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    Monday, January 02, 2006

    Working for T

    I went back to work today even though today was considered a holiday. That's the way small business works. I didn't mind though because I was able to accomplish quite a bit since the phone didn't ring all day.

    I have mentioned before that I work for my stepfather (T).
    Working for him has been interesting. I have always done the book keeping for the business but started working production on an as needed basis almost 4 years ago. He has been teaching me all the aspects of running a sign business including all the tricks he has learned in design and application. His personality is one that takes all the credit for our work. He can hand a customer a sign that I designed and assembled and tell them he made it. He can't admit that someone helped him do something. This used to make me upset but I recently started calling him on it and most of our customers are now aware that I do most of the bench work. Unfortunately I still look for his approval on everything.

    T's quite a character. He met my mom when she was separated from my dad and he married her less than 2 months after the divorce. They met at a Halloween party and both were completely inebriated. I remember waking up the next morning and finding him buried under a blanket on the couch. I give my mom credit for keeping him out of her bed. It was very strange to think of a new man occupying our house. I was not yet 9 years old. We moved to a new house within a few weeks because T said he couldn't live in another man's house. I hated the new house almost as much as I hated my new stepdad. I let him know this every opportunity I got. He wasn't my dad. I already had one and he was the best. (I always blamed my mom for the divorce. I would find out details as an adult, but that is a topic for another day.)

    My sister was only 6 and she loved T. He treated her like one of his own kids. I felt like she betrayed our dad.

    I continued to be the brat by making our lives hell. It wasn't long before I noticed that T was always sleeping on the couch. I didn't know what was wrong with him. One day my mom, sister and I came home only to find the house filled with black smoke and all of the smoke alarms were blaring. T was on the couch asleep. Mom opened the oven and the smoke rolled off of what had been a pot roast. The tea kettle was on the stove but was all burned up with more smoke pouring out.

    T had tried to surprise us by making dinner. He had put the roast in the oven and put the tea kettle on for coffee. He then proceeded to pass out on the couch. I didn't know it right then, but T was a raging alcoholic.

    Several weeks later T was alone with my sister and me. He decided that we needed a Christmas tree. He proceeded to go back in to the woods and cut one down. While we were decorating it, there was a knock on the door. It was the police. They had had a complaint from the neighbors that someone had cut down a tree from their woods and the tracks led them to our door. T denied that it was him and that he had cut the tree from our back acreage. The police left to question the neighbors.
    T told my sister and me to hide upstairs and turn off all the lights. He came up with us and we could hear the police banging on the door. I remember being so afraid of the police and furious at T at the same time. I knew what he did was wrong. T finally went down to face the police. He ended up paying the neighbors the going rate for the tree.

    That night I wrote a letter to my mother telling her that I couldn't live with a liar and a thief. I was going to live with my dad.

    Apparently my little letter was my mother's wake up call. She took my sister and I to my aunt's that night and we all slept on the floor. She told T it was the alcohol or us. He chose us and went through intesense detox at the local hospital..

    I found out recently that my mother had come home once and found T in bed white as a ghost. She thought he was dead so she called our minister. (We were Congregationalists, {a compilation of Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Catholic and just about any other Christian religion you can come up with.} a very relaxed religion so the minister was very hip and cool.) He went upstairs to check out T and see if he was indeed dead. Of course he wasn't.

    It was hard watching T battle his demons. He attended AA meetings 3 times a week and called his sponsor every night.
    I inadvertently found his stash that he had forgotten about 6 months after he was sober. He was so mad at me because I told my mother. I think he still blames me for that and held it against me for years.

    Through my teen years, T and I still didn't see eye to eye but I thought we treated each other well. I accepted the fact that I was treated as a second class kid compared to his kids and my sister. I couldn't wait to be able to leave home for good.

    One night I woke up and went downstairs to use the bathroom. T was sitting on the couch in the dark. I laughed and made fun of him for doing so.

    The next day he said he wanted to talk to me and sat me down. He told me that he had been
    crying the night before in the dark because he was thinking of how he had treated me throughout our relationship. I was shocked because I had never seen him cry even when his father had died. He said that he thought that we were too much alike and that was why we didn't get along. I hugged him and told him I didn't hold any grudges and that I could have made his life easier but had chosen to be riggid. Neither of us ever spoke about this again.

    T continued on with AA and became the area leader making coffee for every meeting. His alcoholism has never been anonymous since we live in a small town. Most people know who is in AA and who needs to be.

    When our daughter was born (#1), T didn't want anything to do with her saying he didn't like babies. He said he would play with her when she was three. When #1 was about 5 weeks old I forced T to hold her. He had only held one of his own 3 children as babies so it was a really big deal. Immediately he began to oo and ah over her. He couldn't believe how tiny she was and yet she had smiled at him. That relationship deal was sealed that day. #1 and T are inseparable to this day. T is not involved much with his own grandkids but treats mine like they are his blood relations. I think he puts all the time and effort into them that he neglected to give me. He is an awesome grandpa.

    T has been sober for 26 years. He recently told me that a day doesn't go by that he doesn't still think about having a drink. I can't imagine overcoming something so powerful.


    Big Pissy said...

    What a great story! T sounds like a really interesting character. It's so cool that you both overcame your problems with each other and continued to have a relationship. Most people would have said " F**k it" and moved on. good for you AND T. 26 years sober....WOW...that is such an inspiration!

    gigi said...

    Thank you Jenn, for sharing this with us!
    I applaude you and T for your courage!

    Lara said...

    Jenn, you seem to have an incredibly forgiving and accepting nature toward people. No wonder everyone is drawn to you!

    wmy said...

    The step parent thing is tough, and its one of those things you have to go through to understand, so, I applaud you for being the understanding person that you are...Its wonderful that your kids have such a great relationship with their grandpa!

    DZER said...

    jenn ... your really personal stories, like this one and the ones about the in-laws, are powerful and evocative and just great reads. I really enjoy reading these, as I get a real sense of how much of yourself you put into them.

    thank you for sharing them, and yourself, with us.


    Jay said...

    This, I know, is a tough one to share.

    I, too, had a step-father who has since passed away. I was never close to him, and really was not sad when cancer took him.

    Am I cold-hearted to be that way? I don't think so. He never really tried to see who I was, and I never gave him much in return.

    Oh well. I'm glad to hear that your relationship with him has become one of respect.

    SignGurl said...

    Big P~We are still working on overcoming stuff but it's much easier now that we don't live together.

    Gigi~T is the couragous one. I wish I were.

    Lara~I always strive to make people accept me, therefore I am very accepting :-)

    Wendy~Yeah, the stepparent thing is tough for everyone involved. It's taken years to overcome it for me.

    DZER~That is such a compliment coming from you. So you'd like a little less of my other boring drivel? LOL.

    Jay~It is a two way street and luckily T and I were able to meet in the middle after 20 + years.

    kellywalters said...

    I have to say that that was a wonderful post.. Knowing that bit about a persons history makes things fall better into perspective.. I know lots of people with drinking problems and I know a few that have overcome them.. I also know a few that have succumbed to them and are now not with us..

    Its hard to live with a family that has this kind of a thing going on.. It tears everyone apart.. But you turned out wonderfully and are such a great person to be able to find it in your heart to get along with him now..

    I hear the not a day goes by part.. you just have to think about what it did to your life..

    Kudoes to him for keeping it up.. and kudoes to you for being so wonderful.

    thank you for sharing this honey..


    sassinak said...

    hey jenn thanks for sharing.

    you know i haven't had a cigarette in five years and i still want them? i can only imagine what hell it is for alcoholics...

    Barney said...

    Youre both to be congratulated actually
    Alcoholism is an illness of both the body and the mind and i can imagine how T fights with his demons each and every day but you found forgivenesss and compassion within yourself too Jenn and thats no small deal ya know?
    Im happy that you both have the relationship you have now and that T has a great relationship with both you and your children :-)

    Thanks for sharing your personal story.

    Alex said...

    Just popped by to say that I love your new avatar. I laugh out loud every time I see it. And thanks for the comments on our blog.

    Suze said...

    Jenn, that is a very touching story and I feel privileged to have read it.

    I'm glad you have both cast out the demons and set aside your differences.

    He obviously loved you all for quitting such a hard addiction.

    Calzone said...

    I am a boozebag

    ell said...

    good story jenn. and a happy new year to you.

    Anonymous said...

    Another wonderful story Jenn, how many stories like these are behind all the faces we see each and every day.

    Thanks again for sharing it.

    Sunny said...

    You did a great job sharing your heart. I couldn't stop reading. That is good for me. When things get long, I start to skim. :)