Dinner And A Sad Carnation

I was seeing Papa Ray through this hazy smoke, just like the cabin that day. To me, he seemed like a rock and I’m sure to him I was jello, always getting into binds and he would arrive just in the nick of time, air freshener in hand. For someone like myself, independent, living life, making her own mistakes, hiding behind no one, it felt… entertaining to have someone there guarding me against myself. But of course, once the smoke lifts there is clarity, unless you want to live your life with blinders. And that I could not do.

I tired of the ‘stories’. These are the wild tales all alcoholics have in their past. The partying, the blackouts, the living life on the edge, always dipping themselves and their families into chaos. He spoke of those times as one would speak of a love lost. His AA family became members of that loss. I get it. I support it. Anything that keeps men and women from destruction, I’m for it. I just don’t think I can be the wife of someone who belongs in that past. The sadness when speaking of times in the pub—the longing for those days—became tedious.

“I know, I know,” Papa Ray would suddenly stop mid-story and put his face in his hands. “Tell the story to the end…” he’d lecture himself.

I could see the pained expression mar his face and I knew he was recalling what happened after the fun ended. He never wanted to go into those stories with me. He didn’t have to. In the moment where he’d see his alcoholism was a disease, I would silently thank his AA buddies for helping him.

On Christmas Eve I waited for him with a traditional Tourtiere pie bubbling in the oven. This is a French Canadian dish that my family always made and served the night before Christmas. The tree lights twinkled and the snow fell softly outside. I lived my own little daydream, and yet, I was missing one element—him. Ray had gone to town, visiting the pubs with his longtime drinking pal, Earl. Earl still drank and always spent Christmas week with Papa Ray.

“He’s going to bring his own booze. Don’t worry. He’s a good guy and you’ll hardly know he’s around.”

“And he spends the whole week here?” I asked with dismay.

“This is what we always do, Adrienne. It’s a tradition.”

“But is that such a good thing for you, Papa Ray? Doesn’t being around a drinker and going to bars make you want to drink?”

Papa Ray paused, deep in thought.

“I know I shouldn’t. My pals in AA would give me hell for it and tell me they don’t like to see me in harm’s way. But, what can I do? The poor guy has nowhere else to go. And besides, it’s Christmas.”

I suspected that Papa Ray couldn’t snip the last connection to his drinking days. With Earl he’d mingle with the old crowd, what was left of it, and still feel a smidgeon of the life he was forced to leave.

And so I waited. The clock chimed eight o’clock. My cell rang.

“Hey, how’s it going, eh?”

“I’m waiting and I’m getting impatient.”

“Oh, sweetie, don’t be. We’re just going to make one more stop and then we’ll be home.”

“You know, don’t rush. Stay out all night if you like, Ray. I think I’m going to just pack up and go on home.”

“Oh, come on! Don’t do that, baby. We’ll come home right away. Don’t do this. Please stay there,” he pleaded.

I relented.

“Okay. But I want you to stop and pick up that Christmas table arrangement. Choose something nice. They have them at Safeway and they usually have candles and they aren’t cheap. But, I want one. It’s my tradition and it’s too slippery out there for me to go now.”

“You got it, honey. We’re leaving as soon as Earl finishes his drink.”

The two of them arrived an hour later, stomping their boots at the door and shaking the snow off their heads. I was introduced to Earl, who seemed like a nice enough guy, holding onto his brown paper bag which I assumed held his preferred drink. Papa Ray held out a bouquet of brown-edged, pink carnations. I looked at him questioningly.

“Those table arrangements were so expensive, weren’t they, Earl?” Earl nodded his head. “So I got you these. We can do something with them, don’t you think?”

I looked at the wilted, tired carnations. They were the saddest flowers I’d ever seen. Pink carnations. I resisted the urge to tell him that the best I could do for them, would be to throw them in the trash.

(to be continued…xxx)

 

Read Adrienne’s last installment here. Dinner And A Sad Carnation © 2011 Adrienne S Moody. Read the latest Adrienne adventure in romance on Now.readthisplease.

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