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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.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Forgiving is not forgetting...

Riley is now at the nursing home and resting in a sparse room with bare white walls. There is window that looks out on the courtyard so he does have a view of the outside world. I’ve taken in a balloon bouquet, but the room still seems empty and cold. I thought my readers might be willing to help me brighten the place up a bit, so I’ve made arrangements for mail to be delivered to Riley at the home. If you want to help me turn those white walls into colorful expressions of thoughts and prayers, please send cards to:
c/o Kindred Healthcare
901 South Halstead Blvd.
Elizabeth City, NC 27909-6920 

Today I’ll be going to visit and read to him from “The Wind in the Willows” by Kenneth Grahame. It was read to Riley and his brother when they were very small children. I think this might be comforting for him. If his mother were here, I’m sure this is what she would read to her little boy.
When I visited yesterday, Riley was actually looking a bit better. His face had filled out a bit and his complexion was better. I have been told that dying people do start to look better as they reach the end. I suppose its nature’s way of giving us a better memory of the last days.
Riley barely acknowledged my presence when I entered the room. He opened his eyes only for a second and promptly closed them again. I waited. A nurse came in and took his vitals. Then another gave him a bath. The bath woke him up. He was not happy that he was being bathed. His speech has degenerated to mumblings so I couldn’t make out the words, but I knew he was protesting. When she was done, she asked “Now… doesn’t that feel better?” I was sure I could understand him saying, “If you say so.”
Now that he was awake, I tried to make some light conversation. I mentioned that his room was nice and the bed looked comfortable. I told him I had talked to the staff and everyone seemed competent and caring. He mumbled something and opened only one of his eyes.
His nurse came back in and gave him some medicine. I’m not sure what it was, but he didn’t protest. He has difficulty swallowing pills, so the medicine was in liquid form. Before she left, Riley asked her for a drink. She said she would bring in some water. He clearly said NO followed by more mumbling. I’m sure he was asking for vodka and soda. The nurse told him “I’ll check on that” and left the room.
The thought occurred to me… why not let him have a little vodka? He can only get down a tiny bit at a time. He is clearly dying so there is no hope for sobriety. If it keeps him calm to have a few drops of vodka, what would be the harm? But, I kept quiet. I felt sure there was some kind of law or something preventing the precious liquid ever getting to Riley’s lips. Then again – I looked back at him and didn’t really see much agitation in his face. He didn’t need the vodka to keep him calm. Now I’m thinking is was some kind of “Pavlov’s Dog” reaction to just being awake and alive.
I’m not sure if “calmness” was what I was witnessing. I think it was more of a sense of resignation. He is out of options, out of choices, he is resigned to being in that bed and unable to do for himself. I don’t think he likes it, but is resolved in the knowledge that this is how it must be. I’m not sure if he has accepted the fact that his death is imminent. But, I’m sure he knows that this is not what he expected his last days to be like. He must be wondering – where’s the jealous husband chasing him with a gun and shooting him as he is jumping over a fence after catching him with the wife? Lying in a hospital bed is so mundane, boring, and without an interesting story for his legacy.
Besides reading to Riley, I will offer him my forgiveness for anything he may have done in the past that hurt me. I will also ask for his forgiveness for anything I may have done that hurt him. I will tell him that the kids love him and miss him. I will lie to him and tell him that his oldest son forgives him for the past. I will do or say whatever I have to do to let him depart earth as peacefully as possible.
I’m not so sure I really can forgive him or that his son will ever forgive him. Maybe in time the good memories will overtake the bad now that the bad will stop repeating over and over. I long since grieved the loss of the man who was my husband. All of this just feels like a formality. I am sad. I’m sad to think about the life Riley could have had if he had taken a different path. But, what is the point in that? It was what it was and it is what it is.


Syd said...

Thank you for posting his address. I will gladly write to him. Hopefully, he will continue to improve. And perhaps find some degree of happiness in the remaining time.

ADDY said...

"Maybe in time the good memories will overtake the bad now that the bad will stop repeating over and over. " THEY WILL.

"I long since grieved the loss of the man who was my husband." TRUE BUT YOU WILL GRIEVE HIM IN A DIFFERENT WAY.

Anonymous said...

Sorprendente tanta locura y locura y frustracion! mi marido me adora y quiere viajar conmigo y vivir hasta el fin de nuestros dias! nada de ilusion! creo que se equivocaron de adresse, y aqui no hay whisky ni vodka!

Regalen a PETRA EL VODKA! suerte

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure that there is a law against Riley having a drink. Have you tried asking about the policy on giving him a Brompton cocktail?

Kibble said...

From wikipedia:
Brompton cocktail, sometimes called a Brompton mixture, or, incorrectly, Brompton's cocktail, is an elixir meant for use as a pain suppressant, and dosed for prophylaxis. Made from morphine or diacetylmorphine (heroin), cocaine, highly-pure ethyl alcohol (some recipes specify gin), and sometimes with chlorpromazine (Thorazine) to counteract nausea, it was given to terminally-ill individuals (especially cancer patients) to relieve pain and promote sociability near death. A common formulation included "a variable amount of morphine, 10 mg of cocaine, 2.5 mL of 98% ethyl alcohol, 5 mL of syrup BP and a variable amount of chloroform water."1

Just sayin'.

Bev said...

Linda, has Riley accepted Jesus? Here I am a Christian and I'm having such a hard time putting my thoughts into words. I don't mean to sound preachy. But when you talked about forgiving Riley -I just knew I had to say something.

My worst fear for our son who also suffers with alcoholism is for him to pass away and not make peace with God - to accept Him as his Savior.

This life is so short but eternity is forever. I'm not a kook - or some crazy Christian - I have accepted Christ and know that there is a judgment day for all of us.

Peace to both you and Riley and to your family. A card is on it's way :D

Gabriele Goldstone said...

What a surreal time. Your love shines strong. You're such an excellent writer. Thanks again for sharing with
such emotional clarity. Take care.

Seraphim Creative said...

Linda, I'm sorry for your sadness, and for Riley's resignation. However you stated it correctly, it is what it is. Just be sure to tell him what you want him to hear because once he's gone it will be too late. And time does render bitter feelings. Life somehow looks more jaded in hindsight. Blessings of comfort and peace to you both as well as to your children.

jo said...

the part about that cocktail is the liver cant metabolize it, and it would kill him quickly. altho i might take one for me. lol. whew, sounds quite...errr...strong. a speedball. wow- without the thorazine, its what killed john belushi.

i must say i admire you and others who do this stuff with their As. i wonder often if i could. so far the answer is no. a friend of mine whose A passed has really gone all out ,,,funeral and such...

i wish i was more like yall. im not. i dont know if i ever would be. i cant recall any good things..like yall can. i cant find in myself the desire to do the things yall do. he chose it, he is gonna pay for it, speaking for mine.

death by liver failure is a long process, not pretty.

but i wonder how yall got to this place...this "niceness", this acceptance no matter what they did, you will keep on tending to them in such a good way because way back when they were actually nice people.

i just dont have it. maybe i never will.

Anonymous said...

Amazing writing. It's a sad time for you but it's also a time for forgiveness. I tell my younger brother and sister only positive things about our alcoholic mother who died so young. I keep the pain inside, although I'm haunted about my high school prom forty years ago, and how I didn't take my willing girlfriend because my mother would be drunk when the limo would arrive.

Anonymous said...

My thoughts and prayers are with you. You so clearly express what's ahead for many of us. I daily check in; you have become a part of my life. While not quite to the point you are, it is just ahead for me. Thank you for sharing...may God give you the peace you need through the remainder of this journey. Call on Him, and He will answer. You are loved and greatly appreciated.

Loving Daughter said...

What a brave, naked & loving journey you document here, dear Linda! Thank you for exemplifying what it means to love another person until death parts you... Riley has clearly demonstrated that he is willing to die for the drink. Who is advising to turn down his request for his most favorite thing in life, now that his life is nearing its end?

Three years ago, when my beloved mother was dying from colon cancer, she expressed a desire to smoke a cigarette (a habit she had quit some decades earlier), and the attending Hospice physician gave her the go-ahead, saying, "My dear, you are free to engage any whim possible!"

She brightened up, and because she refused to smell up her house, she ventured onto the patio to smoke. I will never forget those last few days of her life, when she gingerly stole herself out to the patio, to enjoy those "forbidden" smokes. We had some great conversations & laughs. "Finally, some guilt-free pleasure," she remarked...

JLV from Portland OR said...

I am struggling with a 52 year old Alcoholic, that seems to be late stage alcoholism. I've also been put in the care taker role - and after 2 years have lost all respect for him, and just don't want to do it anymore.

I feel like I am just waiting for him to pass, because if he stops drinking (usually for a couple days), I know he's just going to pick up again - and it will continue to be the same.

I just don't understand how someone, who was a responsible person can be so selfish and not willing to take care of themselves. I know I deserve better. Know one really understands what I am going through - but, possible you do.

Anonymous said...

I have been following your blog for a while now and my heart goes out to you. I am walking down the same path you are. I pray that Riley stays comfortable until the time comes.

Your comments about forgiveness are so beautiful. Anyone who lives with an alcoholic 24/7 will know what you are speaking of; and I pray I have the grace you do when it comes to the end for my husband.

Anonymous said...

I am sure that you have so many comments and emails that its hard to read them all but I still wanted to tell you how much I appreciate your site. It has been both terrifying to me when I see where we stand in progression as well as balm for me because it some how helps to know that this is not just us.
I do love my alcoholic, he is an amazing wonderful man, but words do not seem to reach him. Its heart breaking to see the "need" win out over logic. Even after he recently spent time in the hospital due to his liver and other damage from his drinking. I cant imagine living with out this man. Yet...I feel helpless to find the magic formula to bring him back. If he keeps drinking...he will die, ..soon.
I agree with so much of what you write. I also wish there was more non 12 step help. Although we are active in our church I can tell that the 12 step is not the way for him.
I have some how taken you and Riley into my heart...I check the blog each day. I prayed for you when you were sick and I know you are still on a difficult journey. I just want you to know that you are dear to the heart of this stranger.