What's in a number?
Seems pretty innocuous.
Well, it's so hard for me to think of how my mother would be turning seventy five tomorrow if she were still here.
I think of my family--my mom, aunt, grandmother--the people who raised me. None of them made it out of their sixties. My grandfather made it out but I tend to think of him as being a whole different set of genetics and predispositions. He was 86 when he passed. That's pretty impressive. But on my Grandmother's side it was 60, 65 and 68. My uncle was also in his 60s when he died--all of them from cancer except my grandfather. Though ultimately dementia got the better of him and it was a heartbreaking experience to witness.
But my mom. She never seemed old even when she was in her 60s (and I know that's not technically "old" but still). So it's so hard to picture her as three quarters of a century old. But her birthday is every May 14th and this one is the 75th since 1941 so I guess that's where we are.
I have been pretty lax in keeping up with this blog. And while I kind of made a promise to myself not to apologize for it it still feels weird. There has just been so much else going on in my world that's it's not easy to take the time in the day and sit down and focus on this portion of my life--my sobriety and my life's story. And I don't want it to be a thing where I only post on important days in my life. But something called me to this page today. And when I checked back to see how many days it's been since I had a drink I guess I seem to have missed a pretty momentous milestone.
It has been three thousand and sixty days since I had a drink of alcohol (and almost as many since total drug abstinence).
That's another number that's hard for me to fathom.
Because this guy right here? This guy talking to you? This is a guy who once told his mom and aunt that he was never ever going to quit drinking because it was "who I was" and nobody was going to change that.
Well, I guess there was a back door to that clause and that was there was nobody going to change it except for the guy who said nobody was going to change it. Because that totally happened.
It happened over three thousand days ago and my life has never been the same.
I remember waiting outside the liquor store at 8:50am with a bag full of change that I would turn into a plastic quart of vodka.
I remember coming to from the smoke wafting off of my futon mattress that was burnt from the still lit cigarette dangling from my unconscious hand.
I remember (vaguely) telling the Northampton police officers that I couldn't continue with the field sobriety test and that they better just take me in.
And from that day on I remember every day just a little bit clearer. I remember how my body felt as the poisons from the years of abuse slowly left me. I remember how my gait became a bit freer and easier and how sentences and communication developed a quickness and clarity that was new to me.
And I also remember how memories came flooding back from the years before things got bad. And from time to time I'll catch a glimpse of a conversation I had with my dying mother--important things as well as the offhanded joke or goofball comment. But so much of what we shared I will never recall because I thought the only way to deal with her leaving me was to be gone myself.
But over three thousand days have come and gone since that last gulp of Smirnoff. Over three thousand suns have set since I decided I'd "go out with a bang" as I told my best friend, Paul on December 27, 2007.
And over three thousand mornings I have woken up and known what I did the night before, which is great on the days when the days before it were good ones. But on the hard days--the ones we all want to forget--there is no easy escape. And one must just let time heal the wounds.
But what's in a number, right?
Ten years ago I gave her a necklace that I happen to be staring at as I write this. Seventy five years ago tomorrow she was born.
And three thousand and sixty days ago I took my last drink.
So today, my sweet mother, I will write this for you. I will remember how you made every day special, let alone birthdays. How you cherished every moment you were awake and, I'm sure, all the time in your dreams, for you always did look so contented when you were snoozing (or "resting your eyes" as you would always insist). I will remember the way that your hair felt and the way that you hugged me so tight when you saw me it was as if I had just been rescued from a burning building. I'll remember how you would fill my refrigerator with food when you would come to visit and how you would slip me the odd $20 and say "This is for milk!" I will remember how we would goof around when I would get off of the Bonanza bus back home and pretend I didn't see you sitting in your car and walk past it and then pretend to be shocked when I turned around and saw you waving for me. I'll remember how you would put me to work oiling the kitchen table and chairs before every holiday (which I loathed) and how you would give me a nickel for each dog poop I scooped in the front yard of our house on Bedford St in Fall River. I will remember how you tried to console me when that first girl I had a crush on turned her head when I tried to kiss her. I'll remember how you and I toasted on my 21st birthday when we pretended it was my first drink. I'll remember how you cried every time when you left me after a visit because you never knew if you'd see me again. And I'll remember how it felt to see you in the hospital so many times and saw the way you would smile to see me--in as much physical and mental pain as you were in--because your boy was within hugging distance. I'll remember the way I could always find you in the crowd of wherever I was performing. And I'll remember how you would always look for six of the same outfit to give me and "the guys." And I'll always remember how embarrassed I felt upon handing them out. I'll remember shopping at Savers or the Salvation Army with you and seeing you from across the store and hiding behind a rack and then surprising you and how you would delight in showing me what you found "on a super sale" and how you would try to convince me that I didn't need that $15 shirt but would buy it for me anyway. I'll remember how it felt to have to tell you that I totaled the car you gave me three weeks before. And I'll remember when I had to make the choice of giving up drugs and alcohol or moving out of the house.
But I'll always remember most your voice. Low and slow and soft with an old New England accent as warm and reassuring as melted butter. I don't know why I don't have mine. I think it just fell off like a snake sheds its skin. But I know it when I hear it and it always reminds me of you. The way you said "bahth" and "Hahd" but not "nevah" or "fahtha". It was refined and detailed and it always made me feel safe and sure and home.
I remember so many things, good, bad and otherwise, as they say.
But tomorrow, as I head out on the road to play a show in northern Vermont I will remember you, my sweet, sweet mother. Your gift of life was cut shorter than you or I or all those around you would have liked. But you made your impression and you made me and you will always be loved and remembered as long as I can keep this flame alive.
Sto lat, Judy. Blow out your candles. Eat your cake. Hug your boy. Let the tears flow. Let the love bloom. Let the numbers stand as they are . . . for they mean nothing.
All there is is all there is.
Thanks so much for reading,