truth telling

Truth telling leaves me conflicted. Things, circumstances and events look prettier when sugar-coated. The problem is, leaving Realville is detrimental to my mental health. The stinky elephant lived too long in my living room, not discussed.

My recent talk at the Samaritan Counseling Center is illustrative of my inner conflict. I attempted to speak honestly of what it was like to grow up in a household with alcoholic parents. How I learned to cope with my own demons through the years to become (somewhat) of a stable personality. How I labored over and analyzed every single syllable of that speech!

What had me at an impasse? What had my innards in an uproar?. My dad (who has been gone since 1978) and my Mom (died 2011) cheered me on. ‘Tell the truth’, they implored. ‘Let people know there IS a way out of addiction’.

After some pondering, I think I know why giving my talk didn’t feel better. Why I didn’t leave the building skipping and saying, ‘Whew!! Glad I got that off my chest!’

Here’s the dilemma:  I want people to know my folks were alcoholics, but they were good people. Smart people. Funny people. I count my redeeming qualities as a tribute to them. They were real people with real flaws. We were all doing the best we could at the time. Sometimes, the disease of addiction got the better of us. My father died of the disease, but my mother LIVED. She found sobriety and helped introduce me to a more serene existence.

Mostly I miss them, but today I’m grateful they aren’t around to give a talk dealing with my flaws as a child/young adult. That would be the shortest speech, EV-ER.

12 Kathy at 6

Right?

The day after the Samaritan Event, the Texan and I hightailed it to Dallas to bother the #3 Sprout and the D-I-L. Played some golf, walked through the park during a Bluegrass Festival, and ate lots of meats at Fogo de Chao. How I love these two young people! I’m blessed to have them in my life. The visit was just what the doctor ordered.

Leaving you with this.

5children
Adorables eating corn dogs at the Bluegrass Festival.

All credit goes to the Texan. I wasn’t even lugging my camera about that day. Didn’t he snap a winner?

Truth for today? I love you for reading this. And I’m strangely craving a corn dog.

Mrs. Realville love to all.

veteran’s day

I don’t like Veteran’s Day. It reminds me of something I never did.

My father, Bill was a veteran of the Army Airborne. He returned from World War II and married his bride, Joy, in the early 50’s. People said we looked like twins…red-headed, stubborn, freckled and prominent noses. Look at the photo and you be the judge. I adored my daddy.

He was like many of his generation. He didn’t want to make a big deal of his service to our country, he just desired to neatly file the past in the file cabinet and carry on.

However, Bill couldn’t put the past away because it stuck to him like gum on a summer sidewalk. We’d never heard of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

Have you read the novel UNBROKEN? If you haven’t, you must. I read the novel this summer and the author’s time spent fighting in the islands of the Pacific during WWII bone-resonated with me. His experience surely mimicked some of my dad’s experiences. Reading this book was a light-bulb moment for me.

My dad was a great man….jolly, smart, fun, music-lover and general joke-ster. But the aftermath of war was too much for him and he became an alcoholic. Who knows if that is the reason (not trying to make excuses for him), but surely it was a big contributing factor. The man was always jumping out of his skin at loud noises, throwing hissy fits if he was EVER served rice and detesting when we put too many teaspoons of sugar in our iced tea. Don’t kids understand the value of sugar? I can still hear the shouts and cries he made while he slept.

He died of cirrhosis of the liver when he was 55 and I was 21-pregnant with my first Sprout.

I could’ve held things against him for his wrong choices, but I’ve let go of those. I learned my dad loved me and did the best he could.

On days like Veteran’s Day I just wish….just ONE TIME…I would have hugged my Dad and thanked him for his service to our country. For this teen growing up in the anti-war Vietnam era...doing that never pierced my consciousness. Brilliant me, I had to be in my 50’s to realize I should have expressed my appreciation. Would it have killed me to think of someone else??

So today, I will express my gratitude to Bill. Feel free to join me if you want to.

Dad…thank you for giving up four years of your life to support our great country. Thanks for serving in the jungles of the Pacific Islands to fight the Japanese in WWII. Thank you for helping to defeat the evil dictators who were trying to quash freedom. Thank you for trying the best you could to provide for our family. If you were here today, we could sing a rousing chorus of ‘Does your chewing gum lose it’s flavor on the bedpost overnight?’ and bust out laughing. Sorry for being a self-possessed, know-it-all teen….aww….I know you’ve already forgiven me. Better late than never, right? See you soon. Love, Sis.

No-more-regret-love to all.

pure unadulterated joy: alcohol

(the third in a series about my mother)

The honest depiction of your past may be the courage for another’s future.  Danny Gokey

Mom….would you like to go see the new, beautiful nursing home I’ve been telling you about? The Texan’s mother is out there and she ADORES it!

Joy about age 14

Nice try. No old, dying person really wants to see the inside of a nursing home no matter how avant garde you promise it to be. Joy was a practical realist, so we scheduled an appointment. Wouldn’t you know I had some very important business out-of-town with the Sprout on the day of the nursing home visit.  Who do you guess wheeled Mom around on her fun nursing home tour? That’s right…the steadfast, rock-love of my life….the Texan! Mom loved the Texan and she trusted him completely. The Texan reported Joy took copious notes and inquired as to the cost of everything. How much were meals? Did they charge extra for the oxygen? Did they charge to give her a bath? Could she bring her computer without an extra charge? Was toilet paper in the bathroom included in the price? Could she get her diabetic meals and what would they cost? The Texan finally got through to her that everything was included and she didn’t need to worry about anything….she could be right next door to his mom. We placed a deposit and scheduled a move-in day.

Joy had always been smart. She had a good head for figures and business, too. But during my growing-up years, Joy didn’t always make good decisions. You see, for my formative years….as far back as I can remember, Mom was an alcoholic. Of course, when I was little I didn’t know what ‘alcoholism’ was. I had no name or way of communicating what was wrong with my mother. Call it a progressive revelation.

Me with broken arm as a baby. Something about a run-in with my 2 older brothers.

circa 1962

I knew she was able to work her job OK, but when she came home in the evenings, she passed out on the couch. On weekends, she might pass out earlier. I knew she and my dad argued about what was wrong with her. (My dad was an alcoholic as well, and died of cirrhosis of the liver in 1978. That’s another tale and beyond the scope of this story).

Dad and Mom early 1950’s

One of the earliest recollections of realizing my mother was sick was when she checked into the Oklahoma State Mental Hospital. It was the early 1960’s and I’m not talking the Betty Ford clinic, I’m talking One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. She was gone for weeks and I remember going to the foreboding place for a visit. Never went back. Guess the adults in my life figured it was too much for a youngster. They were right. The clenching fingers of fear gripped my young psyche and held tight for decades.

When Joy found sobriety with the help of A.A. in 1980, she began the task of turning her life around, making amends and building a new, productive life for herself. I was a young mom with small children as Joy embarked on her journey and I was hedging my bets. I’d witnessed many ‘recoveries’ and she’d have to prove she could be trusted. Her attempt at transformation felt like turning back a freight train speeding towards a cliff. I’d never known a sober mother and I would reserve judgement, thank you very much. Jump forward to her funeral in 2011….she celebrated almost thirty-one years of sobriety.

We enjoyed our sober Joy so much, we moved her from Oklahoma to Texas 1985. We loved her and yes….we needed an extra baby sitter for our three rug-rats. The raging freight train had turned.

Now….back to her smoking addiction I told you about. She knew I detested her smoking. I’d grown up with it. Gone on endless road trips in an old station wagon with the windows rolled up…both parents smoking. I have allergies and asthma and become ill when exposed to cigarette smoke. Wanted to become a sleazy lounge singer, but I couldn’t handle the smoke. My lungs have spoken…..ENOUGH!

In our conversations over the ensuing years, Mom told me giving up drinking was the hardest thing she EVER did. Alcoholics always crave a drink and that’s just the way it is. She honestly and boldly told me after giving up alcohol, there was no way in hell she was ever gonna give up cigarettes. She simply could not do it, no matter my pleading. No matter the lung cancer. No matter living in a smoke-free retirement home. No matter needing oxygen 24/7. Mom had spoken.

She almost made good on her promise. She was about to move to the nursing home. I would gladly have handed her a smoldering cig if it would relieve her pain…even for a moment.