…And What Happened There

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jennifer, sleepingkatey, sleeping

Trying to get materials for our house, struggling to pay for things like septic system, plumbing and electricity, Terry and I both put in a lot of hours at work when we moved back to Beaver Island. At one point, in the first summer we were back, I was doing laundry at the Beaver Island Lodge, waiting tables at the Shamrock and helping with a small gallery on the harbor. Terry worked for Cashman, then took side jobs helping at Wojan’s Mill and left the island to work down state when the money was right. It would have worked, still, if we had worked as partners.

Our marriage was in a state of disrepair most of the time. Many times, Mary Therese would come up the stairs from the apartment below us, under the guise of asking for rent but generally because she heard our arguing. Terry was a big wall-pounder and door slammer; harder to admit is my own part in it. I was the worst-tempered of all my mother’s children. I thought I had out-grown it…but then we’d have an argument. Terry’s rages were fueled mainly by alcoholism, whether by drinking or wanting an excuse to drink. Mine were just meanness and self-righteous indignation.

In his defense, Terry was always one of the most kind-hearted people I’ve ever known. Now, sober for many years, he has a nice wife and a good life. He’s a devoted father to all of his children. Alcoholism is a disease that affected both of our families. Though my mother was a teetotaler and I have never been much of a drinker, I’m sure my reactions to Terry’s problem hurt more than it helped most of the time. I hesitate to bring up a past that can’t be altered…but this is my history, too.

The night I made these drawings of my girls, I was working the closing shift, from 8PM until 3AM. Terry was supposed to be home with the girls. He left them to come out to the bar. When he left there a few hours later, he assured me he was going home. At two in the morning, as I was locking the doors , a friend stopped in to tell me she had our car. Terry had driven it to the south end of the island for a house party. My friend lost her ride and wanted to get home. Terry told her to take the car.

I finished my closing duties and walked home. There were my girls, alone in the apartment as they had been all night. Jen was on the couch, Kate on the floor beside her, where they had fallen asleep in front of the television. Their sweet, innocence brought me to tears. What were we doing? Where was this leading? When did work and drink replace bedtime stories? These were the thoughts that filled my head and broke my heart as I wound down with a cup of tea while I sketched my precious daughters. Then I went to bed.

I woke up the next morning to Terry telling the girls, “Do not – under any circumstances – wake up your mother!!” Then, under his breath as he went out the door, “I’ve gotta find the #@(%$!# car!”

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10 responses »

  1. Cindy – We both probably know why your mother was a tea-toteler. After sending you info on our family background, we found out there was much alcoholism in our family (yours an mine). I am so happy none of my children drink. I had two brothers who were alcoholics – one whose wife helped him thru it and he got sober, the other went thru much counseling. It slowed it down, but when he died at 75, he was still drinking some. I wish I could have gotten further than my grandfather, your great grandfather, but I was happy I found out as much as I did. Keep writing –

    • Reading through the papers you shared with me, I saw many of my present-day relatives in those old ancestors! I have only good memories of my Grandpa Ted…but I know Mom saw a different aspect. Thanks for reading, and for your kind comments!

  2. The sketches are beautiful. Alcohol wrecks havoc in so many lives. I’m sure those past days are not happy memories but as you have written, they are a part of your past. I don’t know how you manage to write about all of that. You are a bigger person than I could ever be.

  3. Lovely sketches. Thank you for sharing these painful memories along with all the others๐Ÿ’ž I always marvel at your ability to “tell your story” and admire what a rich heritage you are leaving your loved ones๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ’ž๐Ÿ’•. So nice!

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