Good Luck, Kaiser

My uncle called me Thursday; my father is back in the hospital. He checked into the emergency room, again with pneumonia and apparently suffering from a large dosage of pain pills travelin’ round his bloodstream. He cannot take care of himself. He refuses to answer his phone and so the nurse who was coming to his apartment daily to check in on him hasn’t been there. I didn’t know this. I didn’t know because for the last two months, I’ve avoided Winston-Salem and I’ve avoided my family, particularly my father.

A friend asked me why. I shamefully admitted that I didn’t know the whys, but I knew it wasn’t good and something in my head is fucked up about it. When my dad was seriously ill, I was there every weekend. I set up shop in his hospital room for days at a time. As he became more well, I became less there. Perhaps it’s easier to be there for someone when your responsibility is just to sit. Maybe it’s easier to seem the dutiful daughter when presence is all that is required.

My father scares me. Everything about him frightens me – drug abuse, delusions of grandeur, schizophrenia, suicide attempts. It scares me both because I don’t know how to handle him and because I worry that I could be him.

His presence in my life forces some harsh realizations about both myself and my son. I look at Cole snuggled up on the couch beside me. I think about his genetics, little spirals chock full of everything he needs to make a mess of his life, and I am afraid. He has a long line of addicts behind him, and the only thing between him and that…. is me.

One of the greatest weapons I have against this is honesty. Addicts and the families of addicts are traditionally quiet about the disease. Mothers are especially so. There’s a stigma. It’s embarrassing. Shameful. But I firmly believe that we’re as sick as our secrets, and so — no secrets. When the time comes, I want to make certain the Kaiser is well aware of odds against him, and the best was I can do that is to let him know the facts, the fear, and the love behind it. In ten years, maybe we’ll read this together. And maybe he’ll get it.

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7 Comments

Filed under Family, Recovery

7 responses to “Good Luck, Kaiser

  1. Annette Fulcher

    Bravo Sara for recognizing the possible genetic link and staying aware. You know my Mom came from a long line of alcholics, and she turned out fine.

    • sarafraser

      Yeah, it’s a lot like anything else (diabetes, obesity, penchant for collecting porcelain cats?). The link doesn’t mean it’s inevitable, I know, but I want to arm him with the knowledge that it’s… there and it’s dangerous. Thanks for stopping by, Annette.

  2. Dan

    Bravely worded, beautifully written! My paternal grandfather and grand uncles were all wicked alcholics, my maternal grandfather was a functioning alcholic. My parents broke the cycle by setting a good example for their children….they didn’t drink….maybe a beer or glass of wine but I can truly say I have never seen my parents even close to drunk. They also talked about their parents and what the deal was. As a result they have five kids, none of whom abuse substances (currently!). We certianly have our share of issues, but drinking and drug abuse is not high on the list. Not sure if their choices and how they interacted with us was the key, but I’m betting it didn’t hurt. Good for you putting this out there for Cole (and for you) and for that matter me! Thanks

  3. I don’t even know what to say to this, really. You know already that genetics aren’t destiny. I think, much like everything else in parenting, being aware and open is really the best you can do.

    Also, I’ve warned all of my children that, thanks to my stupidity, they’re all very, very likely to be hooked from the first puff, should they ever try cigarettes, so I KIND OF feel you here. But that feels like I’m minimizing what you’re saying, and that’s not what I want at all.

    I’m shutting up now. {{{{Sara and the Kaiser}}}}

    • sarafraser

      It’s not destiny, certainly, and I wholeheartedly agree that we make our own decisions and we create our own futures and all that yada. I don’t think you’re minimizing, and I honestly appreciate hearing it. I just know that I came by my addiction(ssss) through a nice mix of poor decision making as well as a hefty (what a disgusting word) heap of genetic predisposition. Also? DON’T EVAR SHUT UP.

      • Yes, exactly. My choice to smoke was certainly MY choice, but I often wonder if I’d have gone there if I’d known that my mother’s smoking during pregnancy meant my brain was already wired with a fun addiction to nicotine. (Not that I can blame HER – she didn’t know, either. )

        I suspect I wouldn’t have ever tried it, given that even at my wildest, I avoided drugs that were known to be addictive because I didn’t want to get hooked. But hell, I was 15 and invincible and immortal, so maybe I’d have said, “Addiction is for other people” and smoked anyway.

        I just wish I’d had the chance to find out, so I made sure my kids have that knowledge. So my kids have heard, “I was a dummy who smoked while she was knocked up. That means your brains are wired to be cig junkies. If you don’t start, you don’t have to quit” pretty much from birth. (And yes, I’m aware that smoking during pregnancy is a shitty choice. Addiction is a real bitch, innit?)

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