Saturday, May 10, 2014

Blue and Gold Print

The alcoholic family is rigid and inflexible.  It does not adjust to new things easily.  It is reluctant to acknowledge or accept change from any of its participants.  This seems like a contradiction, given the fact that life inside the home is reckless and out-of-control.

Such an uncompromising stance seems to develop as a result of having a problem drinker as a member  of the group.  This individual's actions are so erratic that the other players must scramble to adapt to his or her behavior.  They make attempts to control something - anything - in order to bring some measure of stability into their world. Everybody just wants to feel safe.

There is very little growth within the alcoholic family.  There is only reaction to the unpredictable.  This chaos feels like movement when it's happening, but nobody goes anywhere.  They spin around in circles and reflexively crash into each another.  This is how they communicate.  Nothing ever changes.  Unless, of course, it's getting worse.
"Judy, are you awake?" I stood in the doorway that separated our bedrooms.
"Yeah.  What is it?"  She turned the flashlight off and put the book under her pillow.
"Do you think Daddy's okay?" I asked.
"How should I know?  I guess."
"What if he dies?"
"Don't be stupid," my sister replied.  She sounded calm.  "He'll be home soon."
It had been several hours since the phone rang and Mom got upset.  She sent us upstairs when Mary Tyler Moore ended.

"Can I sleep with you?" I pestered Judy every evening, even though we were getting too big to fit together comfortably in a twin bed.
"Not tonight," she said.
"Please," I begged.
"Okay, but just for a little while.  You make everything too sweaty."
"I promise I won't sweat."  I couldn't help it.  I lied quite naturally.

I woke up several hours later when I heard the doorbell.  That was never a good sign.  It meant Dad was too drunk to use his key. 
"Is that him?" I asked.
"Probably," Judy said.  "But you hafta get off me."

We crawled into the hallway and peered down the stairs.  My father bounced unsteadily against the dark panelling in the foyer.  Big Mare stood to the side of him, trying to shake him loose from his coat.
"Jesus Christ, Gene," my mother lamented.  "When are you gonna knock this shit off?"
What a dumb question.

I can still hear Mom's voice when she was upset.  It almost sounded like fake sobbing. She would never permit herself to work up a really good cry.  I'm not sure if maybe she thought she didn't deserve to be unhappy or that it made her look weak.  Either way, she had to concentrate on mopping up the mess.

Dad mumbled something that she couldn't understand.
"What, goddammit?" she demanded.
This time, he said nothing.  It was dumb to encourage him, anyway.  He made no sense.

"Mary, move over," my sister struggled under the weight of my leg slung over her back.
"You can get to sleep now, girls," Mom yelled up the stairs.  "Your father  is home," she said sarcastically.  She always tried to shame him into recognizing and caring about us. It never, ever worked.  I couldn't stand when she did that.  It made me feel like a disgusting burden.  Big Mare could be so mean.

"Go back to your own bed," Judy decided she'd had enough.
"You don't love me," I mumbled under my breath.
"Yes, I do," she insisted.  "That's not fair."
"Well, I hate you," I replied.

What did any of us know about fairness?

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