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.

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

Kudos Universe

4 10 2014

When Anne-Louise dropped me home I went straight in to start job scanning on the SEEK website. I had been home for all of five minutes when I got a phone call on the home line. It was a representative from my bank apologising that the phone call had been cut-off talking with Mort and was he keen to pursue the full transfer of funds from the foreign bank account.

I remember the beat of silence as I watched for one lingering moment a dust mote dancing in a stream of light while I pressed the phone so hard to my ear that I could hear my heart beat echoed. “Oh, thank you for the call, this is his wife Ripley (the only moment in the last few months that I would readily claim that), and we have discussed it and have decided not to proceed with the transfer….thanks so much for all your assistance.”

I hung up and unleashed a Banshee scream, blowing the dust mote (and its surrounding friends) into obliteration. My brain was on fire, and my fingers pounded the keyboard flying from the SEEK website to the online access to the foreign account where we had accumulated a sizeable savings specifically for the girls education….it was still there….but then it was gone.

Fortunately my fingers were faster than his brain…..I swept the account before he could. (with the exception of a chunk that I couldn’t get as it surpassed the daily transfer limit).

After verifying three times that the funds were secure I sat back in the chair and put up a silent thanks to the Universe (admittedly it was ensconced in a bunch of ‘fucks’) …the Universe had looked out for me again. If the phone call had not severed between Mort and the bank I would not have known what was going on….just as the Universe had intervened for me to find out about the seedy affairs of the Edgar Suit.

I had to refocus my efforts on the SEEK website and hope beyond hope that the Universe would make it a hat trick…

Running on empty

22 09 2014

Sometime that week I got a call from Doc saying that Mort had contacted him to look at an injury. He had broken his collar-bone in a drunken fall. He didn’t actually tell Doc it was a drunken fall….no it was an oddly placed cord of a table lamp that caught him unawares.

Anne-Louise was determined to have one more stab at talking with Mort. Somehow we tracked him down to some serviced apartments, at $450 a night. His options for lodging were getting less (and more expensive) as several of the previous, cheaper hotels had outright banned him.

We went to the reception and again Anne-Louise did the talking while I just cringed into myself. The lady behind reception would not let us through the gate unannounced and there was no answer from his suite. The lady gave me a painful look and attempted to conceal a look of surprise that there was a wife….not one that was openly admitting it however. I was frankly both relieved and delighted to be tuned away. As we walked out of the office we almost ran into Mort hobbling his way up the office path…seeing us he looked neither relieved or delighted…..his expression simply said “oh fuck”.

He had lost a ton of weight. His jeans were sagging off him and as he had one arm in a sling and the other propping a crutch (still had foot in a cast) it was morbidly comical watching him try and hike up his pants. His skin was grey and papery and his eyes jaundiced.

Once inside his suite Anne-Louise was talking while I was taking in the scene of debris; empty vodka bottles, remnants of pizza crusts, and the bedding sheets in various piles. Opening up the freezer there were three giant vodka bottles ready to be called into service.

There was a conversation about money, the fact that I had untangled our accounts and he wasn’t to have access to our savings. He still had funds in his account and that was it. At no stage did he mention the girls or acknowledge the empty bottles and who sucked them dry. His brain, his heart, his soul were as empty as those bottles…..and paying $450 a night for accommodation, as empty as his bank account was soon to be.

photo credit:

photo credit:

To whom it may concern

7 09 2014

The weekend brought the most joyous respite from all the crap. My girls went to my parents house and I went away for the weekend with two of the schoolie couples who had been going through the whole drama with me. We went to see Michael Buble play in an open air concert at a winery (say what you want about his music but the guy was funny as shit and the perfect tonic for all ailments). We had an initial debrief on all that had been happening and then we let it go. We ate, we drank (too much, yes a little ironic), we danced and we laughed….a lot! It was bliss.

I didn’t bother to answer my phone unless it was my parents. So I watched as the counter clocked up 47 calls from Mort over the weekend. The messages were the usual, ranging from begging, to ranting, to heavy breathing….none particularly coherent.

Returning home on the Monday, the memories of a fabulous weekend quickly withered as I sat staring at two little letters on a blank screen….CV (questioning myself if it was even called a CV anymore…was it a resume?). After many of years of being a stay-at-home mum I was going to have to get back into the workforce and in a very serious way. No income, certainly none in the foreseeable future in terms of child support, and already starting to chew through the savings…for the second time in a week I started to hyperventilate.

Edward Scissorhands

19 08 2014

That was the night of the “Great Photo Massacre”. With the girls well asleep, I sat in the middle of my king-sized bed, surrounded by photo albums, and with the dexterous hands of a surgeon, armed with my steel bladed scissors I began the surgical removal of Mort.

I did make the decision not to violate the girls visual memories of him, choosing not to destroy the photos of him from when they were born. I thought that was crossing the line and might be something that would come back to bite me later. The way things were going these photos would be the only memory that they had of him and they could make their own decisions to keep or destroy when they got older. (*)

Anything pre-children however, that was my space, my relationship and my visual reminders.

Michelle called me in the middle of the operation and when I told her that I was chopping up old photos she said, “oh my god don’t do that, you looked fabulous.” I quickly reassured her, “Oh, don’t worry, I’m not cutting the whole photo up, I’m just chopping him out.”

At the end of the three-hour frenzy there lay one pile with hundreds of photos with neat little holes in them, in another pile were the amputated pieces of Mort. I swept up the body parts and put them in a plastic bag with the remnants of the kitty litter box. Tying up the bag the last thing I saw was hundreds of his severed little faces looking up while sitting on top of nuggets of cat shit. It was a true Kodak moment.

(*) I converted some VHS to DVD’s of when the girls were young. Watching the footage you can see in the early stages of the montage how Mort was holding the camera, but then over the years he just became a pair of pyjama pants that wandered through the background every now and then. He had amputated himself from his life.