Friday, April 28, 2006

Fearless Adventurer IV

Tonight was my last declared night on duty (countless undeclared nights lie ahead, of course, since I've proven I can do the job well). It was a little different this time. When I got home, The Wife informed me that "Angel" had finally "lived up to her blog-name". It seems like it was a breakthrough of sorts, and in the nick of time. The Wife was beginning to attenuate a little, and it seems like today helped her buck up a little.

HOWEVER...part of that involved a two-hour nap. Oh goody, says the guy who gets to put her to bed. The Wife then went shopping and left me to my own devices. "Josie" is at her dad's for the weekend, and "Angel" seemed inclined to chase the dogs in an endless circle through the hall, kitchen and dining room. I was inclined to let her run off as much steam as possible, so I didn't hold it against her.

Then Jafar. AGAIN. I hate Jafar like some parents hate a certain purple dinosaur. And then bedtime.

One new thing was that she almost told me it was time for bed, though she wasn't really acting tired. I've taken to calling it "story time", since "bed time" seems to have bad connotations to it. I made it a point to go in there earlier when I got her nighty and prepared her bed and the lighting ahead of time, as well as place the Animaniacs book where it wouldn't be noticed. She in turn made it a point to hunt down the Animaniacs book and make me watch her point out the different things she could find. Sigh.

After a shorter-than-usual story time, I told her it was "sleepy time", grabbed the book and set it aside, shut off the light and lay down. Then began the battle, though it was a much different battle because it felt like we were on the same side in this one. It was like she wanted to sleep, but couldn't. She wanted me to lay next to her, but that was too hot and she really wanted me on the floor next to the bed. No, she wanted me to sit on the floor and lean on the bed.

Ah, screw it, she wants her stuffed dog. No, the dolly. Toss. Turn. Then me up on the bed again. I didn't have the guts yet to just walk out and see if she screamed...plenty of time for that later. Finally she asked for a hug and kiss, and wouldn't let me up from the hug, so I just sort of settled leaning over her. She played with my 2-day-whiskers for a minute, rubbed her cheek against them a bit, and then dropped over the cliff and into the abyss finally, in a matter of about 2 minutes once we hit the right combination.

I've got to get better at that, but I'm doing all right, I guess.

Her fascination with my whiskers triggers a similar memory for me. When I was about "Angel's" age, I had uncle Don. Don was a wonderful uncle, and always had a delightfully rough face...I loved to rub my face against his. It made him seem strong and manly to me, which in turn made me feel safe. It was much the same with my dad...but dad wasn't a raging alcoholic like Don was. When I got just a year or so older than "Angel", uncle Don went "away", a term you use with kids when you just can't tell them that he's going to a drunk tank.

Don hung around the area for a couple of years doing odd jobs and such, but eventually his alcoholism drove him away from his family. I don't know if it was the booze making him stupid or if he just felt such shame that he needed a new start with people who didn't know him. I don't suppose it matters, either...the end result was that he broke a 4-year-old boy's heart. To this day I remember the day he left.

Don drifted around the country for many years. I don't think even my folks are sure where all he ended up, and we had no word from him that I ever knew about for many years. We knew he was in Colorado for awhile, and I think Oklahoma and a couple other places. Somewhere in there he married. I think Mom and Dad tried to track him down several times through the social security administration or something, with not much luck. I don't think he wanted to be found, though. He was working things through on his own and in his own time, and if he was anything like me, it's probably just as well. If he was like me, you wouldn't be able to tell him anything while he was drinking anyway. Drunks are like that sometimes.

A few years ago, Don came home. he was dying. Lung cancer. I remember using his cigarette packs and cartons as building blocks when he took care of me in the early 70s.

There was still a little of the Don I remembered, but let's face it, you grow apart from a man you haven't seen on a regular basis since you were four. He mostly seemed to me like a shell of a man. Very thin, he didn't say much, and nothing at all beyond "hello" to me directly...but I caught him looking me over and sizing me up. He had kicked the bottle three years before he died. I was glad he died a free man.

I don't remember if I've mentioned it in this space, but I'm an alcoholic myself. Hot 100 was my game (100-proof schnapps, to all you non-soaks out there) and I played it well up until the night of July 3, 1999 when a cop stopped it with a DUI (thank you, officer Rain...I remember your nametag 7 years later, though I was in no condition to remember anything that night). July 4 was spent in detox. I celebrate that date with more than average pleasure, and more than average introspection.

I know about drunks. I've had them in my family, I've had them for friends, and I've been one. That kind of experience is hard to have, but I think it will serve me well in fostering. "Josie's" mom is a good example. I know exactly the kinds of problems she's having and how it has affected her daughter. I know. I've been on both sides of that equation. There but for the grace of God go I. God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change and so on. Lots of other tired cliches.

It's strange to sit here on a Friday night, exactly midnight by my computer clock as I type this sentence, and compare it to how I was a decade ago. A decade and a half ago I would just be getting started partying around now. Desperately seeking a woman, clinging to my friends, and searching out good times in a bottle. If the woman and the friends didn't materialize, the bottle was always there waiting.

Now I look at my life and how fulfilling it is. I put a little girl to bed tonight. She asked me for a hug and kiss, called me daddy, and had trouble sleeping without me right there beside her. I look forward with the sweetest anticipation to tomorrow, when my folks will bring some flowers which my dad and I will plant in the yard together, and maybe work on the deck a little if the weather allows it. We'll change the oil in the van or my cycle or just visit around the kitchen table if it doesn't. It doesn't really matter either way, because it'll be a great day.

I love my life. Wouldn't trade it for anything.


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