“Sir, Did the Rangers get ahold of you?”
Me, stupefied, “Did the Rangers get ahold of me? Um, no, they didn’t.”
“We’ve been trying to get ahold of everyone who rented a cabin, we have a problem, stinkbugs,” the kind woman with curly salt and sandy hair said as she motioned around the cabin that serves as the check-in station at the state park where I’d rented a rustic cabin for the weekend. The walls had many, but not an over abundance of, stink bugs crawling around.
I thought for a moment. Maybe they’d left a message on my house phone, which I never check and want to eliminate but my wife insists that we need one. There are some battles that aren’t worth fighting.
“You can have a look at the cabin. I’ve cleaned it twice today and we bug bombed it yesterday, but I don’t think you’ll want to stay.”
We drove to the cabin and I took one look inside and knew we weren’t staying. The place was crawling with bugs, hundreds of them on the window alone. It was already 6:30 and I was exhausted having spent most of the day preparing for the trip. My son took the news better than expected, but I was miserable.
We went into the nearest town and had dinner. The server asked for drink orders, my son asked for a Shirley Temple and my wife asked for her customary Cranberry and Club soda. I hesitated. I was thinking about whether I wanted club soda or iced tea when the server asked, “would you like to see our tap list, sir?”
I hesitated again, letting the words register. I didn’t really want a beer, I wanted to have a smart ass retort, something like, “I don’t think you have enough insurance,” or “I’d like to get home for Christmas,” but none came. And briefly, I felt awkward before I ordered my iced tea.
Perhaps sensing the moment, my son asked, “Dad, who convinced you to get sober?” after the server left the table.
“Why’d you want to get sober?” he asked.
“Because, well, because I wasn’t ready to die.”
There was a brief look of real concern on his face and I assured him that I hadn’t been in imminent danger, but that if I’d continued to drink the way I was I would surely have died from it.
Relief shown on his face, as he accepted that simple answer as a nine year old will do.
The weekend didn’t turn out as I’d planned. It was supposed to be an escape to nature. An escape to the country. A weekend of hiking, cooking over fires, sleeping in sleeping bags, seeing wildlife, and not being too close to other people. This was the way I’d envisioned the second anniversary of my sobriety date. But it wasn’t meant to be.
We made the best of it. On Saturday, I looked for another site where we could stay with our tent, but my son wasn’t really into getting in the car and driving for an interminable distance (anything more than 15 minutes) to sleep only one night in the tent. So I rebooked for a few weeks out.
My sobriety date coincides with my niece’s birthday and so I called the family to see what they were doing. Mom said that there would be cake. That was enough for me.
We still wanted to get outside and so we decided to head to Ladew Topiary Gardens in Jarretsville, MD for the afternoon before going to my brother’s for dinner. Mr. Grey kvetched, but went along with the plan, because when you’re nearly ten you do what you parents tell you to do.
Ladew was lovely. The grounds are broken up into formal topiary gardens as well as less formal meadows of wildflowers. It being late September, the wildflowers are starting to die, withering and turning brown. There is a certain smell that accompanies the late summer as it bleeds into early autumn that reminds me of home. Not the home I’m wishing to escape so often, but home where I grew up. The country.
I’ve been thinking a lot about moving lately. There is something that just doesn’t sit right about where I currently live. Part of it, I think, is that this house is the place were my drinking went off the rails. Every day is a reminder of what went wrong. Any time my neighbors have people over, I feel like I’m either missing out or I get angry at myself for how I behaved up until two years ago.
I know I shouldn’t do this. I know that there were underlying reasons why I sought the solace of inebriation. I know that it has nothing to do with geography, and yet, I yearn to escape.
I realized this morning, as I was taking a walk in my local park, Kinder Farm Park, that I’ve lived in my house longer than any other place in my entire life. We’ve been here twelve years. It is beginning to feel like an eternity. The only other place that I lived nearly this long was my home in Taneytown, MD, and that was only for 9 years.
So maybe it’s just time. Maybe its not about escaping, maybe I’m just a rambler who’s been stuck in one place for too long. I don’t know the answers.
But I do know this, even if I wasn’t able to escape and celebrate my two year sobriety anniversary, I’ve come a long way in two years. And as I said to a friend on Saturday, “things are markedly better now, and, well, they weren’t so good before.”
And that, is what recovery is all about.