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.




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.

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…

Decidedly unpleasant

5 08 2014

A series of things happened over the next few days. Most of them decidedly unpleasant.

The girls and I went to the local cattery and picked out two of the furriest cats that they had, brought them home and started loving them instantly. To this day I am not sure which way the love is the deepest, cats to the girls or girls to the cats. Either way, it is fabulous. (majorly pleasant thing…it goes downhill from here).

First decidedly unpleasant thing and one that I knew was coming but had me hyperventilating anyway, no salary payment came in that month. Frankly I was stunned that it had held out as long as it did, but it was official now, no household income.

The next round of decidedly unpleasant came from several phone calls to close friends and family in Mort’s home country.

The most heart wrenching to his best friend (and best man at our wedding), Bob, and his divine wife, Tanya, whom I had also developed a close relationship with. I did not hold back on the gritty details. Bob’s comments oscillated between “I can’t believe it”, and “I don’t understand”. Two perfectly valid feelings from someone who had been Mort’s best friend since the fifth grade. Bob was recalling snippets of times that they would get together and party throughout the years. Sure everyone has their moments of stupid drunken antics in their twenties/thirties but he could not fathom that this had gone past the frivolous (often short-lived and long regretted) moments of intoxication into the deep dark place of losing your grip on reality….and your life. Tanya was on the other line and she sobbed….non-stop. It was like a sound track to the conversation. Every now and then she would interject with “I am so sorry”. She cried for me, she cried for Mort, but I think most of all, as a mother she cried for my girls.

While that conversation left me empty and exhausted, the next one left me angry and hard. The next call was with his father. I had not spoken with him over the last few months. I had left the management of the trickle of information to Linda who knew how best to deal with him.

While I gave him an update on Mort’s admission to the rehab he interrupted to say that he heard that I had gotten cats. Knowing that Mort was horribly allergic to cats he took this to mean that Mort was not coming back to the house. Got that right. (It also cued me that Mort had been phoning him from the rehab centre, no doubt launching his twisted version of the tale). Mort’s father is also allergic to cats and I could tell by his tone that he somehow took it as a personal affront that I would put cats in my home.

The call was lengthy, slippery and twisted. I felt like a snake charmer, trying to gently coax him though I couldn’t read his reactions or motives. I was trying to be calm with him, soothe him but he wanted to strike….to blame someone…someone had to take his venom and anger. The final lunge came when he stated that Maddie and Clare would be removed from his will (mind you we had never seen a penny of this fortune). Well sure, that made sense, clearly this was all their fault right?