They Won

This is the kind of story that never gets old.

Daddy knew he needed to make a change.

To get better.

To save his life and ours.

He moved all of us to a whole new life in another state. Far away from the drinking binges and the fighting and the rehab centers that didn’t work. Far away from what happened and what was……..to something good and better.

The convoy to our fresh start rolled out one early summer morning in 1982. As a preteen I was probably less annoyed than most kids my age would have been. I knew I’d miss my friends but I was ready for something better. The hope of a calmer life, a different house, and a new school filled my heart. Moving day was a good day.

My sisters and I weren’t the only ones at a new school. Part of Dad’s new life included seminary and he began the night courses eagerly. He took careful notes in class and squeezed study time in when he could.

I can’t remember the day or the month or the season, but before the end of the first year Dad started drinking again.

Mom was devastated. She never told me that, but I know. Dad was too. When you’re a kid you have no idea what your parents are going through. Then you grow up and endure your own heartaches and one day, without meaning to, you feel the pain of your mom’s fear or the torment of your dad’s struggle with alcohol.

For the next decade Daddy lost the battle with alcohol over and over and over again.

Ten years.

Ten more years of the chaos and violence. Ten more years of tears and sorrow. Regretting the move, resenting the losses. Ten more years of emergency room visits and halfway houses. Ten more years of job changes and the financial strain and moving from house to house.

I’m sure Daddy remembered the day he took his last drink. He may have counted the days but he never told us. After about a year of him not drinking……we realized he wasn’t drinking. Then it was two years, then five. Ten years sober, then 20 years.

Daddy was sober for almost 23 years when he passed away in 2014.

Twenty three years of healing and restored relationships. Twenty three years of good memories. Twenty three years of the sweetest grace.

They won. Daddy and Mom pressed through and marched on. They fought the good fight and fought with each other. They messed up but moved forward. There were days they wanted to but they didn’t give up.

The long view is what got them through. The good days helped them see beyond the bad ones. When everything was falling apart they believed it could all come together. Love does that. It sees longer and deeper and wider. So my parents kept going. One day at a time. And they won.

The last time Daddy and Mom were face to face and held each others’ hands they weren’t thinking of the hard years. They were thankful for the moment and all the years that got them there.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash.

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Against the Odds

My parents’ story is an “against the odds” kind of story. They were like the rest of us, trying to make it the best they knew how. Learning to make a life, raise kids, work their jobs, and have fun while doing it. They got it right sometimes but they got it wrong other times.

I don’t hold the wrong parts against them.

We’re all learning as we go. Not one of us has it all figured out. Still we wake up each day, try again, and maybe do better than we did yesterday. But we don’t give up and we don’t give in to the idea that it will never change or that we’ll never learn. We keep at it. Sure we go through trials, we have pain and sorrow and bad things happen. But by the grace of God we make do with what we’ve learned so far.

And we forgive. Then our hearts are softened and all of the sudden we realize we see people differently. Even the ones that caused the pain.

Because you love people better when your heart is softer. And you’re better prepared for the next thing life throws at you. You’ve learned how to weep and laugh and do it with those who are weeping and laughing.

And at the end of your days, someone will say your story is an “against the odds” kind of story.

It’s funny: I always imagined when I was a kid that adults had some kind of inner toolbox full of shiny tools: the saw of discernment, the hammer of wisdom, and sandpaper of patience. But then when I grew up I found that life handed you these rusty bent old tools-friendships, prayer, conscience, honesty-and said ‘do the best you can with these, they will have to do’. And mostly, against all odds, they do.

                                                                              Anne Lamott

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