A few years back I learned that one summer evening, many many years ago.. while my sisters were visiting our Grandma that my sister Lisa accidentally grabbed my grandmas ‘glass of water’ and quickly learned that it wasn’t water at all but vodka. Knowing what straight vodka tastes like I understand her reaction of quickly spitting it out in the sink to then be berated by Grandma Lucy for making the mistake of snatching and drinking from someone else’s glass. After hearing that story I immediately peppered my mom with questions, not knowing that Grandma liked to drink anything other than Sanka instant coffee early in the morning while listening to Wally Phillips on WGN. You see, I knew very little about anything that my Grandma did as my relationship with her was virtually non-existent. Born to first generation immigrants, Lucille Tomaso Hall was anything but soft to me. I felt her distrust and dislike for me at a very early age. She wasn’t overtly mean or abusive but the opposite; I felt ignored at every turn or noticed her favoring conversation with my sisters over me. For years I wondered whether or not there was a part of the story that I was missing. It wasn’t until round about 1992 long after she had passed that a close family friend told me she didn’t like me because she was sure that I would turn out to be like my dad ie; an abusive drunk that wasn’t worth the time. As an adolescent I carried that around for a good period of time, wondering why she wouldn’t have given me a chance to prove otherwise. Fast forward to present day, and I find myself reflecting once again on my “hereditary obligation” to alcoholism and wedging pieces together was no longer necessary, they slowly started to fit together perfectly. I wished for a long time that there would be a generational gap and that I would be spared. After all, I did everything I could in my power to fend off the ‘demons’ of alcoholism starting very early on. I attended Alateen every Wednesday night for a decade, went on retreats for children of alcoholics and even developed a fear of drinking convincing myself that it would at a minimum make me sick to my stomach. It wasn’t long however, that I became the good time Charlie that had a hollow leg and the cruel misfortune of never waking up with a hangover. Now after digging deeper I learned that I had alcoholism coming from both sides of my family. You can do the math, my paternal grandfather, my Dad and now seemingly my Maternal Grandmother as well. It was this information that sparked the questions in my mind: When does the time bomb start ticking and when if ever, will it go off.
It’s funny, for most of my life I felt a lifetime away from my Dad and Grandma and now I have more in common with both of them than I could have ever imagined. It’s both of them that I find myself turning to in my minds eye, asking for advice. Privately the same goes for other members of my close family that are recovering alcoholics. My inner dialogue always includes them. I whisper to them all…reminding them subconsciously to not be disappointed in me, to give me another chance when a fleeting moment of clarity and sobriety passed without sticking and asking each of them for help and subsequently imagining their supportive responses of encouragement telling me that the time will come and that it’s okay…I’m not a failure.
For too long I let my demons push away my white flag? Take the wind out of my sail when I told myself to try again. My heart break and deception shut down my efforts by dragging me down that long and dark wormhole. It was the true reality I was faced with that I could and will lose everything that means the most to me and possibly prematurely. I looked God or source, spirit….the sky, dead in the eyes and I gave up and it was then that the flag raised. The breath and words of my closest ancestors stoke the fires of my recovery but this time I’m at the helm.
Whatever you need to recover from, do your damnedest to not let it win and take away your grace. You’ll get to the finish line even if you have to start over again every day. I now relate with my Grandma Lucy, my Dad, brother and cousin. I now know that some of the demons in their heads were the same ones that I had in mine. I can no longer wonder if looking too deep in my eyes would have given way to my grandmas truth, that she had something in common with my Dad and that her hatred for him pushed her away from me. I’m here to tell you that Forgiveness is a powerful spirit.
Grandma, I did turn out like my Dad. I also turned out like you. That part of you that maybe you were ashamed of…the good news is I continue to give myself another chance to get it right and I will walk with no shame. Even through the daily reminders and hourly struggles I won’t let go of the wheel. I will always beg to get it right.
Buona notte, Luciana
TJ I absolutely love reading your blogs, you are so talented!
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