And the Reaper Sighed

I have a confession. Since I got sober almost 18 months ago, I think about death a lot more than a man my age should.
Before you go, let me explain because I can hear your hand moving towards that left-click button. Didn’t know I could hear you did you? Well I can, Just let me explain.
Not death as the abstract totality of each and every person’s time on this beautiful blue/green orb.
My death and those I love. I am aware that it is purely a function of my sobriety and, most notably, how long it took me to finally get my shit together. I estimate that the worst of the worst was that last 3 years, where I didn’t talk to my family at all and I was so wrapped up in the miserable existence I had created for myself (the “Nick Cage a la Leaving Las Vegas years” as I have come to call them). I wasn’t exactly suicidal, but I didn’t exactly believe that I had a lot to live for either. In my sobriety, I have come to create a persona known only as Him and he encompasses everything about my addiction (the personality, the feeling of imminent doom, the complete loss of self-respect, the utter hopelessness) that I have, in my 18 months of sobriety, learned how to sometimes contain, sometimes defeat.
And sometimes not. I have described Him as cunning, which He most assuredly is. He knows which buttons to push, boy, and does He ever push them. Every bloody chance He gets. A secret: I often create fictitious accounts of encounters with Him to post on this blog. But that is the after-the-fact product. When I have to confront Him face-to-face, He scares the ever-loving crap out of me. He is more powerful than me, more conniving than me. Point of fact, He terrifies the shit out of me.
I get a lot of support from my family, my friends in the Open Group for Bedlam Farm, my friends in AA meetings. But that always comes, again, after the fact. When He finds me, and I never know when and where that will be, it’s just me and Him and I feel like a goddamn naked 5 year-old boy every time I turn around and He is there. He is the one that has me thinking about my own death because I spent so long in The Waste Land as my brother calls it, He sneaks up, taps me on the shoulder, and reminds me that those are years I have completely lost with my parents. I can’t ever get them back. And that makes me violently angry, crestfallen, and utterly confused as to how I can make it up. But I can’t. I can’t ever, ever make it up.
A couple weeks ago, my mom released her book Worth Keeping: Life with my extraordinary daughter. It’s all about the trials and tribulations of raising a person who has been diagnosed with 5 different developmental disorders (all the same disorder, mind you, just different names over her 35 years) and it’s so funny and heart-breaking and inspirational and I am so proud of my mom. And the day after I finished the book, I sat down with Mom and the conversation drifted towards what’s going to happen when Mom and Da are gone and it’s just me, Dave and Liz. There was talk of trust funds and assisted living places and the house where we all grew up. And then Mom reminded me that we’re talking years away. Hopefully, a good many years.
See what I mean. It’s ridiculous that I should waste one moment thinking about this. Maybe by the end of this post, I’ll have exorcised this particular demon. Either way, there’s nothing I can do about it.
What I can do is read about my friend Denise and her Mom who is like, well okay, I don’t how old she is, but she’s like, old. And yet it seems every week Denise has some new story to tell about her loopy, lovable mom and she reminds me so much of my Nana that I just laugh at her stories. And a little secret I haven’t even told Denise yet? Her mom refers to herself as a “tough old bird.” Guess what Nana used to call herself.
Another thing I draw much inspiration and encouragement from is my friend Dan. I also met him in the Open Group, he’s also in the Program, and he lives right across town. Sometimes I get together with him and his buddies before a meeting and, once again, they’re older than me. But here’s the thing that really gives me a strength and hope that is truly invaluable. Dan was my age now when he got sober. When he told me that, it was just like this black canvas cloth had ripped from over my head. As he says in Field of Dreams, a sky so blue it hurts your eyes just to look at it. Dan’s got 23 years sober and if I am doing as well as he is at that age, I will have done something right. Considering Dan and my parents and how they view the world and their own lives, the sense of impending doom washes away. He washes away, at least for now. hical
Then, I slowly filter back into my reality. And I consider the loves I’ve not known but will. The hikes I’ve not yet taken, but I look forward to every one. The book that I will write, and I mean that not in a philosophical, metaphysical way. I mean the book I hope to have written by this time next year. The dogs I will have when the time is again right. I think of all of this, all the possibilities of time spread out before me! And I smile. And I chuckle a bit.
And softly, off in the distance, I can hear The Reaper sigh.

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