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Providing non-judgmental and non-criticizing support for family and friends of end-stage alcoholics through one-on-one coaching, support groups, blog posts, workshops and public speaking.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

And so this was Christmas 2011...

My grandson, Ryan, and his family called on Friday night and said they wanted to come out and see me on Sunday. I was very happy. It was turning out to be a good weekend. My daughter spent Friday night and Saturday with me and then I would be seeing the kids on Sunday! That’s more company than we have had in months.

Alea helped me wrap gifts on Friday night. We sipped hot chocolate and ate Bruschetta, baked brie and shrimp with cocktail sauce. Riley joined us as we picked at the food and reminisced about Christmas’ past. He retains many long-ago memories so he was actually pleasant to have in the conversation. But, when the conversation turns to more recent holidays, he leaves the room and heads for bed. He has not fallen today and the vodka consumption was down from the day before.

On Saturday we worked on things in the office. We did some scheduling for conferences and brain stormed about the possibility of upcoming speaking events. We then worked on her resume and some on-line shopping. It was time for a break so we made ourselves comfortable in the living room.

We ordered the movie “The Help” off pay-per-view and settled in. I had my cozy red blanket and pillow, she had her favorite throw. With a bowl of popcorn and soda – we were ready. I was so relaxed that I was afraid I would fall asleep while watching the movie. Not a chance. The movie was perfect for me – a writer who is writing a very meaningful story. My eyes were riveted to the screen and my brain was on a journey back in time to the deep south in the sixties. I was transformed into Skeeter. I was so lost in the movie that when it ended, I had to shake myself to come back to reality.

And reality was there to greet me… Riley had decided he was hungry and taken several leftovers from the fridge and lined them up on the counter. He decided on some of Thursday’s fried chicken and soup. He got the can of soup out of the panty and put it next to the pan he had taken from the cupboard. He then popped the chicken in the microwave. I knew the soup would not get cooked and that he would only eat maybe half of one of the two legs he had warmed up.

He sat in his rocking chair with his plate of food next to him on the tray. Alea is preparing to leave. I look up from washing the dishes see that Riley is attempting to get to his room. He falls just as he stumbles into his room. At about the same time, the dog, Jade, grabs the chicken leg from the plate and searches frantically for a hiding place. I’m chasing after her. Alea comes out of the guest room and yells – “Why is Dad on the floor?” I can’t answer her – I’m arguing with the dog over the chicken bone. Just as I get Jade cornered in the dining room, I yell back “I can’t pick him up. He has to stay there until he can get himself up.” I’m now sticking my fingers into Jade’s mouth and prying the leg from between her teeth. “Should I try to get Dad up?” she yells back. Finally, I have the prize and have pulled it away from Jade as I tell Alea – “NO!”

Victorious, I throw the chicken in the garbage and clean up Riley’s lunch clutter. I then go take a look at Riley. He’s on the floor, mumbling, “I’m OK. I’m OK.” Now that I know he is conscious, I can feel OK about leaving him where he lays.

After Alea leaves, I retreat to my room where I can cry in private over how much I will miss her and how much I have enjoyed her. I also cry because I can do nothing about Riley’s failure to understand that he can’t leave food – especially chicken bones – within grabbing range of Jade. I cry because he falls and I cannot pick him up. And I cry tears of joy because I know the next day I will be with my great grandbabies! With my emotion cleansed by my tears, I fall asleep while I look forward to Sunday.

Sunday is here and we are having North Carolina Bar-B-Q made in the crock pot. So that gets on to cook as soon as I am awake. We love trying different locally produced Bar-B-Q sauces and this was a new one. As the roast started cooking the aroma of the sauce permeated the entire house. I had taken the trash out and when I opened the door to come back into the house, the sauce hit me as though I could see the wafts of goodness floating in the air. Ummmm… I hope it tasted as good as it smelled. Homemade cole slaw, onion rings, French fries and sweet potato fries would be joining the shredded pork. Of course, homemade peach cobbler would round out the meal as dessert.

Whenever the kids come out, I have to prepare the house and Riley. Since the little one is only two years old, I have to “baby-proof” the house to keep him out of danger. I leave nothing in his height range if it could be damaged by the curious hands of a toddler. That also means removing anything that could hurt him – like the pencils Riley keeps on his chair side table.

I tell Riley that the kids are coming and I need his help in getting things together. It isn’t that he can really help – but it gives him the feeling that he’s participating. He goes to his room and “cleans up.” Then washes up – he does not shower – and puts on clean clothes. Then he checks the living room to make sure I haven’t missed anything – and he always finds something. After that he goes back to the den to watch TV with a fresh drink at his side.

The kids, Ryan and Nicole, arrive and the house becomes noisy. It’s a good noise -- the sounds of laughter and baby talk. Six year old, Emily is having a diva moment and has no interest in trying on the dress I made for her. She hates the fuzzy jacket and I can’t blame her for that because it’s too small. All little, two year old Mikey wants to for his MeeMaw to pick him up and carrying him around. Riley says hello to everyone and returns to the TV.

Gifts are unwrapped. Paper that Alea and I so lovingly and strategically used in making sure no one person got two gifts wrapped in the same paper, was now in shreds strewn across the floor. Mikey didn’t care what was in the box or who it belonged to, he was delighted in tearing it apart. In contrast, Emily was dainty about opening her gifts. Her little fingers gently slid along the seams releasing the tape. After removing the paper in one piece, she surveyed the contents, put it aside and went on to the next surprise.

Riley missed most of the gift distribution. He was passed out in his bed. He had made it from the den to the bed without falling. I was grateful. When we saw he was up and on his way back to the den, we called for him to come in and open his gifts. Slippers and a new sweatshirt and sweat pants. He squealed in happiness when he opened the slippers. Jade was always getting the old ones and chewing them apart. I reminded him that he needed to keep the new ones out of her reach.

We enjoyed the dinner with all of us seated around the table. Ryan fixed plates for the kids as well as Riley. We talked about how good the sauce was and that we would have to put it on our list of favorites. Riley ate a couple bites of his sandwich and some French fries and excused himself. He went back to the den to watch some more TV. Following his usual routine, he then headed for the bedroom and, once again, fell just as he got inside his room. Ryan rushed in and scooped him up off the floor, placing him on his bed. Ryan is 6’4” and easily manages Riley’s 5’3” frame.

Three hours of coloring and playing with new toys was wearing on the babies. Mikey was fussy and couldn’t decide what he wanted. Emily was whining and now wanted to try on the dress, but couldn’t decide if she wanted to take it off. It was time for them to go home. The car was packed with the new treasures and the kids safely harnessed into their seats. Kisses, hugs and then more kisses and hugs. They drove down my long driveway with Jade chasing the car behind them.

I would clean up in the morning. I put away the food and then headed for my room where I cried. I cried for all the same reasons I had cried the night before. I missed them already. I was saddened by Riley’s inability to see the real gift they gave us – a gift of love. I cried to cleanse away the fact that I live so far away in order to protect them from the constant bombardment of alcoholic insanity. But, I didn’t fall into a deep sleep, just a gentle relaxation until…

“Linny… Jade has my new slipper and she won’t give it back…”


Syd said...

It sounds like you had a good time with your family. I'm glad for that. And perhaps Riley does feel the gift of love. He might just be crying inside. I have read that alcoholics are "feelers" and that is one of the reasons that they numb themselves with alcohol. I don't know, but it appears that there are underlying conditions that predispose a person to drink alcoholically.
Have a good day. Your BBQ meal sounds delicious.

Anonymous said...

Its all such a shame. They can see what they are missing but want alcohol and sleep more. All mine says is he just wants to sleep so he doesnt have to feel anything mental or physical. And no wake up call seems to be big enough to wake him up and see light at the end of the tunnel, its there, he could have a great life.

Love the sound of your bbq meal.

ADDY said...

Linda - so sorry. It's a bittersweet time, isn't it? I can remember Greg spent all day on his last Christmas ever in his dressing gown and drifted between sleep and occasional wakeful moments. He missed it all and never really used any of his presents as he died in the early March following. It must have been nice to see the family though, but you were brought back to earth with a crash once they had gone. ((Hugs)).