Saturday, November 25, 2006
This is a picture of my mom (on the left) taken in 1938 when she was eleven years old. If you read the post about my dad you can see mom came from a much different background. This was taken at her home in upstate New York, a place called Tall Pines, after the tall pine trees that lined the long drive up to the large white house. My great great grandfather built the home, and the adjacent carriage house. There were also stables, a large barn and a small airport across the road. The road is named Marsh Road, which is the family name.
Mom and her brother and sister are wearing crinoline and patent leather. They are well fed, well versed and they know their manners. They’ve been told to smile sweetly for the camera, which they do, although my uncle Jack stands slightly apart as though he would rather be somewhere else.
My parent’s childhoods look very different. They were actually quite similar. Both of their fathers were alcoholics. My mom’s father was a pilot, an actual wing walking barn stormer. He was a hard drinking womanizer too. But not much of a family man. He only came home long enough to “hang his pants on the bed post” and get my grandmother pregnant three times. He had affairs with other women, it is rumored that he fathered another child and he made no effort to apologize or hide any of it. He was a spoiled rich kid who abandoned his family and left them to be raised by his own parents at Tall Pines.
My mom doesn’t really remember much about her father. What she does remember is the pain of abandonment. Her own mother had to go find work in the city. This left the children at the mercy of their grandmother, who although she loved them in her own way, she was in denial about her son and she had harsh ideas about raising children. It’s as though she was so ashamed of her son’s behavior she believed she could cover it up by exacting high standards from these wounded little children. She was very strict and religious and Mom spent her childhood intent on earning love.
Alcoholism robbed my mother of childhood nurturing. Hugs, and kissed boo-boos, hours of story time, mud pies and wrestling on the floor with Dad. The children were never free to just have a childhood. It also robbed her of the ability to know the truth. Children were to be seen and not heard. They were shut out. There was an elephant in the room. The scandal was more important than healing.
My mom began her healing years later, although she still sets sometimes impossibly high standards for herself. It was not so easy for her brother, who committed suicide in 1964; or her dear sister who has had years of therapy. My mom has a warrior’s heart and she met her soul mate when she met my father. His father had also been an alcoholic, and he understood her soul and her pain. Perhaps they began their healing journey together without even speaking of it. They were married for forty years. That’s another post.
Thursday, November 23, 2006
Sunday, November 19, 2006
This is a picture of my father taken around 1938 when he was probably 10 yrs old in Springfield Ohio. His family was poor, dirt poor, capital P poor. I love looking at the ragged clothes and yet the sweet dignity of the tie. My father lived his whole life with dignity. It was a quiet dignity, balanced by a sometimes outrageous sense of humor and his obvious love for family and friends. But under it all, first and foremost, this man was a gentleman.
My father’s father was one of the town drunks. The 1930’s and 40’s in a place like Springfield Ohio were hard. America was in the midst of the Great Depression in the 30’s; jobs, food and money were scarce. When the disease of alcoholism claimed my grandfather it left my father and his brother in circumstances that would have been dire if not for the spiritual practices they followed in their home. My grandmother was not a religious woman. But she was the kind of woman we read about in the Big Book chapter To The Wives and The Family Afterward. She believed she needed to keep the family together at all costs, keep the home neat as a pin, somehow keep the boys fed and clothed, pray for God’s mercies and hope that someday her husband would “regain his sanity”. It is so sad that my grandfather never found his way from Springfield to Akron. So close and yet so far away.
My grandmother took a job washing dishes on the nightshift in a diner downtown. My dad would go to school, come home and do his homework, fix a meal for his brother and himself and go to bed. Then at 1am he would get up and ride his bike downtown to escort his mom home, keeping her safe from her drunken husband or anyone else on the streets. Then a few hours more sleep and up at 5 am to deliver a paper route. He also used to go wait in line at the fire station once a week for any food handouts they were offering. Sometimes it was just bacon grease. They would fry bread in the grease, and that would be the substitute for the week’s meat.
My father never told me any of this. He never spoke an unkind word about his father. He simply told me that my grandfather had been an alcoholic. I never saw my father drunk. I never saw him cry either, until we got word that his father had died. This disease is cunning, baffling and powerful.
My dad died in 1984, before I got clean and sober and this is the first time I have been able to write about him. I don’t know why I am able to write today. There is something shifting in me and it is bringing me a peace that I have been longing for. I have carried so many regrets that he never got to see the person I became, but I think I am finally coming to understand that I can let regrets go. He would want me to. I am sure Dad never read the Big Book, but he seemed to intuitively know the following passage when he dealt with his own father and he used it as a design for living his own life. So I will gratefully allow my dad to teach me one more thing:
Cling to the thought that in God’s hands, the dark past is the greatest possession you have --- the key to life and happiness for others. Pg 124
Thursday, November 16, 2006
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
The children were lined up in the cafeteria of a Catholic elementary school for lunch. At the head of the table was a large pile of apples. The nun made a note, and posted on the apple tray, "Take only one. God is watching."
Moving further along the lunch line, at the other end of the table was a large pile of chocolate chip cookies. One child whispered to another, "Take all you want. God is watching the apples."
Today I am hoping that God is watching someone else and not me. I would hate to disappoint Him. Then again, I know He is watching me, and that is a good thing, because I need help.
I’ve got a bad case of self will run riot and a couple of new resentments that I’ve been whipping into a frenzy. It’s no wonder that I’m feeling disconnected. I need to return to center, pray for the “willingness to be willing” and focus on gratitude.
In the end these things matter most: How well did you love? How fully did you live? How deeply did you learn to let go? Buddha’s Little Instruction Book Jack Kornfield
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
New Election Rules According To Meg:
All Officials must within 48 hours of the close of voting:
Remove All Campaign Signs (their own AND their opponent’s---that's the price of success)
Restore the Surrounding Environment to its original condition
Penalty For Failure To Perform The Above Will Forfeit Election Victory
Monday, November 06, 2006
One of my sponsees relapsed this weekend, then put a few days together and drank again today. She is suffering from the phenomenon of craving that causes so many of us to “make the supreme sacrifice, rather than continue to fight.”
The sponsor/sponsee relationship is so special. Divine inspired and divine directed...sometimes it is the first time a person has ever been honest with another human or themselves. We bond heart to heart. When the dis-ease takes over, the walls go up and the bond is lost. I am feeling so sad. Now is the time for me to practice acceptance and faith. I am powerless.
I talked with her today, reminding her of what we read in The Doctor’s Opinion: She is beyond human aid, powerless over this disease and the answer lays in a power greater than herself. But the bottom line is there’s no reasoning with an angry, remorseful, drunk. And she sure didn’t want to hear about God.
So tomorrow she can wake up and expect a visit from the “hideous Four Horseman – Terror, Bewilderment, Frustration and Despair.
I guess the good news is that we are all still here for her. If she wants it.
Sunday, November 05, 2006
Sunday Morning Gratitude:
The last fifteen years of my life have been rich and meaningful. I have had my share of problems, heartaches, and disappointments because that is life, but also I have known a great deal of joy and a peace that is the handmaiden of an inner freedom. I have a wealth of friends and, with my A.A. friends, an unusual quality of fellowship. For, to these people, I am truly related. First, through mutual pain and despair, and later through mutual objectives and newfound faith and hope. And, as these years go by, working together, sharing our experiences with one another, and also sharing mutual trust, understanding, and love--without strings, without obligation--we acquire relationships that are unique and priceless.There is no more aloneness, with that awful ache, so deep in the heart of every alcoholic that nothing, before, could ever reach it. That ache is gone and never need return again.Now there is a sense of belonging, of being wanted and needed and loved. In return for a bottle and a hangover, we have been given the Keys of the Kingdom.
from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous/ Personal Stories/ Pioneers of A.A.
Thursday, November 02, 2006
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
The meditation I read this morning closed with the sentence "I will not let what I think destroy what I believe." Sometimes I swear these pages are aimed right at me, like little fortune cookies from my Higher Power.
I’m a thinker. A deep thinker. A bizarre thinker. A profound thinker. A thinker ad nauseum. And if I let them, these thoughts and ideas own me. The meditation went on to say “Ideas can be so seductive, and we are so easily seduced. We forget that ideas are just that, abstractions that have been thought up.”
The meditation book I currently use is Meditations For Women Who Do Too Much. I try to read it every day as soon as I get to work so I can get centered and shake off the brain wreckage of my commute. My life runs in high gear, my program, my family, my fellowship, my career and my MIND. I’m reminded of the Dire Straits song : If you wanna run cool, you gotta run some heavy heavy fuel….
I’m constantly searching for ways to cool my mind and spirit. I don't run heavy fuel anymore. The best I have found are related to time spent with my Higher Power in quiet meditation; time spent with my sponsor with an open mind, and in time spent with other addicts sharing the message.
When I do those things my mind is quiet and I have the freedom to celebrate the woman I believe myself to be.