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.



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:

I am sure this was his mental self image: photo credit:

this is what was really going on: photo credit:

this is what was really going on: photo credit:

Ugly curtains

11 08 2014

After the first few days in the Rehab, Mort was allowed to have visitors. All the husbands of our schoolie friends visited him several times. There was an alarming similarity in the recount of their visits and the line of conversation. Firstly Mort talked incessantly about the minutia of things. Discussing in detail the meal that he was served at breakfast and the watercolour class that he did. One of his favourite topics was to prattle on about how hideous the décor was, especially the garish curtains. Given his surroundings, it was beyond astounding to all that he could put so much thought into the window furnishings.

The second thing that was prevalent in all the visits was the fact that he was fixated with the notion that I would take him back. He would pose the questions aloud, almost as an affirmation to himself, “Ripley will take me back won’t she….Do you think there is a chance for me and Ripley….Maybe you could talk to her and tell her to take me back.” Tied in with this obsession was the clear lack of any sort of acknowledgment of Maddie and Clare; how they were feeling, how they were coping….nothing. This was heart breaking to the other fathers who have tremendous relationships with their children. Even when they tried to steer the conversation to the girls mentioning their school or sport, he would not even flinch and the conversation would snap back to me or the ugly curtains.

And therein the most obvious omission of topic of conversation was the fact that he was in Rehab because he was an alcoholic. He never once acknowledged that to anyone.


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?


10 06 2014

The next part of the process was the check-in with the nurse who went through the detailed paperwork for admission. When Mort was asked for his address details he started to rattle off the house address, I interrupted and corrected ‘no fixed address’. He looked at me like a wounded dog, the nurse wrote in my response with ever the lightest knowing smirk, she’d seen it a million times.

She then went to great lengths to state, restate and reiterate the ‘zero tolerance’ policy with alcohol in the rehab facility. She asked in 10 different ways if he had any alcohol on him (besides remnants still sloshing through his system). I looked at his leg cast and thought luckily he couldn’t fit a bottle of vodka in there. I was asked to take his backpack of possessions away as they would set him up with everything he needed, clothing, toiletries etc. As everything was covered I was also told to take his wallet to avoid theft. This is when he started to flinch and became very, very antsy. He became fixated on having his wallet even as the nurse and Anne-Louise assured him there was no need for it. He kept harping on about it, so the session finished with me exiting the room with his soiled bag filled with god knows what, clutching his wallet and waving good-bye with my middle finger.

When I got home, I should have just thrown the backpack containing all his worldly belongings straight into the bin. Of course morbid curiosity got the better of me. The unmistakable smell of vomit wafted from the bag when I opened it. I got a ruler and poked through the unfamiliar clothes. There were pages of scrawled notes, barely legible; lots of numbers, and random words with no cohesion like hippy poetry or song lyrics.

After chucking the bag and all the contents into the bin, I went through his wallet. There wasn’t much in it except one little nugget, a receipt for a hip flask purchased the previous day.

Dinner is served

27 04 2014

We were ushered in to have the admission consultation with the doctor. There were three chairs facing his desk and as Mort hobbled in and took the closest, I started to walk to the chair the furthest away, but Anne-Louise guided my elbow to the middle chair.

The doctor appeared unperturbed by the fetid state of Mort, attempting to balance his crutches against the chair; the concerned friend perched on the edge of the seat with clasped hands; and the wife, clenched and folded into herself in complete silence, except the harsh, gnashing, grinding of her teeth. Given where we were, it was undoubtedly a tableau the doctor would have seen a thousand times over.

The discussion/interview/probe went something along the lines of Anne-Louise giving the background narrative of her and Doc’s relationship with Mort and me for 9 years, my detailed run-down of various events leading us to where we were and Mort sitting there saying “I don’t know” or a dismissive shrug to every question that was asked of him as to ‘why’.

Here we were in this bubble all about Mort, his full moment in the spotlight, a professional mediator, a long-time friend offering support, his chance to dig deep for introspective ownership and responsibility and all he could come up with was “I don’t know” over and over.

It was at this point that I found myself sitting there thinking about what I was going to cook the girls for dinner. In the midst of all this shit, it was a very clear moment of the grander scheme of things. Ingredients must be purchased, dinner must be cooked and happy upbeat conversation must be had.

After a moment of silence with the doctor scribbling some notes and the three of us all avoiding eye contact I was asked if I had any last comments. “Yep, I’m making Chicken Tetrazzini, with extra parmesan….they love it.”