Mothers - Sons and Daughters and the disease of alcoholism
12 STEPS I CLIMB - TO GOD ONLY KNOWS WHAT
Miracle Births - of life and sorrow
I begin the climb, wondering if I’ll make it to the top in one go. I leave the smell of piss and the water, which has melted from the frost on my shoes behind at the entrance. I start to count the steps, not knowing why, but wondering at the same time, if my Mother had counted the steps to my flat, to find out what was happening to me, when I was exactly the same age as my Son, who I was hoping to find in his council flat, at the very top of these stairs. Eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve. The handrail is sticky and dirty, but necessary at this point to help with the climb.
I keep my pace steady, suddenly remembering, my first drink. I'm fourteen years old, quiet, and suffering from very low self esteem. The others are visitors from England. The children of my Mothers Christian friends. This is also their first drink and we are in a play park having bought several cans of strong lager from the off sales just around the corner. Jack being just sixteen passes the test of age for the sale. The only difference between them and me was clearly obvious. As soon as I had that first drink, I immediately felt inferior over them, and there was one other thing, I was the only one who immediately wanted another drink. Young as I am at that time, I stick with God and my strict upbringing, until my Father dies when I am seventeen, and then I again give up my goodness, my love for God, in return for a very large bottle of Vodka, followed by many others for years to come.
My heart is beating quicker; I wonder in this neighbourhood what they will think of the black cape, hat and gloves, should they meet me on these stairs. I turn the next flight, almost with an arrogance for I'm more concerned about finding my Son.
Twenty three, twenty four, and almost twenty five. I slow down but persevere. Yes Twenty four and almost twenty five,I recall, as I move on, when my poor Mother, having heard nothing from me for many weeks, climbs stairs to my flat, not knowing whether she will find me dead or alive.
My heart beats harder, with the climb, as I think of her distress, on finding me almost dead in that bed, and having to carry me down those tenement stairs to find a taxi. My only thought on that journey was not indeed for my Mother’s distress, but in fact, the insane thought of how I would cope without alcohol in the hospital. There was another thought which hadn’t been the first. I was going to die in a goddamn black taxi, and almost did. The doctor told my Mother if she hadn’t found me that day I would have most likely, been dead the next, with Pancreatitis. They said if I drank again I would likely just die. So I waited for four years before I drank again, but I didn’t die. Although my Mother never drank I knew she was sore, and bitter of her Fathers drinking. I believe she always thought that the disease of alcoholism had been passed from him to her and of course to me.
Thirty four, thirty five, thirty six. My age when I give birth to my Son.
The Doctors are full of doom and gloom. Warnings of dangerous birthing, they call me names like "Old Mother", "The diabetic pregnancy woman" They watch me as though I'm different. I wonder if my baby can hear, and if he knows about my secret of alcoholism.
With just a few more steps I count forty. The age I stopped drinking. I walk forward thinking of the last twenty years of my sobriety, an inside job they called it, 12 step programmes and bringing him and his brother up alone for 15 of my recovering years. Trying to do the best I can.
My stomach lurches as I look at this door in front of me. I touch the new door which has been erected over his original one. My blood has turned cold. A steel door with lock where they must place a large key, like an old fashioned jailors key, to hold it in place. Is he locked in or out?
Tomorrow he is 25yrs old. A quarter of a century. This should be a special celebration. Where are the birthday cards we sent, the good wishes, the gifts, the little book from his childhood, lovingly wrapped and in no need of a message.?
There is no letter box on the steel door. No one lives here anymore. He is locked out just as he, has locked us out, of his life.
With my last chance of seeing him now gone, my heart begins to drop and I begin the decent. One two three four five. Five years of marriage and I know there will be no children. The doctors have told me long ago. My Mother is happier now I am married, believing it will steady me and bring me into line, but she still longs for grandchildren from me. I tell her repeatedly my diagnosis. Tubes are blocked, I am barren. She never believes it, and has already told me in her desperation, and after another of our fights that “I, will one day know, what it feels like, to have children and to worry about them”. I, in my shame and pride, reply “Well that won’t happen, because have you forgotten, I can’t have any children?”
Then we are arguing for a while again, until I put my pride aside, appearing at her door with pinkie outstretched, so that I don’t need to say "I'm sorry". We just engage our pinkies and that’s that….until the next time she gets too close or has that look of disapproval, then I stay away to prevent her having any more disappointment and sorrow in her life, which only brings her more.
I will never know what made me pee in an aspirin bottle on waking that day, and hand it to the chemist shop in the morning not far from where I worked. They had after all told me, it could never be? However, the Pharmacist, with a wide grin, when I return for a diagnosis, whispers, “Congratulations, you are to be a Mother”. I walk back to work in shock. " I am to be a Mother?". A miracle has occurred. I am to grow and deliver a child into the world? I am suddenly very scared.
Nine months of growing the boy inside of me, but even as he lives in the womb,he is defiant, does not want to come into this world and keeps us waiting for almost two days. They decide to pull him out with forceps everyone is exhausted, but I force him out instead, all 10 lbs. of him. Although he is fine, I am left torn to pieces and unable to walk for 6 weeks due to my wounds becoming infected. He just cries, morning to night, not happy I presume, at me forcing him to come into the world. I have my miracle child, who is not happy one little bit.
The steps are blurring, I hold the sticky rail. I almost cry out "MOTHER HELP ME". Then I hear her voice, like an angel in my ear.
“YOU, were also a miracle child, nobody wanted me to have you. I was a bleeder, hemophiliac, they thought I was going to die in childbirth, they threatened me and warned me, but I was determined that, you would live and so would I”.
And so we had, much to the astonishment of all around.
Twenty three twenty four, twenty five. My feet are moving slowly down, wondering what kind of birthday he will have. Has he felt my loving thoughts, has he picked up on my feelings of old identification, with his loss, his low self-esteem, his “Everything bad happens to me”
I “Pull myself together”( Mothers words), and count down the rest of the stairs until I see the dirty close door which still lies ajar in the cold December day. My face turns cold with the water which runs down my face, like a river, a river of hopelessness.
60 YEARS AND A QUARTER OF A CENTURY
I return home and notice the dirty step up to my front door. I leave the telly off knowing I will just lie on the couch in a trance and turn on George Michael instead. The bucket is filled with clean soapy water and the mop sloshes on the step, showing the white below. I back inwards to the wooden floor in the hall, wiping it clean with each movement of the mop, soaking squeezing and mopping again and again. Can I wipe everything clean? Can I make up to my dead Mother, for that which I couldn’t understand at the time? For all the arguments, and long periods of silence between us, the worry, the sadness, her devotion, my self care long gone. Just like me and my Son. There is just one thing I need to remember, he, is not me, nor I him.
I feel small droplets of water fall from my eyes to the bucket of dirty water, as I continue to mop.
I see them as diamonds of hope.
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