26 04 2017

In late June (2011) we got a call, one that we had been dreading – of course we dreaded them all but this one had a particular ‘call to action’. He was demanding to see the girls. This was the first time that he had even mentioned them since the great unravelling began. It set my skin on fire.

Executing the dead bat strategy, a negotiation was struck that he could see the girls on the condition that they wanted to see him, and that he was not drinking.  They would meet in a neutral place and my dad would be their chaperone.

When my dad delicately but directly asked the girls if they would like to see their father, Maddie’s reply was a straight ‘nope’. Clare did want to see him but only with the assurance that her grandfather would be there as well.

A Friday afternoon was agreed and my dad called Mort’s hotel room half an hour before the arranged meeting time.  No answer in his room.  The call went back through reception where he was informed that Mort was in the bar downstairs and had in fact been there for several hours. No surprises the meeting was cancelled.

Another meeting was set for a week later…an 8am meeting was probably a safer bet.

My dad and Clare settled in the coffee shop and watched Mort hobble towards them on a crutch, tooth still missing and an overpowering wretched stench enveloping him. Dad watched Clare’s face distort briefly with shock but then regain composure.  The account from Clare was that he smelled weird, his whole body was shaking and that she couldn’t understand why he kept asking when she’d gotten her ears pierced and she had to constantly remind him that she had had them pierced for two years. He was in a mental loop, he had no idea what else to talk with her about.

The meeting lasted under 30 minutes for which most was watching him painstakingly try and navigate a cup of tea to his mouth, ending up in spillage dabbled across the table and down his front. He was keen to wrap it up, dump the charade of sipping tea and get back to guzzling the vodka.

No risk of spillage there, bottle straight to the lips.


Tentacles of crazy

3 08 2015

When my dad retired I am sure that he pictured lazy scrabble games with my mum over an anti-pasto plate soaking up the Mediterranean sun on their latest sojourn. When the toughest thing to worry about would be what to order for dinner.  Instead my dad had become my full-time protector and logistics manager.  He fielded all calls, requests and harassments from Mort.

At this stage mum was still in a state of disbelief that the son-in-law that she had been so very fond of had become this wreck of a being.  If she happened to answer the phone when he called their house she would compassionately try and appeal to rationale and coax Mort to that point of “oh my god, what the fuck have I done”. He was still too busy with denial and “this is everyone else’s fault” to get to that point of accountability. She carried a hefty load of sadness about this and what the possible future consequences of this would be for the girls. This was yet another reason for me to loathe and despise him.

My dad had a conversation with Mort’s dad about the ‘what now’.  While his dad had been willing to fund Mort’s rehab, he was not willing to cushion him with any finances.  His exact comment was “give him just enough to drink himself to death.” How easy it was for him to wash his hands.  The Mort maelstrom was not threatening him.

Mort was angry and desperate for money. Not money to start a new life and find a place to live (that was never mentioned), it was going to be drunk, snorted and abused (this wasn’t mentioned either but we all knew it). He was drip-fed money from our savings with regular weekly instalments into his bank account. We viewed this money as a temporary gate, a barrier.  We hoped it was a barrier of steel but it felt like straw.  As long as the money kept coming he seemed to stay away, physically at least, the phone calls on the other hand were relentless.

During this time Mort started targeting more people to rant at.  He called his old employer and told them that he had enjoyed a nice holiday, was back at home with his family and was ready to start work.  When the reply was clearly wary befuddlement he became aggressive and hurled abuse.  He called them 10-15 times a day for a week. That doesn’t mean that we had a week of peace, his crazy just grew extra tentacles.









Dead Bat

7 06 2015

Later that same day my dad also received a call from Mort.  He was calling from the hospital and asked my dad to pick him up and give him a ride back to where he was staying all the while making demands and threats about money. Dad obliged, took him to the seedy hotel (long drop from when he was staying in 5 star hotels!) and gave him some cash and also made a deposit to his account.  He was by this stage missing a front tooth, no doubt left behind during his ‘holiday time’ in Portland.

It is at this point that most would think (and I certainly wanted to) completely ignore him and not respond to any communication what-so-ever.  A little context should be shared.  Around this same time, there was an article in the newspaper about a lovely, seemingly happy and well-to-do family that lived in a suburb not far from mine. The husband, around the same age as Mort, somehow got into some serious drugs.  Parallel to my scenario as soon as the wife realised she threw him out of the family home to protect her children.  Only he didn’t just stop with harassing phone calls.  He turned up to the family home and stabbed her to death.

There is a cricketing term called ‘dead bat’.  This is a strategic manoeuvre whereby the bat is held with a light grip such that it gives when the ball strikes it, and the ball loses momentum and falls to the ground.

To this point Mort had not turned up at the house or at the girls school and we desperately wanted it to stay that way.

Nonetheless, Mort wanted to be heard, he wanted to rant.  And so my dad would listen with a ‘dead bat’.  Never provoking, neutral not defending or attacking, just listening and responding with non-committal words and sounds. This would take the momentum out of Mort’s strike.

My dad put himself in this position to ensure that the girls and I didn’t end up as a front page news story.

Threats and dining tables

4 06 2015

Then came the dreaded call in the early hours of 13 June.  The moment I heard his voice I felt like hot concrete had been poured into my marrow.  I was rooted to the spot and I instantly broke into a cold sweat.  There wasn’t a trace of slurring, his voice was calm and measured with a sting.

He said that he had enjoyed some holiday time away and was back bearing ‘big guns’. The guns being inferred legal strength to start causing (yet more) havoc in my life.  I made it clear that I wasn’t going to be going for anything in terms of alimony etc. I wanted nothing from him (except my peace). It seemed to be fine to him that I wasn’t going to try to take anything from him, but he was sure going to try to take from me.

He started ranting about the dining table that we had purchased before the great unravelling and the air conditioning that we had installed. After a few minutes of this he then said, and the girls, I have rights. This was the first time through all this that he had made the slightest reference to the girls.

His priorities were interesting.

dining table

The $17 calamity

1 03 2015

At the end of that month I got a report from Mort’s dad that the doctors at the rehab recommended that Mort stay at the facility at least another three months to which his dad was fully willing to support. But Mort had other ideas. He told his dad that he still had his job and that I was willing to take him back. Clearly bullshit on all fronts.

This was a disturbing report….though not nearly as bad as the next which came a week later. Mort disappeared from rehab, not surprisingly so did the remainder of the funds that were in the US bank account about $7000.

Mort went completely off the radar….no one heard a word from him or had a clue where he was….until the money ran out 3 weeks later.

Then he piped up and called Bob…at 3am in the morning. Bob queried where he had been for the past three weeks, “Oh, just checking out Portland” was his reply. Which is the city where the rehab had been located. He said it as though he was just taking some casual time out to explore an interesting city as a tourist. Bob said the rest of the phone call was Mort begging and pleading for money. Bob refused and Mort hung up on him. Mort then called back immediately and began with the begging again, this time his tone more aggressive. Bob was then the one to hang up the phone.

The phone then continued to ring another 11 times throughout the night with Bob leaving the answering machine to capture the messages. Some were just mumblings with banging sounds (like he was having difficulty hanging up a phone) others were more ranting, some manipulative. Bob said it was like groundhog day as over the next 4 days the incessant middle of the night phone calls continued.

Then came the unnerving one. Mort called Bob and told him that he had gotten enough airline points to fly back home but needed $17 to cover an administration charge. Bob refused and called me immediately with the grim news.

Mort’s dad was willing to spend hundreds and thousands of dollars to keep Mort in Rehab and yet it was $17 that was going to fuck with my life again.

photo credit:www.zazzle.com.au

photo credit:www.zazzle.com.au

Radio silence

30 01 2015

The next few weeks were bliss knowing that Mort was a long, long, long way from us. Those clenched up chunks inside my brain and my heart that were in perpetual fearful anxiety of the notion of him turning up at the girls school, or randomly bumping into him in the city (me in my killer heels on my way to a meeting….him being the drunk in the gutter), or him actually showing up to my new workplace (my role being in part that of networking I would have turned up easily in .34 seconds on a Google search)….could relax…. just that little bit.

There was also a bubble of relief knowing that my parents wouldn’t be harassed by the incessant sounds of the phone heralding a barrage of slurring, ranting, swearing and blaming.

There was for that month only one phone call from him. Given that he was in rehab and without access to alcohol, at least the call was devoid of the slurring, it also featured a lesser degree of the ranting and swearing….but he doubled up on the load of blame. As usual there wasn’t even a modicum of responsibility but it was clearly pointed out that I was a cold-hearted selfish bitch for not being supportive ….”all the other guests have their partners who visit and bring them muffins, and stuff, why don’t you do that Ripley…what have I done to you for you to neglect me”. And yes, that is a quote. I wrote it down at the time to conserve conciseness. I particularly love the term ‘guests’ as though he had been invited to an exclusive soirée.

During that time I got a phone call from Bob, his best friend since the 5th grade. He reported that the conversation with Mort consisted of Mort spending the greater portion of the time recounting peccadilloes of their primary school teachers and the other part whining about the food selection at the Rehab facility. (somehow at $60k a month I doubt they were eating beans on toast). Bob noted that there was not a single mention or acknowledgement of the fact that his life had fallen apart due to his alcoholism and his decisions. Bob kept saying, over and over, “I have no idea who this guy is”.

Bob confided that he thought Mort had melted a part of his brain. He thought that the absence of alcohol would return Mort to a lucid state, but it clearly didn’t, Mort was living a delusional reality.

I am sure this was his mental self-image: photo credit: blogs.amctv.com

I am sure this was his mental self image: photo credit: blogs.amctv.com

this is what was really going on: photo credit: www.femme.fan.com

this is what was really going on: photo credit: http://www.femme.fan.com

Leaving on a jet plane……everyone hoping won’t be back again!

12 01 2015

On the 14 April there was relief. Relief arrived in the guise of Mort’s brother from the USA who had flown over to pick up the dregs of what used to be his brother. He was on instruction to get Mort and take him back to where his dad had admitted him into a rehab centre for $60,000 a month. My relief was not that Mort might be ‘fixed’, the relief was that he would not be around.

My dad was in touch with Mort’s brother and was assisting with whatever he needed to get Mort the fuck out of Dodge. It was very touch and go with the hospital as the doctors would not sign the documentation that said he was ok for travel. He had an enlarged pancreas, low platelet count, 2 black eyes, fractured skull and his foot still in a cast. It was up to his brother to sign the waiver excusing the hospital for any liability.

His brother was in town for less than 24 hours, how on earth he managed to get that train wreck on a plane is amazing. I am sure that Mort actually did look as though he had been a victim of some sort of transport accident, though the fumes seeping from his pores would have betrayed that summation. I am also sure that given that there is free alcohol on the international flight that even years later, there are one or two air stewardesses that begin stories with, “Oh my god, I had this one horror flight, there was this guy….”

Sliding doors

6 01 2015

Mid evening on 12 April, 2011 my dad called me to report that he had just received a call from the manager at some self-serviced apartments. They had responded to a guests call about strange thumping about in an adjacent room. After several attempts to contact the room they let themselves in to find Mort in a near comatose intoxicated state and the room completely trashed. They called the ambulance service and his blood alcohol level was .39, to put that into context, .4 is apparently dead.

Clearly he was not a lively, or even coherent conversationalist at this point, but he had just enough whatever to refuse the paramedics to take him in the ambulance. My dad apologised to the flustered lady at the other end of the phone saying that Mort was not our responsibility.

Moments after I hung up, the phone rang and it was Anne-Louise, just to say hi and check-in. I shared the conversation of what had just transpired. I wish I hadn’t.

This was one of those pivotal “sliding doors” moments. If she hadn’t called at that moment, she wouldn’t have known the story, she wouldn’t have taken it on herself to go to where Mort was, she wouldn’t have talked him into going into the ambulance. If the door had slid the other way, Mort might have been thrown out with the remnants of a bottle and cracked his head open on the sidewalk for the last time. The story would have finished there. But no, the story continues (insert deep, deep, guttural sigh).

photo credit: sliding door movie 1998

photo credit: sliding door movie 1998


17 11 2014

The next week changed my life. I was clearly going through a lot of life altering events at that time but this was then, and has continued to be, one of the most positive ever. I got a job. Not just a job, but a role within a working culture that seemed it had been created with a magic wand and my personal wish list. Not only would I be working in a place that was filled with creative, passionate, honest and funny people, I was offered the position working school hours. This meant that I could still be there everyday for school drop-off and pick-up for my girls. I could keep that routine and stability for them. And having a regular income meant that I could also keep the routine of feeding them!

I spent the next few weeks in something akin to an intoxicated state myself, I felt light headed and giddy with a euphoric rapture as I became familiar with my sea change. Mort was still bumping around in his intoxicated state, polar ends from mine.

In this time I got a call from the hospital saying that he had fractured his skull in a drunken fall. The nurse that I spoke with relayed how they had seen people in a similar condition but these were people who had been drinking hard for many, many years. She was stunned when I shared the timeline of events, but she was not stunned to learn that I would not be there when he was discharged from hospital.

A day or so later my parents and I received a barrage of phone calls; hang-ups, heavy panting and slurred rants. Routine was obviously important to Mort as well.

Float like a butterfly

7 10 2014

Two days later it was my birthday and my gorgeous posse of girlfriends gave me the most perfect present. A hot pink full body punching bag with gloves to match.

I had received a belligerent call from Mort who discovered that I had cleared out the foreign account. He ranted and raved and accused me of all sorts of deceit all the while dodging the issue of the fact that he had been trying to clear it out first. I explained that given the account was for the girls future education that is exactly what I was leaving it for. I had put it somewhere safe, every cent accounted for and was not going to touch the money. He didn’t even bother trying to respond with the same reply when asked what his intentions were for the money. The outraged tone quickly morphed into the “poor me”….and what was I doing to him….how was he supposed to survive.

I broke in that pristine punching bag with anger, wrath and pure loathing…..mixed with a good dose of fear and angst for how I was going to hold it all together.

The next night I attended an Al-Anon session as suggested by a friend. What I was going through was an experiential landscape so very foreign to me or my friends so someone had heard of these and thought maybe I would benefit from another avenue of support. Al- Anon is a support group for those that have been effected by alcoholism (not to be confused with alcoholics anonymous which are the sessions for the cause).

It was downright depressing. It was a small group of about 10, all different ages and demographics. Deeply scarring stories of woe, abusive fathers, husbands, mothers who just withered away into nothingness. Most of the people were regulars, they knew the ‘anthem’ by heart. I was left at the end feeling like a fraud. These people really needed each other and this arena to share. I didn’t and I felt almost rude by not shedding a tear when telling my own tale.

At the end a lovely lady came up, took both my hands in hers, looked straight into my eyes and said, “you are of value, you are of worth”… and I had to reply, “I know, I am 42, a great mum, and I have a bright pink punching bag”.

I walked out with self-confirmation that yes, I had a story, but that I was going to be the one floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee…..I was not, for a moment, for the sake of my girls, going to be the one face down on the mat.

photo credit: selfie...alright I lie...had to see if you were paying attention.  www.pinterest.com

photo credit: selfie…alright I lie…had to see if you were paying attention. http://www.pinterest.com