What will she do if he starts drinking again?

I just came back from a weekend trip to Heber to visit Mary, Dan and Barb and Kelly. The good news is that the altitude didn’t bother me this time. The weather was windy and cool — a nice change from the heat of the Valley — but I was tired from the drive. I think my driving limit is two hours.

Anyway, I saw Mary and Dan’s new home which Mary showed me around. She is very proud of it. Dan is too, I guess, although he was busy in the garage getting it to rights. After a tasty dinner with Barb and Kelly (and a chilly night sleeping) I sat with Mary in the living room as she told me how Dan’s daughter Gwen lambasted her recently over some history of family interaction. Apparently, Gwen is the angry survivor of Dan’s alcoholic behavior and her mother’s serial relationship antics which forced Gwen, at one point, to chose to live with Dan. According to Mary, she was the reason that he stopped drinking.

Dan has admitted he is an alcoholic, but refuses to seek recovery. He is a hard-headed, stubborn red-headed cowboy. He has to keep moving at all times, always building something. When Vicki was in her last stages of cancer, Dan and Mary finished building their cabin in Munds Park. Mary was tireless in her care for Barb when she dealt with her cancer. Dan and Mary lived with Mom and Dad during the last stages of their illnesses. Mary too is a life force that never seems to quit. She was an incredible caretaker for me when I moved back to Phoenix from California. She is “Mother Courage” and a great deal of the world are her children. She has to fix anything she sees and she is “right” even when she is not. They are well suited for each other, lo these past 20 years.

However, their cabin in Reserve hasn’t sold yet. Work is sporadic for Dan and they are unaccustomed to a mortgage. Mary was lonely in New Mexico and seems to be much happier now that she’s in Heber near Barb. But is it enough for Dan to avoid slipping into the trough of drinking? And if he does, slip, slide, and then plunge into the depths of alcoholic hell, what will Mary do? What will we all do?

On the drive back to Phoenix, I pondered on the men that my sisters had married. All of them were some facet of my father: creative, story teller, handy with tools, alcoholic. I guess my sisters have all followed the path of mom: dedicated, self-sacrificing, religious. Their catholic upbringing has shaken out into an evangelical piety. None of us are still catholic (except for Kathy) but they have a literal interpretation of the bible that separates them from the rest of us who have no particular denomination to speak of.  I’m sure dad must be rolling over in his grave that the efforts to give all of us a catholic education resulted in  us having all abandoned the church.

But, getting back to Dan and Mary in Heber. Will he relapse? Perhaps not. But if he does, it will be most messy. What will Mary do? She will be powerless to stop him. God knows Lois couldn’t stop Bill. Betty couldn’t stop Mac. Her powerlessness will be her severest pain. She wept bitter tears when Dave left her while 7 months pregnant with Sean. This will be quite devastating.

In California, I had an earthquake kit in the eventuality of a major tremor. I never had to use it, but it was reassuring to know it was there. Maybe I need to look into Al-Anon to equip myself to deal with the major earthquake yet to come (maybe not, but still…) when Dan relapses and Mary comes to terms with abject powerlessness.

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