I had been chatting with a a sales rep friend a while back, muttering about our equally long careers in this business. We’ve been through the ups & downs – employed, unemployed, good employers, less-than-good… In that conversation, I said, “Glen? You know what we are? We’re resilient. No matter how many times we get knocked down, challenged by what life throws our way, we just get back up and keep on walkin’.” And that’s really what it’s all about in the end, isn’t it? How we choose to act in the face of adversity, and the graciousness with which we accept the bounty that is earned and given to us.
I started my new job last week. You always have your first set of challenges – how do I dial the phone? Will I remember anyone’s name tomorrow? And then the real work begins, and yes, I’m in the early glow of New Job! New Challenges!, life is good, I love the work I’ve been given to do, and am going to be working with a great group of people – at my job, my clients, and my vendor partners. On that first day, I also got a curve ball: my uncle -I haven’t seen or spoken with in ten years- called to ask if my mother was with me, because she was missing. Had been missing since the previous Wednesday.
Long story short, her drinking had escalated. Now, mind you, the parents I grew up with? Rarely over-indulged in alcohol. Everything in moderation. I could count on one hand the number of times I’d seen my mom even tipsy. I knew that her drinking had increased as their marriage declined, and there had been a rather dire incident after the divorce, where her consumption of 750ml of vodka left her hospitalized with a 0.48 Blood Alcohol level, and at that time – 10 years ago – I got her enrolled in Hazelden, working with her hospital social worker, but in the end, she wriggled out of it. I threw my hands in the air. We’re stubborn, both of us, but I’m smart enough to know when the effort is wasted. If there’s one thing I learned from my own childhood, it’s that you cannot change another person, no matter how hard you try.
This – this was something new. My uncle was worried, and I quickly became worried as well. She was reported as a missing person. Endangered to herself. Somewhere out there with her car, and a cell phone that had been turned off. No bank account activity. No word from a single friend back home.
The days went by. Conversations with a Chief Deputy, confirming the national APB that was now out. Paperwork was filed to begin accessing her credit cards, hoping for some sort of indication – anything – that would tell us she was at least alive. I’ve never been through something like that before. I hope I never have to go through it again. Staring at pages online of other faces, people who vanished and gone for years, wondering if this was the future for me. Fearing a terrible accident, so devastating her car had left the road and was hidden in a thicket somewhere, somehow invisible, was she hurt, was she dead. Was she dead. Would we ever know.
Thankfully, last Sunday, a sharp-eyed cop in a nearby city spotted the make and model of my mother’s car, in the parking lot of a motel. Ran the plates, got a hit. Found.
Eleven days, ten nights. Sounds like my dream of a vacation, preferably in Tahiti. She spent it in a blackout, ordering food and pouring alcohol into her body. I feel strangely detached, just writing and sharing that. It’s in sharp contrast to the high anxiety from last week, that’s for sure. I don’t know who that person is, the one with a car full of beer cans and wine bottles, driving drunk and risking her life as well as others’. It’s not really detachment, I suppose. It’s the fortress I built long ago, appearing out of the mist. Reminding me that I put up these walls to protect myself from a different dynamic. And even from that distance, I do love her. I wish things could be different, of course, but right now, her journey needs to focus on herself. She was hospitalized, agreed to enter rehab, and yesterday, she entered a facility where I hope she can start her life anew in different direction. I feel old. Older than her. Older than everyone involved in this. Perhaps because I see my utter powerlessness. There are only so many times you can try to do the work for someone else before you see you’re carrying water in a sieve. I quit clocking in next to Sisyphus a long time ago.
That said. If anyone can do it, it’s her. After all, she was the one with the indomitable spirit my whole childhood, digging in her heels, getting back on the horse that threw her, no job nor mountain too big to be tackled. I hope she can find that resiliency and optimism she so carefully cultivated in me.
Me? It’s been a rough couple of weeks.
But I’m good. It’s good.
Many thanks to be given.
Much terrain to survey.
Miles to go before I sleep.