It has been seven years. Actually, it had started before our daughter was born and continued after our son appeared years later. I vowed to change our lives when Lennon pointed to the blue aluminum cans and said, “Look it’s dad’s favorite drink.”
Gillian said almost the same comment five years earlier. She saw the cardboard Bud Light boxes at the store and said that dad had bunches of them in his truck. I realized I had failed on my promise that night to make Jacob stop drinking, because when I heard Lennon’s comment at age three, I knew I had further failed them both.
Jacob had never been violent, but I had lived with his drinking for longer than I wanted to admit. At first, he would just pass out on the couch. Occasionally, he would fall asleep in his truck. The he started spending nights in the barn if he even came home at all. I used to wish he would tell me he was having an affair, but in reality, I knew that he was out drinking alone or with his “friends.” Friends were any other farmers who were done for the day and felt like their time was best spent “shooting the shit” and throwing back a few twelve packs of beer. I spent too many nights of our first years of marriage wondering whether Jacob would make it home or if the police would come and knock on my door to ask me to identify his body.
Later, it became solid avoidance. He wouldn’t talk to me. He would just yell about me not being home when I should. I rarely did more than work, because I didn’t want him alone with Gillian because he might pass out when she needed him. That was how she got that scar on her hand. Our gentle beagle, Chuck, was sleeping when Gillian at four snuck up and startled him. He snipped her and she needed seven stitches. Jacob said he couldn’t get to her in time. The dog warden also took Chuck for observation and threatened that he might have to put Chuck down if he was dangerous. Chuck was my first dog and my sole companion after I moved away from home. He had been with me for my whole adult life, and Jacob’s drinking almost ripped him away like the skin on Gillian’s hand. At the hospital, Jacob couldn’t stop swaying while the doctor was telling us what Gillian needed. After Chuck came home, it was the first time I just wanted Jacob to leave.
He never did. The drinking just got worse. Jacob would show up wasted to volunteer for events and embarrass me. Everyone stopped asking me to volunteer, because they knew it would keep Jacob from showing up. I didn’t have to ask. I just knew. I started to take Gillian to see my parents every weekend to escape the worrying, constant fighting, and unpredictability of Jacob’s moods. The ultimate trade-off was walking into the house on Sunday nights, almost on tip toe, gently entering my own home afraid to find him passed out on the floor, missing, or even dead. Every weekend, I panicked when I opened the back door.
There would be days and weeks where Jacob would promise he would change and stopped his normal drinking. Usually, the first three days were great. He’d play with the kids, take me on a random date, and laugh like he did when first knew each other. Then about day four or five, the irritations would start. One of the kids would do something minor that would not normally bother anyone, but it would shatter his reality. He’d start yelling and I would jump in and blame it on me so the kids could retreat to their rooms. Jacob would eventually storm out to go “and check the fields” which became a repetitive code only I understood. Then, he might be home later.
I would tuck our children in, apologize for dad’s shouting, and explain away his tirades. They would hug me and tell me that they loved me, and I promised it would all be alright. Years went by like this until finally his construction business and the farm started to suffer. His family stepped in and finally forced him into rehab. He would never go at my request. He wouldn’t even go when I threatened divorce. That was the day I had to take to the hostpical because his heart started skipping beats. But, he finally did go at their demand. I was thankful but also finished. I filed for divorce for real this time.
I wasn’t angry. I just knew that his favorite beverage ruled his life now and there was no place for us until he could figure everything out. At a counseling session I was asked to attend, he explained how he started drinking at age thirteen. It had always been a part of his life and he didn’t know what to do now.
We went through divorce counseling, and he lived in his parents’ camper for a year to give me the space I felt we all needed. Jacob needed to get well. He needed to make up for the lost time in Gillian’s and Lennon’s lives. He owed them that and so much more. They are amazing kids who love their dad. They want him in their lives completely. He had missed so much already and now this was his chance to focus on himself and them. There was a real future to be had. I didn’t want to complicate matters. So, I made him leave me out of the picture. If he could stay sober and maintain a solid relationship with our kids, then he could ask me out again.
First it was a nephew’s wedding and then a trip to the beach with our kids. Then we walked hand in hand at the county fair. A year after our divorce and thirteen years after we met, I stood facing Jacob once more with our hands joined. Gillian, at age eleven, was my maid of honor while Lennon, at age four, was Jacob’s best man. We were married by a friend whose family served as our witnesses. Then we all went to Cracker Barrell for dinner.
Jacob is his own triumph. He bravely saw himself and what needed to be fixed in his life and took the steps to heal. We’ve been together for seventeen years now. He never counts the year of divorce.
“I was always still yours,” he told me last week as we watched our daughter play varsity basketball.
“She’ll be a senior next year,” I replied.
“You were brave,” he told me later as our son got his blue belt in karate.
“Not as brave as you,” I told him as we walked back to his truck.
“What do you mean,” he asked.
As the snow fell lightly on our faces and our kids waved goodbye to his parents, I smiled and said, “You courageously came back to all of us. I love you.”
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This is a tough story to tell. I'm glad it turned around. I've heard enough real ones to feel you write what you know. You might break up the long descriptive passages with more dialogue. A short dramatic exchange stands in for long description. I noticed one typo: That was the day I had to take to the hostpical because his heart started skipping beats. But otherwise, a flawless story.
Thank you so much. I totally see what you you mean about the additional dialogue, and I saw the typo after I submitted and couldn't change my text. That typo was so frustrating, because I even proofread the piece twice. LOL! Thank you again and I look forward to reading your writing.
I have caught so many typos and errors reading the story aloud before hitting publish. Even reading it in a different font helps to see things, word choice etc. I once left a typo in the title of a post. How embarrassing was that?!
Absolutely! Typos are the worst, especially seeing them post facto. They remind me that my stories are never finished and I can always improve them.