Wednesday, April 28, 2010

At The AA Meeting

2001 was the year my girlfriend of two years dumped me, then my mother died, then my father died in July. That same year in October, my former wife also died. Several years before we had started and finished a divorce. We were in a complex situation and it was not a good one, not for either of us. It was not a lack of love between us but we were so not good for each other, not at all.

She had to go bankrupt, for one. If she stayed with me, then we would have to go bankrupt together but without her bills I was solvent. She had always worked. We had always kept separate accounts. This was mainly her idea. She wanted no oversight on her money. She unfortunately did not manage it well. I owed her something like thirteen thousand dollars if I sold the house, we decided. I had paid her other money along the way. She kept her retirement and I kept the house. As a strict financial deal, this left me with the refinanced mortgage debt. She defended this decision against her lawyer who felt that legal precedent would have given more of her bills and expenses to me, but she knew that wasn’t fair. In her love and mine, she could not treat me that way. A few years later she died alone in a Columbus, Ohio apartment I doubt she could pay for one more month. Her sister found her. They listed kidney failure. I still keep a small portion of her ashes.

I am not sure this is even a poem but it is the truth of what happened the evening I found out she had died. I am hesitant to post it. I am not looking for sympathy or whatever. It was many years ago and I long ago settled into my new life. I have had two lovers since our parting, one for two years and one for nearly five. Both of these women are fine and I consider them both friends. I carry the burden of that former life lightly even though it is a real burden. We both lacked courage probably ten or more years earlier when we should have divorced to avoid the last years of our marriage. She should have divorced me as I sobered up in 1983. Perhaps I should have divorced her even earlier when I realized she really might want to have children after all, so I could let her find someone who wanted children too. Perhaps her untimely death and her mental illness could have been avoided. Perhaps such an alternative is not so. What this post is, a tale of the end of a real relationship on the planet between two people who loved each other dearly but not well.

At The AA Meeting

They took you away
dead and gone and all ground dropped
from beneath my feet.
I shook hard sitting
in the formed blue plastic chair
placed in the front row.
Two women I knew
got up from where they had been
and sat close by me
til I quit shaking.
This is what love is, no more,
just simplicity.

May 12, 2009 10:38 AM


  1. I got clean in was a momentous year.
    This is very sad....


  2. Living is hard, harder when we love.

  3. Karen, Michelle, I am happy we have met here in the land of blogs.

  4. "This is me, on the eve of an ending, of what I've known as constant...." Matt Wertz

    A vulnerable recollection of a difficult time. I'm glad you hold the burden lightly while still being able to acknowledge it. A good balance, but not easy, at least for me.

  5. I am not the same man I was. By the time this all began to happen, I was healthy enough to know where I had to go, what I had to do for my own treatment. I got into a service commitment in Alanon and spent ten years there through the worst of this descent and a little beyond.

    Without that, who knows where I would be? Alanon was a central if temporary resource for me over those ten years and I was able to preside over the disintegration of my own life beyond my control while I lost the marriage, the retirement, the house (but only because I moved, still, that was my house), and my first love beyond my wife. All of that plus my mother and father were gone from me before any of it quieted down. I held my job, but even that went from a direct employment to a decade of self emplyed contract in that time. That meant I lost my health insurance too.

  6. A tough walk. One foot in front of the other, as shoes seem to come unshod, littering a path with soles, laces and bindings. I do not minimize any of that heartache...however I like you here, where the path led, in bare feet.

  7. When foreigners say that Americans tend toward excess, the judgement comes with a sneer. May I say it without the sneer? This is suffering to excess and you are not the first American I've encountered to admit to it. The same density of experience is reflected in American literature confirming the general truth of what you've written. The above paragraphs could have been riven from the summarised biography of a subordinate character in, say, a Steinbeck novel. But it's not just the facts that seem to recur, it's the way they are told. This is not terribly surprising since you are after all American but this correspondence between life and literature has only just occurred to me and I felt it deserved marking. You're not looking for sympathy and that's the American way. Perhaps the reminder (I'm sure you were aware of this) that you're in tune with your country's writers is more valuable comfort.

  8. BB, what an interesting response. I absolutely take no offense. I am left wondering how one defines this excess as excess. We of course have a stereotype (I think it's a stereotype) of the Englishman's stiff upper lip. We too think of this with a bit of a sneer, thinking of it as a posture, not really genuine.

    There may be a fool's game in this, trying to determine just how much drama is too much, just how much reticence is civil. There is a strong movement of mental health in America which equates a willingness to expression as a demonstration of openness and honesty, and that to mental health. We train each other up in this way in certain circles, giving positive feedback for particularly good performances.

    The bookshelves of our stores are absolutely filled with self help books and other mental health tomes, all written in favor of what you call this excess of the American character. Thus much of it is supported in a training of ongoing nature and many of us actively practice and refine it. It is found for example in the heart of the AA movement.

    Now I need to journey over to England and find out how different the tone of AA turns out to be in London or Leeds or among the Liverpudlians. That will mean I need to stay for six months at least, in order to give proper immersion a chance. Heh.


The chicken crossed the road. That's poultry in motion.

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