partly because I needed to keep my mind occupied and partly because when you live with an ever-shifting cast of 11 guys, there’s no telling what you will dig up. The amount of dry cereal and abandoned rice alone has kept many a recovering alcoholic in palatable food for at least a week around here. So when I made the decision to clean out the house garage, I knew I’d find some valuables. I had no idea it would be a bumper crop!

Let’s start with the scarf.

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I’m not a big scarf guy. But I am always game to adorn myself with slightly quirky garments that raise a few eyebrows yet also serve a function. Is it quality? Cashmere, baby. Is it stylish? Depends on your standards. But is it just right for my overall look and would it go awesome with my black leather jacket and maybe one of those old-timey hats that provide no warmth but are also stylish. Yes, yes it would.

Then there is the blanket. It’s one of those stadium blankets for putting over yours and your sweetie’s legs when you are at the football game and its wicked snowing.

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Do I like football enough to actually test this theory out? Not even remotely. Do I care at all about the Texas Longhorns? See previous answer. However, will it come in handy for Shakespeare on the Green or Jazz on the Green or really anything on the Green? Damn right it will. And it’s fleece, so it would also fit snugly around me and my sweetie’s shoulders. Once I find a sweetie.

Then there are the shorts.

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Only 2 of the 4 pairs are actually labeled. But they just happen to be my size waist exactly. The others I will try on when they come out of the wash (they are in there right now with the blanket. I mean, they did come out of the garage, so a good washing was totally necessary). And if those two pairs don’t fit, well, I’m still two pairs up, so suck it. Then there’s the coffee maker.

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I know, coffee makers are el cheapo and why wouldn’t I just spring for a brand new one, right? Well, I could, but this one looks pretty swank and if it works, it gives the impression that I take my coffee very seriously. Which is good, because I do take coffee very seriously. Tea too.  And right next to it is a small stone that looks exactly like the stone I picked up when I visited Walden Pond (think Henry David Thoreau) in New England. I’m pretty sure I still have the original rock in my storage unit but if I don’t, well I still have the story of when I visited the pond (it’s really not much more than a large ditch today) but dammit, the story is what matters. But the granddaddy find was this little number.

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I could care less about the dual cassette decks, good luck even finding those anymore. But I know the turntable will come in handy one day. Plus, a guy with a turntable in his living room with a couple old-timey speakers just screams “This gentleman appreciates antiquity and has a taste for the vintage. Like Stevie Wonder on vinyl or maybe Barry White.  I know, total chick magnet territory.

 

See, I posted recently on this blog about how I was tired of being alone. Coincidentally, I’m reading a book by one of my favorite authors right now that details his courtship of his current wife. And this guy and I have many things in common, but this one specifically. We both want a woman to share our lives with after many, many years of doing the whole love thing way wrong. Last night, I closed up the book and took to my knees to say my prayers for the night (as Stephen King writes in his new book Doctor Sleep, which is pretty much a King novel written in the skeleton of AA and which I’m also reading, my alcoholism brought me to my knees, so I need to start there) and I uttered one simple request. “God, deliver to me my Maria.” As it is said over and over in the Program, one should never pray for God to give you anything unless it can help other alcoholics. I know I’m not going “back out” again (that’s AA code for drinking or using again). I have a big heart, I’m working on humility, and want to share what I have with another person. I’ll take a Mastiff or a Newfie in the short-run after I move out of this house, but would like it to be with a woman too.

Someday.

It’s Time to Throw Down

It occurs to me that in doing all the research for the book project, I’m going to have to have wicked stealth (good God, my sister-in-law is getting in my head. Like a certain other native of Massachusetts I know (I’m looking at you Lisa Dingle) my SIL hails from the state that postures itself the “Spirit of America.” At least, that’s what’s on the license plate. I don’t know. With the limited knowledge I have of Boston (mostly Sue Costello and Good Will Hunting) I like the state motto more: “this hand, hostile to tyrants, seeks with the sword a quiet peace under liberty.” Now that is wicked retahded pissah (It’s easy once you get into it).

 

Anyway, I was out walking Corporal Seamus the other day and I saw this moving truck with this slogan on the side:

Mad Ninja Skills

 

And it occurred to me that that is precisely what I’m going to have to bring to the process of sifting through the stuff on the jump drive Moms gave me. It’s full of daily correspondence, email reports, and multiple drafts of accounts of my time in the hospital. And to sift through all that stuff without breaking down into tears or laughing hysterically, I’m going to have to have mad ninja skills to maneuver through it all without getting bogged down in it. I think the most enjoyable stuff so far has been reading about where my mind went when I was trying to “think around” the blockages in my vocabulary. Like the time I called the physical therapist the “rehab Nazi.” There’s also instances of my family and friends talking to me and, unable to find any words at all for what I wanted to say, I broke down in tears. Then there was the time my brother asked me how I was after a walk up and down the hall (a particularly difficult task after being in bed for a week) and I replied “I’m peachy!”

 

Then there’s the really heart-breaking stuff. For instance, Mom’s description of when they had to cover my bed with an impassable (at least to me at the time) veil over it and me writhing in pain as the meningitis played dominoes on my brain.

 

That’s the kind of stuff I mean. So through the course of constructing a narrative of these early events in the context of the book, I’m going to need to duck and jive and stick and move my way through all this stuff to put it into some sort of cohesive order. It’s also going to require several sit-downs with Moms to tap into the stuff she remembers about that time and also what going through the stuff we already have conjures up in other memories. This is still in the very formative stages, so it’s very likely any outline I’ve already drawn up will change over time. Then there’s Him and what role He is going to play in all of this. Like a crazed lemur I am going to have to shimmy my way in an out of His persona and back into a narrator to keep everything in some sort of congealed mass the reader A) Can follow and B) wants to follow.

 

In the end, I don’t know how salable any book that emerges from this proverbial primordial ooze will be. But that’s really not the point in doing it. At this point, I think the process is going to open a big honkin’ window into my soul and hopefully, I’ll know better what I am supposed to do with this whole experience once the book is complete. At least, that’s what I hope. Someone said to me recently that, for now at least, I survived this 9 year-long ordeal for a reason. When the book is done, I hope to have a clearer idea what that reason is.

The End of the Movie

“What, did you think you would hit a meeting and I would just go away?”

He was sitting in the passenger seat, His trusty flask between His legs. “Surely you knew that wasn’t happening. I been with you all day.”

I pulled the keys from my jacket and put them into the ignition. It was a warm night by Omaha-in-December standards. Warm enough to go to Uncle Duff’s in semi-descent shoes, my new Polo shirt and my black leather jacket.

“Oh come on, admit it,” He said. “You dressed a little nicer because you were going to a meeting afterwards and you wanted to like nicer at meetings because you are …”

My head hung. I looked at my lap.

“Oh come on, sonny boy! You can say it to little old me. You are …”

“Tired of being alone,” he said, clenched my teeth, then released them.

“Exactamundo!” He gave a short giggle, rocking His head back and forth on His shoulders.

Being a single man over the holidays is brutal. Especially in my case. Not ever having been married and with no children, I go to family functions alone. I sit alone on the couch. I drink my Diet Coke. I try to feel engaged in the conversation.

“Not too easy to do when everybody is good-naturedly ribbing each other about the new refrigerator and screen doors for their houses, is it sonny boy,” He said.

“Stop calling me that,” I said and started driving.

“What, “sonny boy”? Why would I ever do that? First, it’s condescending and I know you hate that,” He said and drank. “And second, I’m an old man. People have had addictions since before there was a word ‘addiction.’ But I know I’m pretty. I wear it well. You, on the other hand, well, you still have the same fat gut you’ve had your entire life. I know, I know, you foolishly thought it might go away when you got sober and started going to the gym all the time. Sorry to break it to you Ahab, but you will be a fat bastard whether you are sober or not, so you might as well accept it. Personally, that’s reason enough to drink. I mean. Sorry to break it to you, but you’ll never be one of the pretty people,” He said and drank deeply, eyes closed, with a look of perfect satisfaction.

“Just like you’ll always be emotionally 14. You will never be emotionally sober, never. And that little fantasy you hold on to? Y’know, how you’ll meet someone that, now that you are clean and sober and ready to bring some emotional maturity to a relationship with a pretty, equally emotionally mature woman? You can kiss that little pipe dream good-bye cuz guess what? All the good women are taken by guys who are normal and functioning and aren’t 38 and contemplating how it would be acceptable to work for $10 an hour again. Guys that have a job, that is. You’re a fucking loser, you missed the boat. All the good ones are married and have children with men far more ready to accept the demands of being a real man. Demands that you, sonny boy, will never be able to handle,” He said and put His arm around my shoulder. “They see a single, never-been-married guy with no kids and think ‘Well, no one else has ever taken a chance on him, so I’m certainly not going to.’ Nope, sorry my friend, but the very best you can hope for is finding a woman with at least as much emotional baggage as you. And as far as ever being able to afford having all the nice things and houses, let alone a child, that’s another thing you can certainly forget about, because you’re far too stupid to ever get a job that will come anywhere close to allowing you to afford that stuff.”

I was merging onto I-680 South. I turned up the radio and blared “The End of the Movie” by Cake :

“People you love, they’ll turn their backs on you. You’ll lose your hair, your teeth,

your knife will fall out of its sheeth

But you still don’t like to leave before the end of the movie

People you hate, they’ll get their hooks into you

They’ll pull you down, you’ll frown. They’ll tar you and drag you through town.

But you still don’t like to leave before the end of the movie

No, you still don’t like to leave before the end of the show.”

Suddenly, the music switched to Jack Johnson’s “Bubble Toes.” He didn’t touch the dial. He didn’t have to.

“Here,” He said. “This song is more your speed. A simple pop song with as much emotional complexity and depth as you.”

I waited for the song to end, humoring Him. When it was over, I flipped through the stations, then found the one I wanted. A soft smile washed over my face.

“What’s with the grill?”

“Nothing, I just like this song,” and turned the radio up. Peter Gabriel, “Don’t Give Up”:

“I am a man whose dreams have all deserted him

I’ve changed my face, I’ve changed my name But no one wants you when you when you lose

Don’t give up, you still have friends

Don’t give up, you’re not beaten yet

I know you can make it good

Somewhere there’s a place where we belong.”

Dave, Elmo and Homerun Jesus

There’s a site in this town on which a pretty elaborate haunted house attraction takes place every Halloween. It’s called Scary Acres and as far as haunted houses go, it’s pretty cool. They have three attractions, the House on Haunted Hill, the Haunted Manor and some sort of scary woods set-up. I went there one year with my girlfriend and her son. It was entertaining, if only for the guys done up like Leatherface in Texas Chainsaw running around with chainsaws sans the chain. But they were very loud and made for some terrified chillens running all over the place with the chainsaw dudes chasing them. I don’t know if it was worth the price of admission ($30 a piece or so if I remember correctly), but it was worth the price of admission just to see the kid’s little ass fleeing in terror from those guys.

 

Then last weekend they had a “Nightmare Before Christmas” event that, if the reports on the radio were accurate, was also pretty fun. Of course, such a display wasn’t really necessary for me. I just had to go to Mom’s house. Simply a closer-than-cursory examination of the horrifying decorations and ornaments around the house is enough to throw the fear of God in even the toughest Who in Who-ville.

 

Let’s start with Homerun Jesus.

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My parents have this very old, very fragile nativity scene complete with shepherds, lambs and other livestock, and the 3 Kings. Or is it Wise Men. I think both have been authorized as among the visitors to that decrepit old barn, but really, which was it? I mean, it could have been kings that were made so because they were wise I ‘spose. But then again, being ordained to royalty doesn’t necessarily make one wise. Also, why were there 3 kings all in one place? I mean, if they were kings, you would think that at least 2 of them had to come pretty far to a whole nother kingdom and then buy the native king’s story (“So check it out. I heard about this little kid being born tonite in a barn near here and he’s SUPPOSED to have authority over all of us. What say we go check it out?”) It also could have been just three wise men, but that doesn’t really make sense because, if the birth of baby Jesus was so momentous, why wasn’t it a shitload more wise men?

Then there is Joseph and Mary. Okay, good so far. Then in the manger of nativity scene is Ernie Banks. Let me explain. Ernie Banks used to play shortstop for the Chicago Cubs back in the ‘60s. Everybody in my family is ardent Chicago Cubs fans, a tradition that dates back to when my dad grew up in north central Iowa. Back in 1989, the Cubs won their division, the National League East, but they lost the series that would have sent them on the track to win the pennant. But they didn’t win, and yet my whole family got hooked that year and now, sadly, me, my dad and my brother are cursed with wearing the Cubs cap for the rest of our lives. The entire experience really made us all avid baseball fans in general. We started going to pro ballgames when I was in high school. Then I decided to buck the family tradition of going to Creighton for college and opted instead for Loyola University Chicago. That started a tradition of the boys going to Cubs games at Wrigley Field that lasted for over 10 years.  So it wasn’t too much of a surprise when somebody purchased for somebody as a gift two of those little Cubs figurine/action figure type collectibles for Christmas one year. One was the Banks and the other was Billy Williams, an outfielder for the Cubs and also in the Hall of Fame.

One year, we were decorating for Christmas and as my Da was arranging the antique nativity scene, the Baby Jesus’ head fell off. So, that year, nobody really said anything when the extended family came over about the decapitated baby in the manger.  But we all knew it was there. So the next year, as the family slumbered, nestled in bed with visions of sugar plums dancing in their noggins (By the way, what the hell is a sugar plum? Never seen one, never tasted one, but every year we accept it as fact that those kids were dreaming about them. I mean, one would think that the kids would be dreaming about GI Joe guys or Barbies or a Playstation. But nope. Sugar plums), Anyway, I pulled the head off the Ernie Banks figurine and stuck it on Jesus’ torso. Everybody loved the Christmas miracle so much, and my parents are just heretic enough (even my Dad, the staunch Catholic) that it stayed. Apparently even Da knows that with all the pain and suffering in this world, God has to be a Cubs fan and is taking it out on us, His most privileged in all creation.

Another year, Mom decided she wanted to spice up the Christmas tree. So, She took a bunch of clothes pins and constructed a few figurines of her own. One was me in my Tae Kwan Do get-up.

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It’s pretty clever, and Mom was accurate, right down to the ATA (American Tae Kwan Do Association) badge on the outfit. I didn’t get very far in that particular martial art. In fact, I did the same thing with Tae Kwan Do as I did with playing piano; I took lessons just long enough to start to get good, then quit. Thank god I stuck with the writing thing, right? Anway, moving on. The only other clothes pin kid that survived was my brother’s. At the time mom made the figurines, Dave was a prep cook at a little neighborhood Italian restaurant a few blocks from the house and the figurine was supposed to look like Dave after a night preparing Italian food.

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I know, everybody thought the same thing. Mom didn’t know she was creating a Dave-as-serial-killer figurine and the thing was even freakier when Dave carried a big fucking meat cleaver, but that thankfully fell off. That freaky little thing hangs on our Christmas tree every year as a not-so-settle reminder of what Dave does when he doesn’t like his presents. I still see the spooky little smile on its face in my nightmares.

Then there’s the little gnomes around the kitchen sink.

 

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I don’t care if they are seasonal decorations or not, one looks like he just got in an adorable little bar fight, one’s getting high, and one, for no apparent reason, is taking the advice of a fucking squirrel. Explain to me why that is seasonal, because I’d like to know.

 

The Sesame Street ornaments are just plain wrong.

 

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First of all, they lack eyelids. I know Elmo and Ernie and Cookie Monster don’t have eyelids on the show, but that they are moving and talking distracts children from this fact. On the Christmas tree, well, try shifting your head to the tree quickly and finding yourself staring down one of these children of Satan and see how eager you are to deck the halls. Plus, they all have huge gaping holes on top of their heads in which you can place candles. You know, in case the gnomes are stumbling about with one eye or too stoned to walk straight and need some added illumination.

So there will be no Christmas-themed haunted attractions for me this year. I just have to go to Mom’s house and sleep on the couch and listen to the demonic giggles of an Elmo with a gaping head wound to lull me into blissful slumber.

Liz Day

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This is the “Very Sigler Holiday Blitz” I was talking about. The title pic is my sister and “her” book and my Mom’s life-toneime friend Jackie and little ones. None of these are very good pictures because I suck at photography. Writing’s my thing, so back off.

 

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That’s me and my niece Izzy.  She goes by Lisabella too, among other names, but I call her Izzy after the rhythm guitarist from Guns ‘N Roses. Don’t judge.

 

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That’s Mom and her dear friends Judy and Martha and Judy’s daughter Melanie. Mom has been friends with these girls forever. Melanie has cerebral palsey and is Judy’s daughter. Mom references Judy a few times in the about Liz.

 

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You can speak with my attorney:

That’s me and Boyo.  Boyo was in our fantasy baseball league, has been Da’s friend for years and has also served as counsel for the defense (me).

 

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The calm before the storm: That’s all of us the morning of the party with Seamus at Dave’s feet. He likes me better.

 

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Me and brother Dave and Tim. Tim’s mom and my mom living next door to each other as kids. Pretty cool to be able to put Tim down as a reference and in years known, put “37”. God, I really need to stop with the closed grin and smile the big goofy smile I usually have in photos when I am not trying look dignified. Chicks dig that smile.

 

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That’s all of us. When I see photos of family and friends with 17 grandkids in the picture and the grandparents glowing with pride, I feel really bad. Like I let my mom and dad down. Then I consider how lucky I am to have the family I do and realize it’s not the amount of grandkids that make grandparents happy. It’s the amount of love that is shared between the family you do have. You play the hand your dealt.

To quote Sam Malone, I’m the luckiest guy in the world.

 

 

Determination: The Battle of the Mule

Boy ice skating

 

“There are only about 20 birthdays you should be allowed to celebrate. The other ones, you’re wasting cake and paper. Did you not see the Al Gore movie? We need to conserve cake and paper. We are running out.”

–          Patton Oswalt

 

I turned 38 years-old today. I know, other than the salt-mostly-pepper hair, you’d never know it to look at me. When I got outta rehab last year, within 3 weeks, I had joined my gym and since then, it’s rare that a week goes by that I don’t get there at least 3 times. The reasons for this are three-fold:

 

1) Coming out of rehab, I had a lot of time on hands

 

2) I have an addictive personality and if I wasn’t going to get my high through drugs and alcohol, by God, I was gonna get it someway and the endorphin rush of exercise has always had an appeal for me

 

3) I turn 38 years-old today. And I was going to make myself as appealing as possible to the opposite sex that my age and genetics would allow.

 

So far, it’s been a pretty good run. I won’t bore you with “I lost this much weight and built this much muscle” because I honestly don’t know. Besides, my sister put it best in as simple terms as necessary when I tried calculating those figures and she said “If you weighed 215 pounds then and you weigh 215 pounds now, you haven’t lost any weight.” Well played, Liz.

 

Also since I left Valley Hope, I made a go of trying school again. But to no avail. Seems that the bacterial meningitis that assaulted my brain saw fit to remove certain portions that effect my cognitive abilities, thus rendering me unable to retain the vast body of knowledge necessary to succeed in the veterinary technician program I had enrolled in. So since I dropped out, I’ve spent the last 6 weeks beating my head against the draw bridge of the American job market. The bridge came down long enough for me to fail at a crash-course training class for a telemarketing job and one job interview. Then it drew right back up again and left me staring at the moat filled with Jagermeister. Wisely, I immediately stepped back from said moat and reconsidered other options for getting into the castle.

 

A couple days ago, my brother and his family were in town for a “Very Sigler Holiday Blitz!” We had our family gift exchange (we had the gifts divvied up and open in under 30 minutes, a family record), and a small “Happy Birthday” sing-along complete with cake (In your face, Patton!) at the book signing party to celebrate the release of my Mom’s book about raising my sister who has autism. Then a pizza dinner replete with family and loved ones before my brother’s clan shuffled off back to Rhode Island yesterday.

 

In the middle of the chaos, I was driving home to my house one day to retrieve some items and catch a meal and a shower when I saw the image at the start of this post. As I was driving past, this little boy was on all fours on the ice skating rink. By the time I had pulled over to take this photo, he dusted himself off and was attempting to skate around rink again.

 

Judging from how long he stayed down the first time I had seen him fall, his head hanging, he had been skating and falling for a good long time. And yet here he was, trying again. It was a cold Sunday morning, maybe 15 degrees. And it was a little neighborhood ice skating rink, the same place I used to play pick-up tackle football when I was a kid, so it didn’t surprise me that he was alone with no parents or siblings to break his concentration. Just him, his skates and the ice. By the time I snapped the photo, he had righted himself and was making yet another go-round of the rink.

 

It struck me how much I had in common with this little boy. In the middle of the cold, dark night (Alright, it was late afternoon, but I get to take a little poetic license here) with no one else but himself to answer to and nothing but the seemingly Sisyphean task that lay in front of him, his goal was clear, his motives pure. Perhaps his technique was flawed as he was doing this by himself (Sure, his mom or dad may have helped him put on the skates). But there was nobody to hold his arms or catch him if he fell. And I could tell from watching him he wouldn’t have had it any other way. He didn’t want people to catch him if he fell. Neither do I. If the last year has taught me anything, it’s that I don’t want concessions made for me by the Disability Office or my old job or anyone else, not if it’s something I should be able to do on my own. This is the same subtle resilience that I admired in my tough-as-nails-(but bat shit crazy) Nana, It’s the same trait she passed on to her son with polio and his son with Tourette’s syndrome and macro degeneration and my mom passed on to my sister. Thank God I have it to. It’s in my blood. Tell me I can’t do something and I will simply grin, shake it off, and set out to make you rue those words. Thank god I realized that knowledge about myself in time to use it.

His Christmas Story

I’ve bedded down on the couch to read. My sister-in-law, my sister, my parents have all gone to bed. But my brother stayed at Tim’s house. Said he’d walk home. I wanted to get the last 60 pages out of the way so I could begin the book by one of my favorite authors. But Merle’s Door is from the library and I’m almost done. Seamus isn’t even around. He probably couldn’t stand the stink.

 

“You should really try this eggnog,” He said and held His glass out in front of His face. He smacked His lips and let out a hearty, “Ahhhh. Eggnog spiked with whiskey. You don’t know what you’re missing with this one.” He guzzled down another big swig. Eggnog dripped from the sides of His mouth and His milky eggnog-mustache over his thin upper lip. I stared intently at the book in front of me, but I couldn’t focus on the words.

“You know the only reason your sister-in-law asked you to drive her home is because your brother wanted to get nice and toasted with Tim, right?” He asked.

I continued to stare at the page. “That’s not true,” only half-believing myself. “She has my niece and nephew who are going to be up early and-

“And one of ‘em has to get up with the kids and ain’t gonna be your bro. At least not tomorrow,” He said and drank. “You brought this on yourself. You’ve been saying all this time that this is your cross to bear and it doesn’t bother you,” He said and walked from the chair where He’d been sitting in the dining room and plopped down in the overstuffed one right next to my couch. “But it does. And Tim’s sister said it too, didn’t she? That one thing that drives you round the corner.”

He was right about that. The one thing I have come to hate in polite society is when somebody tells me they’re proud of me. When one AA’er says that to another, it really means something. Nobody knows a drunk like another drunk and when we say it to each other, it just means something. And when a normy says it to a drunk, they are being supportive.

“But you don’t see it that way, do you Ahab?” he said. “Because they’re not being supportive, you fuckin’ nimrod. They’re being condescending and patronizing. And you’re beloved brother stuck around Tim’s place so he could get a little sideways before he comes home, not so you could be the designated driver,” He chuckled again and drank. “Designated Driver to drive 6 blocks, gimme a break. You’re driving them home so he can get drunk without having to worry about your lame ass.  Can you blame him? I mean, cooking dinner for everybody on top of being a good dad all day. Shit, I’d want some special eggnog too!

“And  that little “it doesn’t bother me” when Tim’s sister or your sister-in-law or whoever the hell else jokes about needing a drink? Well, that does bother you, don’t it? In fact, it just burns you up. It’s like Bernie says. If they could just come up with a way so you could drink like a gentleman, you would. Every goddamn day. And watching other people be able do it with impunity and then have the stones to tell you they are proud of you,” He said and chuckled. “Well, that just beats all don’t it?”

I was tired. I had been drinking coffee all day (Alcoholic’s best friend, right?), but it had little effect. And I wasn’t expecting to see Him this weekend. This was supposed to be a great weekend when I got to see my brother and the kids and He wouldn’t be anywhere in sight. That’s the plague of recovery, the part they don’t tell you about at a meeting or in the Big Book. That’s the part about this disease that has nothing to do with actually taking a drink of special eggnog and getting sideways. It’s the part where people say they are proud of you, but you feel like a leper disguised as the Designated Driver. It’s the part that took me home last night to unpack and read rather than hang out with my brother and Tim. No, I wouldn’t be tempted to take a drink. But He would be sitting on a stool at the end of the bar grinning that shit-eating grin at me while I drank my coffee and everybody tried to pretend there wasn’t a 600 gorilla in the middle of the room. It’s the part that would take very kind words from a friend who I know loves me and filter them through His venom-tinged mouth. It’s me being my own worst enemy in sobriety.

“Dave stayed behind because he wanted to talk to Tim awhile longer. Maureen came back home because she was worried my sister would get bored. I heard her say that. And Tim’s got his own kids, a pregnant wife, and tomorrow is Saturday, so it’s a good chance he’ll be busy tomorrow, that is if he doesn’t have to go to work early. And everybody is meeting for bowling tomorrow anyway, so it’s not like they are going to pull an all-night kegger anyway, okay?” I put my book down and closed my eyes. “And when Tim’s sister or anybody else says they are proud of me, they mean they are proud of what I am doing. They are proud that I can listen to conversations about booze, see booze in every other commercial, walk by it in every single store, see people drinking it, joking about it and having a gay old time and having the strength and presence of mind and the balls to admit that I can’t have it and they can and that’s just the way it is. That’s what they mean when they say they are proud of me. Okay? That’s all they mean.”

I turned to where he had been sitting in the chair next to me. He was gone, but I could hear a faint giggling coming from somewhere. Anywhere. Nowhere. On the ottoman next to my couch there was a glass with one big swallow of eggnog left. I took it to the kitchen, poured it out, then went back to the couch where I would sleep. Just a few dozen more pages, then on to Second-Chance Dog.

Tony Soprano to the ER

My commitment to technology has always been on a strictly need-to-know basis. I’ve never had the budget to afford the latest gadgets, so I’ve divorced myself from wanting them. For my birthday this year, my parents are giving me an IPod Itouch and I’m pretty excited because, short of accessing the Hubble Telescope, you can do almost anything on them and I’m getting one with enough memory to hold half my external hard drive. Recently, I asked my mom for all the correspondence and literature she had that pertained to the time period around my brain surgery 9 years ago.

 

She gave me a key ring with a little dangly hanging off it.

 

“What the hell is this?”

 

“It’s a jump drive,” she said without getting off her exercise bike.

 

“I asked for –“

 

“I know what you asked for. That’s all of it. Just plug it into your computer.”

 

I did this and, low and behold, all the emails and written accounts she had documented from that time period. Plus photos and other sundries. Within moments, I was crying. Not because I am an overly sentimental person, though that’s part of it. I was simply shocked at the amount of well wishes and prayers and everything else that were going on in my name.

 

The prayers especially. I come from a very Catholic upbringing and the amount of prayer circles and lit candles and rosaries that were said for me was simply overwhelming. One woman told of how she was engaged in some sort of online praying community that spanned the globe and she had added my name to the prayer list.

 

I mean good God, people in China and Brooklyn and Finland were praying for me to make it through the brain surgery alongside prayers for little Mumumboo in Africa and Jorge in Nicaragua.  Alright, maybe not those places specifically, but I hear “online prayer circle” and that’s what comes to mind. But I guess at the time, it’s as good a thing to pray for as any.  I mean, it’s God, y’know? Far be it from me to think that He has too much going on to think to give me a break. Would that He had had enough forethought to plant the seed in people’s heads to not bring candy to my room or maybe damage the part of my brain that knew that I smoked. I gotta admit though, I did kinda feel like Tony Soprano in my hospital gown and my ass hanging out while I smoked near the hospital door.

 

The thing I have to continually remind myself is that this going to be a long slog. I’ve thought about it, and it’s going to tap into an emotional well that I haven’t dropped a bucket in in quite a while. I mean, in just that short session of reading emails, the outpouring of support that everyone in mine and my family’s lives put forth was nothing short of astonishing. And thank God we have the friends we do, because I’d read message after message after message with the most sincere offers of help. Then there’d be a message from Mom’s best friend saying simply “What the Fuck? People never showed me this kind of love whenever I was sick.” Or words to that effect. And I haven’t gotten to my mother’s narratives or the account of me getting the Last Rites (That’s right, sports fans, I’m one of few living Catholics that has gotten that sacrament and lived to tell about it. I know, as if my ego wasn’t big enough already, having cheated death and all, right?)

 

I’ve written the initial outline of how the book will look. And right at the start is an introduction written by Him. That one was tough. I had to put myself in a place where I would be submerged in thinking like Him, but listening to Tool or White Zombie or Trent Reznor only kind of grasped it. At the end of an hour, I had written ¾ a of page and I still wasn’t done but I couldn’t write anymore either. That is, sadly, how I know my thinking about this is right on. That’s what I mean by long slog.

 

This isn’t going to be easy.

Of Headaches and Halos

Old Man Winter turns out the light early

And the darkness outside breeds darkness in our lives

We rise later and sleep so soon

And in the frost and cold breathes misfortune

And death

We huddle together, sharing what little warmth we have

And the lone robin sings a sad song

 

 

We laugh when we can, smiling a small smile

Taking comfort in Newfies and Dachsunds

Photographs of ice

Hanging

From what is left of the autumn

Some cuddle for warmth with those they love

Others lay down alone

 

The pain of our lives brings our heads to our hands

While within us, the grandfather clock of life reborn

Ticks softly, and we know it is there

To greet us in spring

When the trees and the wild

Shake off the white fairy dust

Of winter

 

And we breathe.