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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.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Why... it's manure, my dear...

Sometimes, no matter how much we prepare ourselves for an upcoming event, it always comes as a surprise. Maybe not the event itself, but perhaps the realization that it is there is the real surprise. It could be the force of the impact when we know another car is going to hit you. Or it could be the loudness of the thunder when we know a storm is coming. No matter how much we prepare, no matter how knowledgeable, there is always that sudden realization – OH!! It’s here! It’s now!

My mother was an avid gardener. I wish I had her green thumb ability to make any plant spring to life from the earth surrounding it. For several years in a row, she turned a quarter-acre area of the yard into a vegetable garden. She would can and freeze the produce and advertise in the local paper to sell her home-grown goodies.

One spring, Carrot decided she wanted to get in on the action. She would help my mother with the gardening and they would share the fruits of their labor. It was a good partnership with a mother and daughter-in-law bonding over weed pulling and watering. Mom was an expert while Carrot was a garden virgin. It was OK because Mom was an excellent teacher.

My brother tilled the area and formed the rows for the hills of seedlings. It was early the next morning and both Mom and Carrot were ready to work in the dirt. There were several very large bags of what appeared to be potting soil along the perimeter of the garden area. Mom explained that they had to work small amount of the contents in bag into the soil.

Carrot asked, “What’s in the bag?” Mom replied that it was manure fertilizer as she handed Carrot a pair of gardening gloves. “Oh I think I can just use my hands, it won’t kill me, right?” Carrot responded. Mom said that NO, it wouldn’t kill her, but she would probably really rather have the gloves. “That’s OK,” Carrot insisted, “I CAN handle it.” Well… it really was Carrot’s decision.

Mom tore open the first bag. Carrot watched as Mom put both hands into the bag and pulled out the dark stuff, dropped some along the row and then worked it into the soil with her hands. The dirt fell through her fingers and fell back on top of the row. It seemed simple enough to Carrot so she put her hands into the bag as she had seen Mom do and walked over to the row where it was to be deposited.

Suddenly the realization hit her. Carrot’s eyes widen in horror. She stopped dead in her tracks. Her terrified eyes shot to my mother as she screamed out, “THIS IS SHIT!!!! That’s a bag of SHIT!!!” Carrot dropped the handful of manure and sped off to wash her hands. My mother broke into spasms of laughter so hard that she fell onto the ground and rolled back and forth as she peed her pants.

Carrot returned, put on the gloves and the two of them chuckled over the incident each time they put more of the manure into the rows. “I told you it was manure,” Mom said to Carrot. “But you didn’t tell me it was shit!” Carrot responded. Then they laughed some more.

The true contents of a bag of fertilizer/manure are well known to Carrot. She knows what constitutes manure. But, for some reason she did not connect the two in her head. She knew she was about to put her hands into a bag of manure, but didn’t realize it was a bag of shit. Even though she had the knowledge, she was surprised by the reality of it all.

I have written so often that I know what is ahead in the midst of the caretaking of an end-stage alcoholic. But, I’m wondering if when it comes right down to it, am I as ready as I think I am? I have the knowledge. I know what the reality is or what I imagine it will be. But, as the days approach, will I be shocked by the loudness of the storm’s thunder or the strength of the impact from an on-coming vehicle? Have I realized that manure is really just a bag of shit?

Riley goes on each day as though nothing is different from the one before. He knows there’s a bag of something off in the distance. I don’t think he knows that it’s manure and would probably not equate that to being shit. He sees no end. He thinks nothing has changed.

I see the bag too. For me there are two elements inside – fertilizer and shit. The shit is the reality when he is walking out the door of life and I’m witnessing the departure. The pain of watching a life end via a slow suicide may be too much for me to stay in the room as it happens. It will be a true test of my faith that God has made the choice for Riley and not really Riley himself.

The fertilizer is the part that sets me free to grow and continue on in a life that has taken a new direction for me. It will help me laugh and sleep and take better care of myself. Just like the little seedlings sprouting from the rows in the garden, I will stretch up and produce something that is, not just healthy for myself, but hopefully for many others.

The truth is that the process has already begun. My fertilizer has been all my followers, commenters and members of the OARS group. I’m not sure I could have even made it to the garden if it had not for them.

5 comments:

Syd said...

LOL on the story with Carrot. I was in charge of putting the "liquid fertilizer" as my father called it around the plants. He would mix horse manure with water in a barrel. But he had some magnificent tomatoes!

Anonymous said...

Linda-
Your blog has gotten me through a winter of oppression and horror dealing with my chronically end stage alcoholic mother. I am the daughter who's last 15 years have always been shadowed or dominated by my mother's addiction. Feel absolutely awesome for sparing your daughter the pain and agony that I have dealt with! This winter, I dropped my life and lived with my mother in a last ditch effort to save her. As you well know with these folks, it did not work. Instead, I found myself so horrified that suicide once flitted before my eyes. This addiction is so ugly and creepy, that it makes the sane family members start to wonder about their wits. I had to leave to preserve my sanity and it was an immediate sigh of relief. The story, of course, never ends and I would rush down to her house (40 minutes away) to make sure she was "O.K")
All changed last Weds when I rushed into her house and found her dead.
I am free.
I am no longer going to follow your blog (although it has become a habit!), but know that you helped me through some of the blackest days I have ever experienced. Thank you Linda-and may you be set free as well.

Anonymous said...

I must say that this is one the best blogs i've seen about this topic. It's a horrific addiction, my Mother are now laying in a featus position drinking about the same amount of vodka as Riley with a straw. I don't agree with you that all alcoholics are different! Shit stinks, whatever animal it comes from.
Alcoholics die of 3 things, either suicide, some freak accident or as Riley(and my Mother). I have been thru them all now with my family, and must say that how terrible it sounds, quick death are extremely realesing compared to this.

Anonymous said...

I left a comment on your May 6th post and after reading this tale of Carrot's experience, I again will tell you that you should consider writing a novel. Thank goodness books are still precious things people want to hold in their hands and turn the pages while they laugh and have tears run down their face. I enjoyed your tale of a gardener's row of s *# t. Jackie D

Linda -- Immortal Alcoholic's Wife said...

Anonymous -- I have completed my first book -- The Immortal Alcoholic's Wife. I'm in the process of editing and will have it self published. There will be a sequel to that book and others are already in my brain. That you so very much. I appreciate your words of encouragement and support. -- Linda