Where earth meets sky – a family on the brink

A bleak situation was rendered that much more so in the light of her frantic quest for answers. Anger and fear had morphed into a numbing pain. Like anyone faced with rocks and hard places, desperate measures become their moment by moment reality, and, caught in that place, she contemplated her options. “Do I stay with the boys but kick him out of the house? Is there a way for us to escape back to Canada where we at least know more people and have a support system?” she pondered fearfully.

She chose instead to call a counselor seeking…well, counsel. His advice offered a modicum of comfort. Their tenuous immigration situation denied quick and easy solutions, even in the face of such challenges as presently faced them. It was complicated. If she left and went back to Canada, she would throw away everything she had already endured through the whole arduous process.  Besides, “if I couldn’t return to see my Dad who’s diagnosed with cancer, I certainly won’t do so for a drunk” she agonized.

Some relief came by way of a phone call. Susie, his soprano confronter and close family friend called, offering her and the boys a weekend getaway to what she called, “Camp Susie.” It provided opportunity for long soaks in bathtubs of tears, still longer talks well into the night with an understanding soul. It was somewhere for their boys to play with hers blissfully unaware of the gravity of the situation.

* * *

Meanwhile, events were moving quickly for him. He had already met with his discernment team, was assigned a sponsor and, two hours later, still green and nauseous, sat in his first A.A. meeting. He would come to know that Methodist church basement intimately. There, in that cold but hopeful room that smelled of nicotine and bad coffee, he vocalized what would be the first of hundreds of similar introductions, “hi, I’m Rob, and I’m an alcoholic.”

He walked the twenty minutes home and sheepishly entered the front door. He showed her and his boys his first coin and then left for the conference he had been drinking all week to forget. Rather foolishly he had offered to sit on the steering committee in charge of his denomination’s annual regional gathering. It was his responsibility to organize and implement all plenary worship times complete with “special” music, technical requirements and liturgies. It was a job he knew well but with which he had never become totally confident. And, since Kent and entourage felt it important for him to carry on with present responsibilities as a path to healing, he turned and drove away. He had no idea what, if anything, might be awaiting him upon his return.

* * *

After a Friday evening drenched in heavy tears, she hauled herself reluctantly out of bed on Saturday in order for her to go home and check on their dog, Skittles. On the way, she discussed with Calum, their eldest, the very real possibility of them leaving the country, never to return.  She still waffled back and forth with what few options were available. As is so often the case, wisdom is held in the hands of its youth. Calum shared that he didn’t want to leave the country without paying a five-dollar debt he owed to a local record store merchant. She couldn’t help but think to herself, “wow, all this integrity from an eleven year old, in comparison to….”

As they walked into the house, she headed straight to the phone and called her Dad. The sound of his voice was more than she could handle. His strong and vibrant presence bespoke an unwavering commitment to her and hers, despite his weakened state. He sensed her call was urgent and paused to let her speak. He got tears instead. Lots of them. He knew immediately what was up and just let her cry. As her grief subsided enough to do so, he asked astutely, “it’s Rob isn’t it? He’s been drinking again.”  An overfull kettle of grief and despair spewed out as she retold the events of the last few days in wave upon wave of fresh tears.

Then Judy, his wife and their step Mother-in-law, on speakerphone prodded gently, “if alcoholism is really a disease, would you leave? If he had cancer would you leave him?”
“If he had heart disease would you leave?”
“No”. If indeed it was true that this alcoholism was a disease, she couldn’t possibly leave one who is sick, even if every cell in her weary body begged otherwise.

Following an exhausting but cathartic conversation, the three of them arrived at some conclusions. Perhaps A.A. was the first time he would turn to honestly face this disease with some prospect of healing. Her Dad made it clear that they were always welcome home but strongly urged her to carry on. As an immigrant himself from England many years earlier, when Rae was four years old, no one understood better than he the high stakes of immigration.

That night, Rae and boys all slept together in their bed, she hurting and afraid but with a heightened awareness of grace, they with limited understanding and heightened need for a good cuddle. Graeme, their youngest, had overheard some of her conversation from earlier, something about Daddy lying. As she turned to kiss him goodnight, his words, revealing complete trust in his father, reopened the argument between her head and her heart. “Daddy would never lie to us, right?” he asked innocently. She thought it best not to answer and they fell fast asleep, exhausted.

* * *

He was discovering something as if for the first time. He could function at very high levels of wit, competence, creativity and responsibility…without alcohol. For most, this was called normal adulthood. For him, it was a welcome epiphany. He was flying, for completely different reasons. It felt like being born again. Again.

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