Turns out that I’m actually going to have to give birth to this baby at some point. I want to continue “real life”, but there is something appealing about this controlled hospital environment.
There are no patients on either side of me at the moment. My humidifier makes a bubbling sound. The clock ticks quietly on the wall. Thunder. It’s all very peaceful and controlled. Soon I’ll be in labor and I’ll be a mother and in the middle of chaos… for the rest of my life. The nearer it is to me, the more I find myself mentally fogging windows to the real world, clinging to this simple one.
Charley calls. He sounds clear-headed. He sounds sharp. He says he felt demoralized before, trolling the hot springs, grasping for something more, something exciting. He says he returned to the hot springs and this time he didn’t take alcohol and he didn’t sit in desperation wanting more. And when he met a couple from Minnesota he talked to them and left before they opened their whiskey. He says it made him feel rebaptized.
“I don’t want to be that guy anymore,” he says, running from shame, guilt, embarrassment, resentment. He had a beer before NA yesterday. A part of him wanted to die. Or run. A demon was trying to “fuck my soul”.
“I’ve been the worst human. … I want to be somebody you and my daughters admire.” He says he looks in the mirror and the person staring back looks clearer than he has in months. I just hope it lasts for more than a few days but I don’t say that.
Sherry, the night RN (who is probably the most motherly and cool at the same time), flips her shining brown hair to the side. “You know what, the pharmacy booted you out of the system! You’ve been here exist weeks; this happened to another Antepartum patient of mine who was here a long time.”
She typed a few messages and leaves and comes back and leaves again. Twenty minutes later I am back in the system and thirty minutes later she has all the pills: pills to sleep, and pills that are blue and pills that are pink and pills that are red and pills that are a faded yellow like Nana’s wallpaper.
I get an email from my mother-in-law Tracy. It’s longer than most of my essays in college. The tone is respectfully condescending and disappointed. The mood is heavy with an outer shell of sparkling optimism:
“I apologize for not writing sooner, but I have been in a difficult state of mind and did not want to be unskillful when communicating with you.
“It has been a very hard time for us all, and I know it must be so frustrating for you not to feel that you have any control over the situation with Charley and your animals…and to be expecting a baby on top of everything else.
“I want to help, but for you and I to have any kind of meaningful relationship I must be able to know that you can hear me when I am communicating important information~ and I’ve had the sinking feeling that my pleas and warnings and advice have been ignored over the past weeks and months, and it has caused me to remain silent and disheartened.
“First of all, I knew that this situation of moving Charley and 6 animals to Taos, with the expectation that he must be responsible for an impossible situation would be setting him up for failure. Even for a sober person this would be difficult to handle. … I begged you not to do this, but you did not listen to my advice. I’ve been so angry and hurt…..and this is not my nature!
“When you met my son he was living on the streets….certainly not husband and father material. I’ve told you plainly that if he drinks he cannot function.
“I witnessed terrible sights when I came up for your wedding…..drunkeness and fighting between you two, and yet still you proceeded to get married.
“That you are in the hospital with life threatening high blood pressure is the result of terrible stress….is this not a wake up call for you?
“I could not believe that you would take on yet two more animals, one of which being a rambunctious puppy not meant to be cooped up inside… I am seriously concerned that both you and Charley are not at all grown up or self sustaining, and are relying on all the parents to step in and take on the burden of your choices…
[more about the animals and recovery and being practical]
“You must open your eyes to this situation or there will be very hard consequences. … [Charley] does need encouragement, but your expectations need to be reevaluated with support from Alanon….as I so urged you to consider a while back.
“Please either call the vet tech and arrange for her to come every day when Charley is at work, or make arrangements for your parents to come collect all the animals. That you have been refusing to let Duke find a good home has been unreasonable, and I fear that I cannot help with such a chaotic situation.
[More about the animals and a newborn baby and plans to go on vacation and not be bothered].
“My heart aches that I need to write this to you, and I am not sure that you will even receive my words with understanding and accountability … I want us to be friends Claudia, but I need to feel that there is a reasonable person I can reach at the other end…
[something about courage and maturity]
I think about a fourth grade instructor who called me a “spoiled brat”. I think about my aunt shaking her head at my life.
Dr. Luikenaar comes in right as I finish the email, and I immediately vent. “My mother-in-law wrote me a Tolstoy-length email about how irresponsible I am and how disappointed she is and how my marriage and the move were all my fault and I didn’t heed her warnings…”
I’ve started opening up like I’m in therapy. Dr. Luikenaar says I don’t have to respond. I’m stuck in a hospital. What does my mother-in-law expect from me, anyway? She tells me about her own in-laws. How when she was having troubles and short separations from her husband, in a foreign country without her kids, her father-in-law didn’t reach out at all. They’d always been near her and her family geographically, but not emotionally or in spirit.
“I know what you mean! Same with my parents!” My mom spent more time with my dogs than with me. Time with me was mostly arguing. It was partly why I moved. Being in another state was a better option.
“Well I’m not going to write her back. I have no idea what I’d say anyway.”
I call Raeanne, the one woman from my Facebook post (about the dogs needing a walker) who seems legit. She works in a vet clinic and loves animals. She agrees to walk them daily until around the 20th or whatever I need. She’ll meet Charley tomorrow to solidify plans.
Feeling relief, I go for a walk around the parking garage. I touch a few flowers and look in rooms with young patients watching tv, and then I return to my room and write Tracy. My email is about the size of a Proust novel:
“I didn’t even want to answer this because I was sure I’d sound defensive and here I am on my thumbs with a phone…
“Thanks for writing. I was frustrated not hearing from anyone when I was stuck in the hospital. It’s true I felt like I had no control, which I don’t really.
“I know you too must be frustrated watching again and again addictions hurt the lives of people you love and even hurt you in the process. It’s very difficult to not be able to help someone who isn’t ready or interested in receiving it.
“As for me doing things that you warned me not to do: I love Charley and we got married. It happened and I don’t regret it one bit…
“You did beg me not to go to Taos but the alternative was a small cramped apartment that was more expensive when it went up in rent or a two bedroom for 1800, which was impossible…
“I don’t personally think that this can’t work out. I do think that Charley has a hell of a lot to work on and I wish I had the resources to send him to a great rehab facility that didn’t feel like a jail but since I don’t I will for certain be attending al anon and putting my foot down with alcohol and the baby…
“True, getting married and having a baby in a year sounds crazy but it happened and I believe everything happens for a reason. I complain a lot but remain eternally optimistic especially when I see people marry out of some rational, calculated list of reasons. I have always and will always stand up for love…
“I am in love with those animals! …I will be back soon, so I only ask that you not worry and let Charley and I handle it…
“I am grateful for all you have done- from helping with the animals to charley- but I’d feel more comfortable if you did focus on your art show and your vacation and your life…I look at other problems in the world and feel very blessed to have what I have. Much love from Dakota and I, Claudia”
For some reason I’m reminded of my old Jewish boss at the News who always talked a great deal to me and seemed to like me a lot but then fired me out of the blue over breakfast at a grocery store.
Dakota kicks when I play Olafur Arnalds’ “Near Light”. Arnalds is an Icelandic multi-instrumentalist composer of neo-classical post-rock. Dakota shimmies to Billie Holiday and bounces to Sonny Rollins.
“I want to get well spiritually and mentally,” Charley says. He has a disgusting weight on his chest: the memory of shit he’s done, said, lusted after, feeding off of others and eating himself away.
“You sound like Hannibal.”
“I’m sorry I was so antagonistic and dramatic. I was afraid…” He says he has a totally different agenda and aspirations when he’s drunk.
“Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.”
And then there’s an even darker part of him when he’s “more drunk and more sadistic and everything goes out the window.”
“Yes I know, I know it well.”
“I want to be sober. I really want to be with you for a long time… Hell, I want to be with you forever.”
I hope he can hold on to this moment- remember what he says and what he feels. Sometimes I think he’s more than one person.
153/91. My blood pressure’s up and down like a Tchaikovsky symphony. “Get some sleep and behave yourself,” says Jeanine.
Preparing to leave my “controlled environment” I have to remind myself of what I had to remind myself copyediting, and in grad school and working overseas and being an only child: what others believe to be true is not always true, I need to do what I know is right for me even if it disappoints you. One day at a time.