Today is the birthday of one of my granddaughters, let’s call her Serenity. She came along unexpectantly. As she was raised in a single parent household, I had the opportunity to spend a good bit of time with her. I picked her up after daycare, routinely babysat, and developed a strong bond with her early on. She has taught me a lot over the years:
- I took her to the doctor for her one-year-old shots, which completely violated my rules of grandparenting – to cause no pain or displeasure. When I handed her over to the doctor and she got stuck with the needles she looked at me like the traitor I was. But I also found that a trip to Toys R Us after was able to resolve any long-term resentment.
- I was raised in a violent household where physical abuse was the norm. I recollect well as an 18-year-old entering college, while drinking beer in the university pool hall, a freshman psychology major informed me that I would of course abuse children too. I was terrified of the possibility and it always stayed in the back of mind. One day when Serenity was about two, as she took a nap, I stared at her and realized there was no way I could ever hit a child, and that fear was removed forever.
- When Serenity was four, she was diagnosed with leukemia. We got the call at the start of what I had earlier proclaimed to my wife would be our most fun vacation ever – taking backroads along the Mississippi River from Lake Itasca in Minnesota down to New Orleans. After getting the news in Bemidji, Minnesota, our 24-hour drive back to Jackson, Mississippi was mostly silent. When we got to the hospital the room was filled with family and friends. Serenity asked me if I would take her out of the room so she could show me how she rode in the plastic cars through the hallways of children’s floor. My job was to be certain to keep her IV stand in pace with the car as she sped around the corridor, ala the Flintstone’s foot power method. After a couple of laps we stopped by her room and she parked the car. She started to get out of her car, and with a somewhat embarrassed look, said her back hurt too much and she could not get up and asked if I would pick her up and carry her to her bed. That 30-seconds of time is forever etched in my brain.
- For the next several years we spent a great deal more time together. She often could not be in crowds depending on her “counts” of blood cells. A favorite memory was that she was particularly fond of my focaccia bread that we would take out to the Natchez Trace Parkway and eat. It was on the Natchez Trace that I rode my first “Century Ride” for some sort of cancer fundraiser in her honor.
Today Serenity turns 16, in remission from her leukemia. We now live in different cities and see each other less, but still have a strong bond.
What does all of this have to do with recovery?
- Were I not sober, I never would have had the wherewithal or likely even the desire to be a person in Serenity’s life. I would still be racked by the conflicts of my own physical abuse as a child, waiting for that behavior to be unleashed at some point – it never has, and never will.
- Were I not sober, I would have been to pre-occupied with my addiction to even be a presence in the life of someone else in need.
- Were I not sober, I never would have met Serenity’s grandmother and mother, and become a part of that family.
- Were I not sober, I would never have been trusted to have a child in the car with me. Though I somehow avoided ever getting a DUI, I drove drunk on a very regular basis.
- This list goes on.
Serenity is a true gift of my life in recovery for which I am grateful.