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A daughter shares a letter to her mother: living with alcoholism in the family.
“What can you ever really know of other people’s souls – of their temptations, their opportunities, their struggles? One soul in the whole creation you do know: and it is the only one whose fate is placed in your hands.” ~ C.S. Lewis
Walking into the kitchen, you used to pause before you poured. Now you worry you won't have enough to numb the pain tomorrow as you toss the last bottle into the trash. Sitting up in the recliner, your eyes trying to adjust to the TV, you realize you forgot to put your glasses on. You try to will your eyes to stay open but they glide shut as you hear the last few words of the sermon before passing out. "Thou shall not..." I am curious if you recall all the prayers you've spoken for other's souls, and if you repeat them for yourself now? Since you don't answer the phone when I call, I stopped calling. You don't reply to messages or emails, but I still send them. What has darkened your heart so much that you cannot see your way into the light? We do not know how to help you, and you deny you need it. I miss you. I miss the delight in your smile and the praise you poured over me. Your words encouraging me to dare to become anything I wanted. I have a crack in my esteem that I patch from time to time your positivity from my memory.
What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others. ~Pericles
What will your grandchildren know of your legacy? I have admired you all of my life. Strong, outspoken, and courageous are the words I've used to describe you. There was a time when you shook the world you walked in. You overcame and persevered as a single mother. You told me day after day after day: Missy, you can be whatever you set your heart to become. Miss. America? Yes, you can. Doctor? Yes, you can. Winning salesperson? Yes, you can. I will tell them what you told me often and everyday "yes, you can." I will tell them of your gift of mercy and how you helped everyone and anyone within reach. I will show them photos of you in your red and purple suits and flawless skin. But, I will also tell them that it's not good to be alone. That one day, they may find themselves within the walls they've built around them and while it feels very quiet, the longings and fears may whisper lies. Please, I'll say, don't believe stories of doubt or bitterness. Be courageous enough to know that each of us are more than we think we are. I will urge them to surround themselves with people who love them and allow them to be uniquely themselves. I will tell them to give generously, just like you did. And then give some more. Offer not only money but time to others in service. Giving put everything perspective for you.
I will admonish that giving is not the answer when they are drained. The deepest most fulfilling thing they will ever do is to love themselves as if they were their own child. Offer grace and gratitude a thousand times a day and then offer it again before they close their eyes to sleep. To wake up again and tell themselves that today is the best day of their life. Then simply encourage them to do what makes them feel alive. I stand a world away and know you are fighting your demons the best way you can or the only way you know how, I suppose.
Find your courage once more. Only you can examine your soul, choose a new path and find a new way to fight. Yes, Mom, you can. I believe in you. And, I love you.
I've written this letter in a hundred different ways and trashed it every time. Fear of what others might think or anger from the one it's addressed to has kept me from sharing it. But, now it's time. I've lost count of the number of broken bones, blood transfusions and whispers of excuses. Unfortunately, in the United States you cannot force someone to get help with alcohol addiction unless they are endangering the public. No matter that they endanger themselves, that's the freedom we face. I hope that my family's journey in dealing with alcoholism will be a catalyst for just one person to seek help.
In grace and love,
October 8, 2017
You always sign your emails and brief letters: Love, Mother. I've never called you Mother. I don't know why you prefer this to Mom. You're just my mom. I think I remember you calling Grandma, Mother. It's so formal.
Our relationship has been anything but formal. Distant, maybe but not formal. A thick forest of questions. Dark and wandering, I find so much of our past a maze in my mind. Difficulty navigating the stories Craig and I share of you. We have perceived so much of our growing up differently.
I have so much I would like to ask Grandma about you. I would give anything for one more day with her. And, I wonder if I should be asking God for one more day with you?
You're in the hospital again. This time, Ron called Craig to help when he found you on laying in the narrow hallway. They argued over whether or not to take you to the ER. Finally, the decided to call an ambulance, and hysterical, you didn't want to go.
This time was different than all the other times, for some reason, my brother told them the truth. You were drinking.
8 hours since your last drink, your blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit. That you are alive is a miracle. Your pelvis broken and a break somewhere in your lower spine, they determine that you don't need surgery but physical rehab again.
You know them well there. And, seem to know all the nurses' stories and intimate details of their lives. Inquire. That's what you do. You're great at asking questions and then making someone out to be a queen or the best of... whatever they do. You can take an ordinary person and by the time you're done talking to them, you've got their life story, all of their accolades and awards on the shelf of your brain and ready to tell anyone who will listen how remarkable the person is. You can make a yard man into a owner of his own arboretum that is the best and most renowned in the country where, in your opinion, the most wealthy should seek their services!
Mom, I miss you. I don't even know which you I miss. The mom who used to scratch my back when I was tired and sitting at the table doing homework. The mom who used to say, Missy, you can be anything you want to be, Miss America or the President of the United States. Just follow your heart, Missy. I miss the way you answer the phone, and the way your voice lights up when you talk about how well your Mary Kay unit is doing.
I called you at the hospital yesterday and you didn't answer the phone. I was expecting your voice mail to say, "Hello, thank you for calling, please leave your name, number and any brief message and I will return your call shortly."
With no recording of your voice, I left a message anyway, like I usually do with no expectation of a return call. Just wanted you to know I'm thinking of you, as usual.
I love you, Mom.