I went to my first AA meeting the other night. It was Christmas Eve. I personally had no need to attend an AA meeting, other than being guided along into the melee of old and young alcos speaking of their pathos and determination to stay off the bottle for just one-more-day now. Alcohol pervades my life. It pervades the lives of those closest to me, particularly since 2008, and it pervaded my life most directly from birth up to the age of 22, when my father passed away.
All I could think about during the meeting was my dad. I'd be listening to the speakers and couldn't cease to reflect off my own memories and experience with good old dad, comparing my experiences with the stories I was listening to, here, now.
'Alcoholic' never passed through anyone's lips when dad was alive. After all, he worked hard, and kept his jobs all the way into his final terminal illness. He 'only' drank beer, and that not what alkies drink, is it? No, he didn't do wine or spirits, so he couldn't be an alco, could he? I bristle with a twisted smile now to think of dad hating drugs and drug dealers while all the while he was making the local drug dealer in the form of the publican(s) filthy rich through his own debilitating habit. Mum was passive. She didn't interfere. It was only beer, after all. Except that throughout my life up the age of 22, and as far back as I could remember, dad was up the pub every night. He'd always come back stone cold like a wet sloppy dead fish. And that drinking increased incrementally so that in the last couple of years in his life he'd be at the pub all day on the Sunday. Ostensibly, he'd be up early to play lawn bowls. He'd take a biscuit from the tin and go off with his bag of heavy balls. He'd be back sometime in the afternoon so utterly and elegantly plastered I had to wonder how many beers it would take to achieve such a state. But I didn't wonder so much. When you're immersed in it, you live it, you get on with it, and you take it for granted.
Everyone loved Ralph, good ol' Ralph. Sure, he was incredibly likeable and had a true social nous, so he had loads of friends. So much so that he overfilled the large church at this funeral. He was loved in the way others may have loved Keith Moon and Oliver Reed, y'know, meeting your best friends in pubs and all that bullshit. Still, there must be some virtue in that. I don't have the same social nous as my dad and tend to be way more aloof. My dad truly had a lot going for him in many ways and therein lies the tragedy. Magnificent build, good looking, great hair. By the end of his life he was enfeebled, wracked by pain, emotional and otherwise. I'm pleased to say he never lost all his strength despite the rivers of booze and the pack-a-day habit - right down to the butt.
I could attend an A-Anon meeting and speak there. Financial insecurity, lack of love, all that fucking drinking as I remember it. But there's an overriding part of me that's a stoic and a believer in bettering the situation. Bettering the situation does not entail naval gazing into the events of decades passed. It involves loving the being for who they are, were, what they did for you (for they do much amidst incredible emotional pain that is constantly balmed by the alcohol), and to give now, be of service to your late father and life within and without, for that's where the service to life lies.
I feel that alcohol and its effect on me is something I could talk about forever and ever. Sure, I will have a glass of red here and there, or a beer, but I'm not really a drinker. Thank God. I can't stand hangovers, and the vile stuff has caused more than enough pain for me already in this lifetime.
Thursday, 13 March 2014
I was huddled together with two architects in a small meeting-room going over plans for a total refurbishment of the library space. I'm no architect, but when spot-pinned for suggestions by these two architects I was apt enough to proffer some idea or other that seemed to go down well. There were moments where I noticed my hand brushing into my hair as I gulped with the pressure of knowing that a lot of changes were underfoot that I had no control over. It's all going to be different; less space, new colours, and if I have it my way, a new software management system. One year's time from now - a totally new space, probably a totally new everything.
Last December I walked into the university's bookshop and went straight up to the sci-fi section. I haven't read sci-fi since my early teens and my was, for whatever reason, longing to read some sci-fi again. A book called 'Dust' which had a "Staff Recommended" tag at shelf's edge caught my attention. I glanced at the blurb and thought this'll do. Then my contact/supplier from the bookshop, Emily, walked up to say hello. I immediately solicited her opinion about this 'Dust' book. Emily told me that 'Wool' was the first in the trilogy, that it was a massive hit, and had something to do with a futuristic scenario where people were forced to live underground in a massive silo. There was something about Emily's explanation that caught my interest and excitement. Taking a risk, I bought Hugh Howey's 'Wool', and walked out of the shop into the languid early-summer haze of the pre-Christmas out-of-session campus.
I loved 'Wool'. And I loved its prequel, 'Shift', too. I related to Donald, a central character who was intimately and intricately swept along with a terrible movement of events beyond his control. I want my project to go well. I know from my own experience in this job I've been with for 18 years that big changes or movements at work are invariably reflected in full in my personal life. I wonder what's going to happen? I wonder if that halfway through the beginning bit of the project, when the roof is blown off before the uppers levels are constructed that some event will occur that will delay or blow off the project. I'll be anxious. I'll want the refurbishment to be over, to walk into a safe place and reset my digs, if that's to be. It might not be meant to be. What is certain, everything will be different.
I loved the Juliette character in the 'silo' series, Howey's heroine. She was brave, clever, sharp, and she was compassionate, human. A true leader with a discernible charisma, or as Howey described her, "...she had a fierce intelligence that could be measured from a distance."
Sometimes as I'm gliding around on soft shoes inside the facility or when I shift my gaze in different directions as I'm walking stealthily ahead I think of the place a silo of sorts. Sometimes I feel as tactile as a Juliette, as furtive as Donald, and sometimes as much a slayer-type as Thurman, someone who knows too much and holds secrets.
And when I walk outside and look up at the clear blue sky I feel so consciously thankful for the air I'm breathing, moreso since I read 'Wool'.
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