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My Moment In Time

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There are many reasons for us to be sad.
So many, I don’t even need to count them off for you.
Besides, mine are a bit different than yours.

I have a memory around 1st or 2nd grade of being extremely sad. My parents had moved me from kindergarten where I had all my friends out to the school district named after our water feature, Westlake.  I left old money, Tarrytown, to expand into new and bigger money. I loved 1st grade, I was beginning to notice girls on the playground and chase them around.

I associate the sadness with my home and school move out to the lake. By that time my favorite sister would’ve been a senior in high school. Turns out by then she’d been shipped off to a posh school for girls in Dallas. But, something else was eating me. My father was getting more and more angry and drunk before he got home from work. It was permeating the house, his anger, and the destruction of our excitement at being in the new house.

Somewhere during this timeline, I entertained the idea of jumping off one of the three nearby radio towers blinking slowly into the heavens at night. A sad-ass seven-year-old. So sad, in fact, that my mom began driving me back into town to rejoin my friends in Austin. The fog of rage and secrets back at home was taking its toll on me.

How all this bad stuff led a preteen boy to begin contemplating suicide from a radio tower, I don’t know where the idea came from. I learned to do a killer swan dive that summer at the country club. In my feelings of sadness and dread of the coming hurricane of divorce, I began to detach from the happy rich kid. The alcoholic abuse was only verbal at this point. My dad was an angry drunk. He blamed everyone for his anger.

Yadda yadda, my parents got divorced, my dad was an abusive alcoholic, yadda yadda. We’ve all been there, right? Certainly.  I’ve told the story in so many ways that I’m tired of it. I’m telling a slightly different story today. I learned that sadness and loneliness were my friends. I became isolated in the most amazing lake house in an affluent city. Alone, mainly, with my mom who was sober and bitter. Mostly, however, she was terrified. My dad was threatening to sue her into the ground if she went through with the divorce. It was a horror show in the house with the two-levels of big glass windows overlooking Lake Austin.

A vivid moment.

My dad got an apartment in a highrise building near the University of Texas. I spent a few overnights with him there. We flew paper airplanes off the 12th-story balcony. At night my dad would start a sad sloppy ritual of drinking and listening to Charlie Pride (“Have you seen the most beautiful girl in the world”) I tried to sleep. I watched my father crying and drinking himself into oblivion. This would’ve been the summer before 2nd grade.

From the “alcoholic dad, broken mom” school of growing up, I learned that bad things happen. In that penthouse suite with my father pretty much out of his mind, he said, “I’m coming back. I’m going to give it another try with your mom.” I was pretending to be asleep, a maneuver I learned from earlier drunk dad moments. “I’m coming back for you.”

For real? Dad? Zero self-awareness? Oh, right, he’s drunk.

You’re giving your rising 2nd-grader a sick message. He came back to the house of glass and within two weeks, my mom took my oldest sister and escaped to Mexico. I was in the house with my dad and my younger sister until summer camp started. I was also trained in the other side of the alcoholic disease, codependency and enablement. My mom was a frightened ghost moping around the house. She couldn’t handle it. She bolted. She left me behind with my alcoholic father who was falling apart right in front of my eyes, a reversal of the Icarus myth, it was my father that was about to scortch himself, not me. (Hmmm. A swan dive off a radio tower would show them.)

I have longed to refind that love, that home again. For a few years of marriage, before our kids were in school, I believed I had it all. A young wife. A boy and a girl. A house in a great school district. We were a long way from a glass house on the lake, but I was in my childhood school district. I believed I could make it through anything. I worked on myself. I worked on my marriage. I got my wife into couples therapy. Twice.

I failed.

I do blame my ex-wife for not being honest in couples therapy. I blame her for seeking legal advice before revealing she was considering divorce. Again, in couples therapy, that’s the shit you’re supposed to share and work on, together, as a couple. She was keeping a lot inside. And if you’ve ever been in couples therapy, there is a way for one person to raise a crisis over and over again to keep the focus away from their own struggles.

Not only have I been struck with the longing disease, my kids are also prone to sadness. One of my kids is suffering mightily from the lack of integrity and healthy relationship modeling. He’s a mess. They are both OCD stoics. There is little or no emotion in the house that my kids were left in, once my access was restricted.

Of course, I have no idea what’s coming. None of us do. I work with and pray for my son’s recovery journey to begin, but I am powerless. I relax in that powerlessness today. Each morning I arise find a playful space and write. I set my actions and intentions according to some plans and goals I like to keep on postit notes in front of me. I am sitting here writing from my own house. My joy is exploding. And my exploration of the edge of sadness, the edge of the unknown, is made possible by the stability and confidence I feel about my healthy relationship.

In life, we don’t get a road map. This is as good as it gets. Right now. As I’m typing. This second. The moment. This particular moment in time for you, as you are reading or listening to this, and my moment in time tippity tappiting away with letters, spaces, and minimal punctuation.

This is all there is. Now. Happiness. Write. Love.

Rest.

And do it all again with a fresh cup of coffee and an open mind.

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