I did one thing I have never done before. I looked at Nancy, not knowing whether or not she was awake and I not-so-simply said, “Is she okay? I have been laying here afraid that something has happened to Grace.”
I was nineteen when my Aunt Eileen died. Sophomore in college. She had been sick for a long time. That was the Fall of 1991. Other than a babysitter who was tragically killed while crossing a busy street, it was my first real experience with death – and this time I was not only allowed to go to the funeral I was expected to be there. In the next six years I buried four more family members – Uncle (’93), Grandfather (’94), Father (’95), Grandmother (’97.) I am still not completely sure how that affected me. I will add to that two guys that I mentored in recovery dying of overdoses – two years apart. I got sober in ’94 so I was trying to figure out how the hell to be sober when my father got taken from me. Yes, taken from me – brutally by that cold-hearted assassin, John Barleycorn. So I have had my chess matches with Death and lost every one of them.
Then came life. Love and happiness slowly moved into my life and they have been putting down roots more and more every year. Sometimes it is harder to let Life in than to get used to living with Death, Loss, and Disappointment. But that’s an old story. A long tired old story.
This morning we woke up on our own. What is significant about that is that Grace did not wake us up. She has been our alarm clock since she was born. Every once in a while she will sleep longer than ten hours and past when Nancy has to get up to go to her at least Nine-to-Five gig. While we get to sleep and Grace gets to sleep as well there has always been one part of it that has been difficult for me.
You see when we wake up on our own and Grace has not come up to wake us up with her sing-songy, “Iz Way-cup tie-um” something inside of me thinks the worst. It is not a passing thought. It starts as a fear and slowly rises to panic. Most of the time I lay there with this going on inside of my head – and my body – with me fighting it and trying to use logic to combat something that cannot be fought by logic. My mind starts racing. I imagine going into her room and finding her unconscious. Maybe also taking it to the point of her funeral. Nancy and my marriage ending because it cannot bear the strain of the loss of such an incredibly precious gift.
Normally, I lay in bed and I fight it. I try to breathe through it. I try to trust that she is okay. She is just sleeping. And I lose. I always lose to the panic. Inevitably she coughs or wakes up and cries or comes upstairs full of piss and vinegar – but something always pushes the demons back into their dark corners. But I do not know that is going to happen. Not in the moment. It is a painful ten or thirty minutes depending on how long I am up. Nancy may be up and laying right next to me while I freefall through my deepest fears. Not surprisingly at some point later in that morning I may find myself getting into an argument with Nancy or being extra rigid with Grace – because I have never known what to do with all of that residual anxiety and panic and all of the adrenalin that comes with it.
But this morning was different.
I did one thing I have never done before. I looked at Nancy, not knowing whether or not she was awake and I not-so-simply said, “Is she okay? I have been laying here afraid that something has happened to Grace.” I gave words to it. I broke the silence. I killed the secret. Nancy slowly placed her hand on my stomach. “Oh honey, she’s just sleeping.” The thought had never occurred to Nancy. It just wasn’t even an option for her. She grabbed my hand and only a couple of minutes later we heard Grace’s cough. Then a few more coughs and then the sound of her little feet coming up the stairs to greet us with her loving smile. She was okay. She had always been okay.
-Reprinted with permission from InTheRooms Blog
-Dan Griffin is an addiction recovery consultant, counselor and an author. He is the founder of Griffin Recovery Enterprises.