Saturday, July 05, 2008

Gray is an interesting color

First, let me say thanks to those of you who posted support here, and also a couple of my friends who emailed me directly. I can't say how much I appreciate your support. And thank you all for not saying, "Gee, what a piece of trash you are for staying with an alcolic husband!" Which, honestly, I feared I might hear.

I've been continuing to think about this issue, and really, it is a spectrum of gray. I suppose many people would see it in black and white but I'm living it, and it looks gray to me.

On the pale pearlescent gray side, like the lining of an iridescent shell, is our life together when D is not drinking. Honestly, it's pretty darned good. For one thing, he agrees with me that children are best brought up at home by mommy (assuming that you can financially swing it, which luckily we can). And staying at home here with Gus and Sam has been an incandescently joyful experience for me. I can't think too much about it at any one time because I start to tear up. I tiptoe into the boys' bedroom at night to check on them, and when I lay my hand gently on their little backs, just to feel their breathing, I get a rush of joy that runs through me like heroin. They are ridiculously beautiful, and so ornery and funny and silly and unique and wonderful. I have never memorized anyone's features as I have theirs. I know their little faces better than my own now. And I am profoundly grateful that my husband goes to work without complaint and understands that the work I am doing at home with our boys is every bit as important as the work he performs to keep us financially afloat.

I am grateful that D took care of me during the long years when I could not have taken care of myself. I am grateful that he still hugs me on demand without question, and makes silly jokes to cheer me up when I need it, and shares a long history with me that mostly makes our life together feel like being wrapped up in a warm woolly bathrobe.

On the medium gray side is his stubborn streak, and his nasty little habit of freezing me out in "non-talking" mode when I've done something to annoy His Highness. I don't think this has anything to do with drinking -- this is just his high-handed father coming out in D. (On the plus side, he doesn't do the non-talking thing much anymore.)

And down in the deep charcoal gray is his drinking nights. But to give him some credit, he never complains about his hangovers, and he always gets up the next morning and pitches right back into the work at hand, whether it's going to his academic job or working on things here at home.

And somewhere in that sea of gray is our children's very existence. I thought for a long, long time about whether we should even have kids. I know what pundits like Dr. Laura would say. She basically doesn't think you should have kids unless things are perfect at home. And there's something to be said for that, except that if you wait for things to be perfect before you do whatever it is you want to do, you'll never get anywhere with anything.

I worry about the boys growing up with a functional drunk for a dad. Obviously, this is a Very Bad Example right in front of their eyes. But I also thought about my own upbringing. My dad smoked like a chimney the whole time I was growing up. I would walk into the living room, and the smoke from his pipe would have settled into a visible layer at about my shoulder height. The walls were all yellow-brown from the smoke. I was sick every winter and lost several weeks of school every year with awful bronchitis. (Looking back, I'm astounded I never had pneumonia. Also, it's a good think I'm not going to school now -- I think they'd fail me on general principles, just for losing so much time.)

Now, statistically, kids of smokers are much more likely to smoke, so you'd expect my brother and I both to do so. Our actual results? My brother also smokes like a chimney. But as for me, you literally could not pay me enough to get me to smoke. I hate smoking with a passion I would never have had if I had not grown up with a dedicated smoker. I would not even date smokers. Smoking is something I've never given consideration to doing, for even two seconds -- even though it was in front of me for all those years.

More to the point, our family was deeply disfunctional in ways I'm not going to get into here, and during much of my childhood, I was very, very unhappy. I was probably clinically depressed from about age five to age 14. Some people would say that my very screwed-up parents should never have had me. And yet... I am here, and glad to be here, despite the flashbacks, the PTSD, the depression, the whatever. I walk this earth and am deeply, outrageously happy to do so. I went out for some exercise this evening and heard the rapidfire outpouring of music from a mockingbird on a telephone pole, far above my head. Whenever I hear a mockingbird, it's like suddenly smelling lemon, or touching pure cashmere. It is a moment of pure beauty, like ringing a chime in my head. How much are moments like that worth? Is it worth going through crap in your childhood to get to a mostly-very-good now? I would argue that it is. I would argue that life itself, just breathing air, is a wonderful thing. (Well, okay, if you're not in serious pain from cancer or some godawful thing like that. All bets are off then.)

Anyway. I may have some apologizing to do to our sons when they are older. I hope not, and I'll try very hard to make sure no apologies are needed. But here they are on this earth, and with any luck they'll stay here and enjoy this world for many years, and I hope they enjoy mockingbirds as much as I do someday.

In a nutshell, I'm trying to say that although my life is not perfect (as detailed in my previous post), I don't want people to think I'm lying about, moaning, "Woe is me!" and being wretched all the time. Nope. I'm severaly irritated only two to three nights a week, and honestly, the severe irritation is limited mostly to the last couple of hours of each evening. My life as a whole does not suck. My life is imperfect, and together we have problems that need some answers -- that may, sadly, be unanswerable -- but for right now we continue to limp along pretty well here in our little three-legged race.


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