Biographical Non-Fiction posted August 17, 2014 Chapters:  ...26 27 -28- 29... 


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Had the demons returned?

A chapter in the book My Almost Cashmere Life

Familiar Discontent and Demons

by maggieadams


While on our six-week sabbatical trip to Australia, Alan seemed to rid himself of his two demons: gambling and Lola. Though unvoiced, he seemed to make a conscious effort; he tried to love me. I appreciated the effort and returned love in kind.

Maybe it had never been love so much as knowledge, or time, or something impossible to kill---the cockroach of emotions. I knew all his annoying habits, and he knew mine. I lived alongside this person for over thirty years, and we had created and experienced life together as one. He'd seen me at my highest point and my lowest with all the imperfections. I was not myself, but half of a marriage. How could I go on if he were gone? Can somebody be half of a person?

That was my inexplicable state of mind upon our return from Australia. The reality of life did not go away just because we did. The familiar discontent began to grow before we touched down on the runway. The demons demanded attention. Though I opted not to know about one, I accepted and embraced the other. If gambling was the only salvo, the only 'demon' to take up space in his brain, so be it. "If you can't lick 'em, join 'em." Gambling was like spackle, filling the cracks and broken bits of our uneasy existence.

Our sabbatical continued with a trip via Walla Walla, through Reno, ending at our destination of Palo Alto where the Oregon Ducks played a season opener against the Stanford Cardinal. Our daughter, Paxton, was joining us for a week long journey---a road trip.

One of the saddest stories of my journey, one that I beat myself up about, pertains to the treatment of my dear, sweet dad, whom we visited for the first time since my mother had passed away, seven months before. The fact that we were including a visit to Walla Walla thrilled me; I had been away far too long.

We pulled up to Dad's assisted living apartments, and he met us in the hallway, which smelled of Pine Sol and too much potpourri.  We hugged.

"Come on, Dad, this'll be fun."

He smiled.

We had plans to play golf at the Walla Walla Country Club---his club and his treat. Alan was antsy and rushed him, hurrying him on every shot. I did nothing. Hindsight gives me fits, for our treatment befuddled him, bordering on elder abuse. The man was eighty-six years of age in the early stages of dementia (I didn't know this at the time, but would soon realize how much he had failed since my mom's death.) At dinner that evening in the club dining room, Alan and my brother, who had joined us, carried on a sports conversation, the talk of two macho men. Setting his martini down, my dad looked at them through his thick glasses. "Talk to me. Don't I matter?"

Again, I did nothing but smile at him, amused how he still had three onions and no olives in his martini.

We were getting an early start in the morning, so we dropped Dad back at his place. "Paxton, will you take Papa in?  Love you, Dad."

Paxton held my dad's arm as they walked into his home. She is the only one who shows tenderness.  What is wrong with me?  Very painful memories, very painful.  Who were we, high and mighty on our sabbatical, who didn't have much time for a lonely old man?

The drive from Walla Walla to the southeastern corner of Oregon is high desert and desolate. Much of the terrain looks like a moonscape. We drove for miles without seeing a car, and we had no cell coverage. As we crossed over the Oregon/Nevada state line, a small line of casinos stood before us like incongruous sentinels of the desert edge. When we walked into the dimly lit casino, the dealer jumped out of her chair and snubbed out her cigarette.  The stained carpet crunched under our feet and dust from all the gold trinkets, like slot-machine key chains, tickled our noses.  Alan pivoted, gave us a 'thumbs-down' sign, and we walked back out into the scorching desert heat.  We stretched our legs, grabbed an ice cream cone and off we drove.

We arrived in Reno that evening. Reno has an inferiority complex because it's not Las Vegas, so it tries hard. It really does. It has a sign in the middle of Main: "Welcome to the Biggest Little City in the World."  The gambling casinos, the restaurants and the shows are thriving. Alan was in heaven, gambling at the VIP tables for two solid nights. I could barely stand to watch his addictive personality reappear---the waste, the fervor---he fondled his tall stack of chips like a man with his new wife on their honeymoon.  In order to sleep a few hours, he needed plenty of Ambien and plenty of alcohol.  I stayed silent.

We drove west from Reno and arrived in Palo Alto before game time. I can't remember who won or if it was an exciting game. I was preoccupied with my thoughts, and didn't know then what I wanted, but the ache for it was palpable as a beating heart.  I sat on the cold bleachers where I retreated to my inner sanctum. I felt time passing and life being postponed. How had I let things get as bad as they'd gotten?

I was still clinging hard to the notion that my life was like a well-worn cashmere sweater, soft and comfortable---that it fit me perfectly, and I didn't need to change. Jeez, I had a lawyer husband, two unique daughters, material comfort...who am I to complain? So, he gambles too much. Our house sat on an acre overlooking the Willamette River, and I played tennis at an exclusive club four to five times a week. I was loved by two dogs who thought I hung the moon, and three cats who couldn't care less. Yes, I had a rainbow of cashmere sweaters and a pot of elusive gold, waiting at the end, didn't I?

We returned home, and Alan returned to work. I know the other demon showed up, but I ignored the tell-tale signs. The nagging suspicions, like an unraveling sweater, gnawed through my "almost perfect life". I felt overwhelmed, so I carried on as the dutiful wife.

In moments of intense disappointment and stress, we tend to experience the world in global terms. "Always. Never." But life is rarely about absolutes; it's usually about shades of grey...was that okay? Am I okay being half of a person?
 


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