A couple weeks ago Dylan was lying around the house, dramatically bored, and announced that he couldn’t wait for school to start. “There’s nothing to do in the summer,” he sighed.

I often have to remind myself that kids have an infinite gas tank when it comes to being entertained and I realize I probably shouldn’t take it personally when a 9-year-old voices the emotion he’s experiencing at that exact moment in time instead of placing an hour of downtime into the context of a summer filled with swimming, river rafting, horse riding, camping, trailer outings, cabin visits, family get-togethers, road trips, a houseboat stay, water parks, bike rides, ATV adventures, and so on, but I can’t lie, it was a struggle to come up with a gentle suggestion to read a book or play in the backyard rather than a brisk Batman backhand followed by a five-hour PowerPoint lecture about Places Where Children Don’t Even Have Clean Water For Christ’s Sake.

Now that school is actually underway, of course, Dylan would greatly prefer to be home. He didn’t get the teacher he was hoping for, the mysterious and unfeeling process of sorting students placed all of his friends in one class and he in another, and the first day of riding the noisy, jostling bus left him with a migraine. “I wish summer would never have to be over,” he said sadly, and this time I pulled him close because who am I kidding, acting like I know how to have the right sort of perspective, when I too am forever caught between wishing the present away and fiercely trying to reel it back.

Meanwhile, Riley has started middle school and it is strange to imagine him navigating all these new things: locker combinations, class bells that send him from one room to another, those looming eighth graders who have the beginnings of mustaches. He is, so far, pretty excited, and pleased, I think, to feel like he’s leveled up into an exotic locale exclusive to big kids. “Dude, when you’re in sixth grade,” I heard him telling Dylan, “You can get tater tots and pizza, on the same day.”

Riley rode his bike to school today for the first time. We took several practice trips this summer, figuring out the safest way through the busiest intersection, and when it came time for him to leave I reminded him to be careful and watch for cars and that I loved him and then I had to say goodbye, let him go. And he left, and I remembered all those days of waiting at the bus stop with him, and how much that just legitimately sucked, and I thought but at least I knew he wasn’t getting run over, and that’s how it is. You hum and twirl your fingers in the carpet and wish things would change, and then they do, and you’re like, but wait—!


A while ago I read a book in which one character tries to soothe another character by bringing her a glass of rosé. She says something kind of rueful-yet-encouraging — “Boy, you look like you could use this” — and the second woman accepts it gratefully and takes a bolstering sip, armed with a tiny bit of comfort in the midst of her personal crisis.

It’s been a good long while since I’ve been tempted by alcohol. I had my last drink in 2013, and for eight years prior to that, I’d been the occasional, ultra-secretive type of drinker — someone perhaps more likely to be triggered by the mention of a clandestine gulp straight from the vodka bottle than a socially acceptable glass of wine consumed right in front of another person.

Still, there was something about that little scene, an innocuous moment in an otherwise not-terribly-memorable memoir, that snagged me like a fishhook. I kept coming back to that moment. The drink. It’s true there is something evocative about the word rosé, rather than wine. You picture it chilled, the little beads of condensation on the glass. But it wasn’t the drink itself, not exactly. It was the exchange. “Here,” says a person who cares about another person. Because that second person was the type of person who could drink a single glass of wine.

This is the part that pulled at my insides. It is no longer sad to me that I can’t have the drink (or the mood-altering fill-in-the-blank). I think of myself as having a severe allergy: when I expose myself to certain substances, I cannot control the reaction, no matter what. This is how things are. One is too many and a thousand is never enough.

What I cannot help is the aching wish that I would have turned out differently. That some other combination of brain chemistry and lifestyle and self-esteem and coping mechanisms had taken place, and I would have side-stepped this towering shit-pile of addiction-fueled shame and regret I have to wake up and look at every single day.

Imagine having such a normal relationship with alcohol that someone hands you a drink. And you drink it, maybe you even leave an inch or so because you only wanted that little bit, and you go on with your day, and the drink doesn’t open a howling void in your center, chanting more, more, more.

It is dangerous, in recovery, to long for the substance. If peanuts put me into anaphylactic shock, I’m pretty sure it would not be considered a healthy fantasy to imagine plunging a spoon into a jar of Skippy. But wishing, now and again, that the nut allergy had passed me by altogether? I don’t know. Acceptance and sorrow aren’t that far apart. A thing is acknowledged, a thing is mourned, an alternate and vastly preferable thing is also mourned because it will never be true.


← Previous PageNext Page →

  • Stuff I Like: