The Garden of Earthly Delights

17 04 2013

The next 10 days were like living in the third panel of Hieronymus Bosch’s “Garden of Earthly Delights”. I remember seeing this triptych painting in an art book as a kid. It had a visceral effect on me. I thought it was the most bizarre, disturbing and downright fucked up shit I had ever seen…..not unlike those 10 days that folded into a macabre loop.

I basically quarantined him down one end of the house and kept the girls with me at the other end. There was a great deal of vomiting in the first few days. He was either in the toilet or asleep in bed. When I did catch snippets of him he was scatty and delusional. At first I put it down to withdrawal though he insisted that he just had a stomach bug (because to admit withdrawal would have been to admit addiction). It then occurred to me that he was assuming carte blanche given that medical professionals and friends had recommended that he stay at the house. He wasn’t even bothering to conceal the manifestations of his addiction choices, though he did still attempt lies, because lying was not even second nature, it had become his first.

I woke up one night and heard some movement at the front end of the house. I snuck down the hallway and stood unnoticed outside the open bedroom door where Mort was sitting on the edge of the bed. He was leaning over with his fingertips touching the ground by his feet. He was trying to upright himself to sitting position. He would attempt to push off with his fingertips and then mutter something unintelligible to himself. It was like his fingers were caught in a web of chewing gum. He would look at his fingertips and then laugh and the process would begin again and again and again.

I stood voyeuristically for 20 minutes….he was clearly in some psychoactive “Garden of Earthly Delights”…..and I was in hell.

photo credit: Hieronymus Bosch

photo credit: Hieronymus Bosch

ps – seriously go and check out the third panel up close….sheer crazy


Roast with a drunk

8 04 2013

I spoke with Anne-Louise the next day. Unbeknownst to me she sent her husband to Mort’s hotel room to perform an ad hoc ‘intervention’. Besides her husband knowing Mort as friend, he is a brilliant doctor (may as well refer to him as “Doc”) and could talk to him about addiction and what courses of action were available. (Problem as we would discover soon enough is for any addict to commit to a way to deal with the problem, they do in fact have to admit that they actually have a problem. With all that had so far transpired, Mort had still not breathed any such admission.)

It had been about 2 months since Anne-Louise and Doc had come to our place for lunch one day with their kids. As a doctor, Doc had certainly seen a lot of gross and surprising stuff in his time. He was not prepared for the sight (and smell) of Mort.

He could barely fathom that Mort was the same person who hosted lunch just 2 months prior serving roast on a table laid with freshly pressed linen, who carried a witty conversation and conversed about the ways and woes of the world. This man had somehow transformed his 4 star hotel room into a den of squalor. There were various fast-food wrappers strewn about the room along with countless drained bottles. His own appearance and hygiene was worse than that of the fetid room. He had bruises and scratches on his arms and his jeans looked as though he had stripped them right off a homeless person.

Doc talked with Mort about an addiction workshop that a preeminent hospital was running in the upcoming weeks. He was going to get him on the fast track to attend as an out-patient.

Doc and Anne-Louise urged me to allow Mort to return to the house. They stressed the fact that there was no way that the workshops or ‘therapy’ would work if he returned to an empty hotel room by himself at the end of each day. He needed family and support around him to get him through it. How I gagged on this suggestion.

There was this one moment in particular when I was talking about it with another friend who had known Mort and I since our kids started kindergarten together. Emma is a gorgeous girl, she is a country girl and as such she says it like it is, never any bullshit or sugar-coating. I so respect that. So when I told her what Doc had recommended, I expected (and wanted) her to say, “fuck that”…she didn’t, tears rolled down her face and she said, “yup, you have to.”

The problem for me was that all our friends said the same. They were thinking of what they would do if their spouse was in the same scenario and they were clinging to the memory of the guy that they knew. I hadn’t seen that guy for a long, long time and I was not at all comfortable having this decaying vestige of a man in my house. But I did.

That made one of us that attempted to do the right thing.

The cleaners

1 04 2013

In Pulp Fiction, Harvey Keitel portrays Winston Wolfe, a ‘cleaner’. He would come in and clean up people’s messy situations. This is how I began to think of my parents….my cleaners. I would make the s.o.s call and they would be there almost before I had even hung up the phone. Mr. Wolfe’s jobs pertained to bloody body parts and splattered brains. While not as gruesome, the cleaning jobs for my parents were no less harrowing with a great degree of mental carnage. Grief, confusion and an abyss of sadness is what awaited them on this clean-up mission.

Mort was banished, again.

While my mom sat with me and Maddie, my dad took Clare into another room and had a deep, open and honest conversation. Talking about alcoholism, my dad’s experience with it, what Mort was doing and my top priority of protecting the girls. What could have been a heavy load for a nine-year old was clarity and comfort for Clare. She came bursting out of the room and fell upon me with a rib-crushing hug. She stroked my face as fresh tears swam on hers, apologizing over and over for being angry with me.

I have always told my girls that THE most important job in my life is to keep them safe and happy. That is what being a mother is about. Clare spent the rest of the night saying, “I understand, I understand and you are doing the best job ever.”

I knew with that, no matter what, that my girls and I would survive this….whatever this ‘crazy’ was.

photo credit: pulp fiction

photo credit: pulp fiction