WHY are the kids outside without their coats? I’d come home with groceries and found our kids locked out of the house! WHY would he do that? Had he finally done what he’d threatened for months? Shaken, I took them next door—BOTH of them sniffling and sobbing.
What would I find when I unlocked the door? I held my breath, turned the key and found him— sitting in his chair, eyes closed, earphones on, foot tapping, and another beer in his hand. Relief! Then disappointment? Shame. Then A-N-G-E-R.
“What is your problem?” Can’t I trust you to watch our children anymore?”
“I don’t have ‘a problem’. They kept running in and out…letting the door slam…I needed some peace!” Defensive, belligerent. Aggressive, then reclusive. The father of my children drowning his problems in alcohol.
The change in him was insidious. He removed himself from fun and family life, from responsibility, from fulfillment. He spiraled into depression, then abuse…delusions and excuses.
CHORUS: “Please get help! Save yourself! Save ‘US’!”
I don’t HAVE a problem; you do…” Same old song; just another verse.
I discovered him “cleaning his gun” at three in the morning…
“What’s wrong? What are you DOING?”
“I’m cleaning my gun—there’s no problem.” Nor were there any visible cleaning supplies. My counselor said, “Be careful—the line between suicide and homicide is very thin.”
I called his folks—I called his brothers.
“Mom, Dad, what are YOU doing here?”
“We’re here to HELP you!”
“Go back home. She shouldn’t have called you.”
Defensive, belligerent. Aggressive, then reclusive.
“We’re staying a week. We’ve made an appointment. We’re intervening,” they said.
“You’re not listening,” he said. “I DON’T have a problem!”
Same old song.
To appease them, he actually went to the appointment.
The counselor said, “You have a problem. Come back tomorrow.”
Refusing to hear it…denying the truth.
He came home drunk, mad with self-pity.
CHORUS: His folks watched the battle, sometimes chiming in with support.
“PLEASE get help! Save yourself! He stumbled to bed, alone again, grumbling, “I don’t have a problem….” Depression, then abuse…delusions and excuses.
“Are you going back to the counselor?” I asked.
“Why should I? He’s nuts. I can stop if I want to.”
“But, do you want to—?”
“Shut Up! Leave me alone. You’re ALL crazy!”
At wits end, I said, “Get help or get out!” So he did…
He took his truck; he took his “crutch”… He left his kids; he left his folks.
He left his home; he left his wife.
Denial, escape, but no more excuses.
What’s a woman to do?????
I took my kids, my low self-esteem, and I listed the house.
My kids cried, his folks cried. I cried.
Our marriage sighed one last sigh…then died.
“Daddy, please come home. We miss you.”
“I can’t. Your mother kicked me out. She’s got problems.”
“Mommy, please let Daddy come home!”
Now I’m the “bad guy” trying to do “the right thing.”
CHORUS: He got a solitary apartment, peace and quiet. Saving himself FROM Us…Somehow, he kept his job; I don’t know how. No, he didn’t want custody, just regular visits. Still telling himself he had no problem. Denial, escape, weekend fights full of verbal abuse. Same old song.
Turmoil, upheaval. Something had to change.
I went back to school. I went back to work. Finally, the house sold.
I told him I was taking the kids and going back to my folks’. “I need support— the kids need a family.” Circular changes. Turmoil, upheaval.
“Why are you taking my kids away from me?
What did I EVER do to you?”
“Are you KIDDING me? It’s what you WON’T DO…
We won’t be your problem anymore—I know, I know: you don’t have a problem!”
Distance does NOT make the heart grow fonder.
New state, new schools. New job, new home.
For us: safety, security.
For him? Loneliness cluttered with empty bottles and crumpled cans.
Self-pity, self blame. He dragged himself into work. He sleepwalked all day. He came home, grabbed a cold one, snoozed a little—boozed a lot. Something had to change. He made a new family: a new wife complete with two kids! A schoolteacher like me with one boy and one girl.
CHORUS: HE SHOWED ME! Our kids’ holiday visits and summertime trips: only bearable knowing she and her kids would be my kids’ buffer. Fast forward seven years. “Why didn’t you warn me?” asked wife number two. “What could I have said that you might have believed?” Same old song.
Divorced again. Flirting with old friends: Depression, Denial, Delusions and Disease. His kids grew up; but he never outgrew his dependence on drink, a drug he well knew. Turmoil, upheaval. Circular changes.
Years passed and with two distressed families notching his belt, he pressed on and made a new family with wife number three and her three kids. His biological kids shunned him. He erased from his mind family number two. He had no contact with his folks or his brothers. His deterioration sped up. His health failed. He repeatedly disappeared for days at a time. His delusions increased.
He lost his short-term memory…“WHERE have you been?”
“I was kidnapped by corporate office—they held me at gunpoint. We’re in danger!”
Police would find him passed out in the BACK seat of his car; but never when he was driving.
Neither alcohol poisoning, nor organs failing would convince him that he has a problem. He lost his job; he lost his money. He’d get lost going home! He lost his friends; his self-respect, and then, he lost his final family.
CHORUS: Our daughter just married. I walked her down the aisle while my family and his celebrated without him. He sat home in his chair, alone with a drink. Did he toast her happiness? Did he KNOW he wasn’t welcome? Once more, we feared for our safety. Circular turmoil. Same old song.
Last verse: On April 1, 2012, my ex-husband and father of our two children died alone in his apartment. His liver and kidneys were in their last stages; his mind destroyed. His heart seized, sputtered, and then simply stopped. His third wife checked on him daily in their own apartment building near their home, both buildings in bankruptcy. With clouded judgment and alcohol fueled risky investments, he singlehandedly depleted his 401K and all of his retirement savings totaling more than a million dollars. He was hospitalized many, many times for alcohol poisoning, warned he was dying; but still, he sang the same old song: I don’t have a problem. In his mind, “the problem” belonged to everyone who had tried to help him for over thirty years.
He was 62 when he died… on April 1st …whom had he fooled? Only himself.
Maury Hill and her first husband divorced after 13 years of marriage. Both she and her two young children came away with emotional, lasting scars. Her story is a snapshot of ENDINGS, titled Same Old Song. Written as though it were a song with verses, chorus’s, rhythm, and repetition. Listen closely for the various “endings” and hear the rhythm, the rhyme and the alliteration. As she has never composed anything musically before, she begs your indulgence in this attempt…
Oh! And after 24 years of being a single parent, she is astounded and thrilled with her new BEGINNINGS…her new marriage with Larry…the birth of her first grandchild, Jane Teegan O’Brien…and coming to know her new daughter-in-law, Minh. Maury Hill lives in Spearfish with her second husband, Larry Blake.