“Come on dad, hurry up, I really gotta pee”, “Can you use the bathroom downstairs please Ross?”, “No, I can’t dad, Delia is in there.” Ah hell, I can barely handle this, and I don’t think I can even shave this morning. “Dad, come on please,” “O.K., O.K., I’ll be out in minute Ross.”
My name is Grissom Miller, and I have two children – a boy and a girl, and one helluva a hangover. Karen, my wife, died five and a half months ago – she was 36. She died of an aneurism in her sleep. At least it was painless and peaceful. Our ten-year-old boy, Ross, knows his mother will not be around, but he cannot really comprehend fully his loss, nor do I blame him. On the other hand, our sweet little girl Sasha, who is four years old… well … she is four.
After relenting the upstairs bathroom, or the lav’ as Delia likes to call it – I guess that is short for lavatory, I made my way downstairs to the kitchen to have a quick chat with Delia. “Delia, yah, you too, good morning, could you please make sure they both eat their breakfast, and then take Ross to his school? You can use the Esplanade today. I’m going back upstairs to the master bedroom, and I don’t want to be disturbed, so make sure the messaging service gets all the calls forwarded to them as well,” “That’ll be no trouble at all Mr. Miller, will you be needing anything from the LDB today?” Delia always asked me that question; she knew I was going through a tough time. I looked at Delia, and wished I was twenty years younger, and not so in love with my dead wife, but things are what they are, “Yes, I would like you to pick-up my usual,” my usual being two bottles of Alberta Vodka, and two cases of VB, and one bottle each of Mondavi Chardonnay, and Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Wines. I have always been a big John Lennon fan, and I began taking on the point of view that I would do what ever it takes me to get through the night and day. One afternoon, about three or five and a half weeks ago, Delia started a conversation with me, and began to talk to me about what might be happening to my family if I kept drinking the way that the drinking was starting to head, but I stopped her short, and told her to never speak of it again. Classic denial I guess.
I work as a contractor. Actually, I started an engineering company that operated in contracting and construction. Today, I am one of three partners in Miller Engineering Company. Miller Engineering is a successful medium-sized firm with almost 180 employees that are recruits from an assortment of various trades – from our Design department, or the Legal department, to on-site caterers and Port-A-John transporters. When my partners in the office heard about my wife’s sudden death, they urged me to, “Take all the time you need. The company isn’t going anywhere, and it’ll all be here when you get back Gris.” So, for the last five and a half months I have been taking care of my children, and things at home.
The first month or two became so trying that I hired an au pair. Delia Smith, twenty-two, is from
on a work visa, and she
really loves Ross and Sasha. Delia takes amazing care of them when I am not
around, which is becoming increasingly more frequent. England
I cannot get the thought of Karen out of my mind. She is my last thought when I fall asleep, and my first thought when I open my eyes in the morning. After the fog of sleep clears, I am alone again, sitting alone in our bedroom fingering through the photo albums, or sitting at the computer staring at the hundreds of pictures we burned together onto DVD. There are other times when I will just sit picking and plucking numbly, aimlessly, at one of my four guitars that I have sitting next to our computer, in our bedroom. I find that I am not even interested in the Blues anymore.
I stopped drinking socially. I found that two or three drinks helped me fall asleep; I slept more soundly, and when I woke, I felt refreshed. In the mornings, I would see Ross off to school, and I would spend time with my Sasha reading, playing a game, or we would watch her favorite morning T.V. together. My little girl takes after her old man because one of her favorite shows is “Bob the Builder”. On the weekends, I would usually have a game of footy out in the backyard with Ross. He really loves the game, and all bias aside, I really think that he has a real talent for the game. I love watching him play during regular league season play. Nevertheless, I honestly don’t think that I have played soccer with Ross more than eight or ten times since Karen died.
I have my moments when I feel that I am losing my grip. The grip that I have on myself, the grip that I have as a father, and the grip that I think I used to have with reality in general. I catch glimpses of Karen out of the corner of my eye all the time. She strides across the background until I look up, or over, or across. It can be nothing else but the background that sits in my grief.
At first, I did not even notice how I was helping myself to a couple of drinks earlier, or how they went from a couple to a few before bed. It just seemed to happen. This change in ‘habit’ also led to me staying up later and later. Now, I was thinking of Karen in these quietest moments the way I would spend my mornings remembering her, and I was going to bed sadder, and sadder, just as alone as when I had that first drink that evening. There have been some nights where I have gone to bed staring at the ceiling, and being so angry that she left me – abandoned me. I spend hours staring, occasionally muttering to myself at what a bitch; what a fucking trollop she was for doing this to me – to our family. I was angry that she had abandoned me, and my children – our children. My 12 years of utter devotion were all gone, and were, day by day, hour after hour, becoming more and more a memory. Why couldn’t the Sun become a Red Giant now and swallow this Earth, and all the pain that it contained? Other nights, I would pick up my Rotring, and my little book ‘o’ stuff I use for writing, and write about her;
BLUE SKIES UP ABOVE
SHINING WITH STRONGEST LOVE
COME DOWN AND TALK TO ME
FREEDOM IS WHAT I FEEL
VISIONS IN MY BED
WITH YOU SO FAR
THIS SPACE BETWEEN
I OUGHTTA KNOW
YESTERDAY, I SAW THE WORLD FLY BY
I SAW INTENTION THE MOTHER OF INVENTION
LIKE REVENGE IN YOUR EYES
LIKE THE LOVE FROM A CHEAP RED WINE
THE BITTER ACHE WAS THE CANDLE FLAME
WAS IT MY DISGUST OR YOUR SHAME
THAT COULDN’T MAKE YOU STAY
AND SEE MY EYES, AND WATCH THEM SELL
YEARS TO THE GROUND FOR YOUR LOVE
OOOOOHHHH, WHAT A BLUE AFTERNOON
BUT ALL I GOTTA SAY
YOU STAYED, YAH, LONG ENOUGH
TO CHANGE THE WEATHER
Eventually, I was not even getting up in the mornings, and, half awake – half-pissed, I think I saw … no, I would see my little girl standing at the side of my bed, just standing, standing and staring at me with her bright Irish green eyes asking me, “Do you want to play with me today daddy?”
This night, like the too many that have already run their course; I’ll start by sitting down in front of our bedroom’s stereo. With some Vodka by who or whatever I told Delia to grab for me earlier, and pretty much naked, start my ritual listening of U2’s One. With the stereo set on repeat, One will play over, and over, and over, until I “fall asleep” on the rug in front of the speakers, with my Fender La Brea in Karen’s spot on the bed. It’s pretty much a ritual, and for better or worse, and for now, and selfishly, gets me through the night and day. It is my little ritual.