Monday, August 29, 2011

more disasters, old grief

There was a hurricane yesterday, or most of a hurricane.  Hurricane Irene was actually Tropical Storm Irene by the time it made landfall here, and though it actually did make landfall in New York City, damage and power outages were minimal.  I think I did myself more damage worrying about it on Friday.  Even though we're relatively close to the water, we weren't one of the "low-lying area" that had to evacuate.

Amazingly, mass transit was back up again today, pretty much 100%.  The MTA was incredibly smart and well-organized for this one.  They closed up shop about eight hours before they expected trouble (apparently, 39 mph wind speed is their cutoff), and stored the trains and buses in places unlikely to flood.  I live about one subway stop from one of the major subway yards, and it got totally flooded, but the trains weren't there.  The MTA wasn't able to restart entirely for days after the blizzard last December.

Otherwise, things are pretty much status quo.  My brother actually called yesterday and for the first time in a couple of years, we didn't discuss That Bad Thing, which was a whole lot more pleasant.  Of course, the occasion for the call, besides the storm, was That Other Bad Thing, the one where my mother died 30 years ago this month at age 45.  Her birthday is also in August, so August has just become The Month of Feeling Mildly Shitty.  Not much in the way of big crying fits, possibly because we don't really do any family get-togethers or (ptui! ptui!) cemetery visits. 

Those "ptui!s" are spitting noises, because I REALLY hate cemetery visits.  To me, they're very morbid, and seem like invitations to get upset.  To me, they're something like religious services:  services put you in a spiritual mood, but you don't have to attend to be spiritual.  Cemetery visits put you in a mourning mood, but you can mourn anywhere and in your own way.  One of the really bad memories I have of the period right after my mother died, maybe at the services or the cemetery, was overhearing friends and relatives talking about how upset I was and how much I was crying, in a way that made me feel like my outward mourning was being judged.  I've always considered it something kind of private.

I'm about the opposite of my aunt (who I did not call this month, although my brother did), who used to drive out to the cemetery and pick out the weeds around the headstones, bring water and paper towels to clean the lettering incised in the stones, etc.  (My mother, stepfather, and my mother's parents are all buried in one plot together.)  I just think it's fetishy to get so involved in the location of a dead body, even if the location is considered something of a memorial.  I have my own ways to remember, and my own places, and my own times to grieve.

It's true that death anniversaries hit me a little harder the first few years after the death, I suppose because it's still so fresh.  The five-year anniversary of my mother's death clobbered me so hard that it landed me in AA at the end of August.  Wednesday will be 25 years since I drank or did coke.  I also didn't go near herb for about a dozen years but did eventually start that again, so orthodox AAers or NAers wouldn't consider me clean or sober.  Still, I haven't had a drink in 25 years, or any coke, which was a VERY severe problem.

I recently ran into an old program friend of mine who had also been a co-worker at NYU.  She was something of an old-timer when I cleaned up, but apparently had problems a couple of years ago.  She said, "I've been around The Rooms for 36 years, but I'm sober for two."  I'd put it that way if I were still around "The Rooms."  I stopped going at around nine years.  But I went constantly for my first four or five years, anywhere from once to four times a day, and did tons of service (setting up, chairing meetings, speaking, sponsoring).

I have to say that I really did not make lifelong friends in AA.  Some friendships simply did not last because I stopped going; there are some people in the fellowship who do not care for those of us who have fallen away, and some who won't have anything to do with people who are not sober in AA, period (that means not even people who aren't alcoholics). 

I guess I mostly had AA friends who were good for my recovery during those early years.  On the other hand, recovering addicts share a lot of similar emotional problems, so a lot of these relationships had difficulties or endpoints.  The good end of socializing in AA was having coffee with groups of people after meetings.  I used to go to a double meeting (one after the other, same room) on Saturday nights, and then coffee with a big bunch of people, and that took care of the I-need-to-have-fun-on-Saturday-night urges.  But sober dances and sober dating were horrible.  You cannot possibly imagine anything as awkward as a sober dance, those alleged substitutes for going clubbing.  And sober dating mostly seemed a parade of people who changed their minds with the breeze -- like a guy who stared at me at meetings for sixth months and panicked on the first simple-ass dinner date.  There was one who liked me until he realized I was actually available, and then went back to mooning over a tall, blonde married woman in our group. 

I did meet one fairly amazing man very soon in my recovery; we had a fling fairly early, and seemed very close to getting together right before I met Barry.  The guy and I drifted apart after I got married.  In truth, he had major commitment problems and it would likely have ended badly.

And I met one very wonderful man, maybe one of the best I've ever met.  It took about four and a half months for us to properly notice each other -- well, maybe for me to properly notice him.  Unfortunately, I was rather dazzled by his better-looking friend, who treated me like shit.  But then I really noticed Joe, and realized he'd been crazy about me from the start...and before we could even go on a first real date, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and died a little over four months later.  It just doesn't get much more tragic than that.  On top of that, since our relationship wasn't known by more than a few close friends, the two or three mean old maiden aunts who were his final caretakers did not offer me (or any other close AA friends) any keepsakes, nor did they invite us to join them after the funeral.  In fact, those nasty aunts tried to keep me and Joe's other friends away from him when he was dying.  One or more of them had decided that the best they could do for him was permit him to die calmly, and that having his friends around would disrupt his peacefulness.  They moved him to a hospital in Red Bank, NJ, and were clearly not pleased when I continued to show up there, with or without other friends.  They said anti-Semitic things.  (They were very old-school Irish, what I believe is called "Lace-Curtain Irish.")  They wouldn't stay in touch by phone, either before or after his death.  I guess they had good intentions, but they were so unkind to me.  And every time I visited, no matter how out-of-it Joe was, there was always at least one little window where he recognized me and knew I was there, which made it all worthwhile.  He'd even do funny shit which I'm convinced he knew he was doing, because I think he found his aunts somewhat of a pain -- the last time I was there, he kept yelling "What's THIS?" and grabbing my tit.

Anyway, who knows what might have been.  Joe was gone, his family was gone, and even our mutual friends vanished pretty quickly.  A few of us went out for coffee after the funeral, and one said to me, "You can't dwell on this forever," meaning that I should already be past it, an hour after burying him.  Another was the better-looking friend, who stayed glued to the woman he had dumped me for and basically ignored Joe the last couple of months.  (I understand that it's hard to see an old friend die, but that's no excuse to be an asshole.  Joe asked for Larry a lot, and Larry was nowhere to be found.)

I also seem to remember a lot of AA people looking rather impatient when I shared about "my friend" who was dying, who died, who had died.  My allegedly "near and dear" didn't stand by me too well.  I know these things make people uncomfortable -- hell, being in hospitals makes me uncomfortable.  But when I have to, I go to hospitals, I go to funerals, I deal with it.  A lot of people in AA seemed to stayed cocooned and whining.  That wasn't for me.

No comments:

Post a Comment