As I lay in bed thinking about the book I'm reading (Harry Hole's alcoholism is a problem in his current romance in Redbreast), I thought of my stepfather's struggles with alcoholism.
He fought it and overcame it, staying sober for more than twenty years before his death. But I was thinking back to the first time I became aware that he had a problem. I spent the summer after my freshman year of college at home (they married that spring). During those weeks, his oldest son died in a car accident.
Leighton came into the kitchen, grabbed a bottle of whiskey, and said "Sometimes I just have to."
At the time it happened, I had no empathy (I had never met his son and was overwhelmed with the changes the marriage had made in my life) and little sympathy. And while he was struggling with the choking hold of grief, he had to deal with me--a judgmental, bewildered and bewildering stepdaughter.
Only this morning did the correlation hit me with the proverbial ton of bricks. Leighton's son must have been close to my daughter's age when he died.
Oh, Leighton, how much more I understand. How my heart aches for you. How I wish I could revisit that summer, and be more. . .supportive. . .than I was. No parent should have to bury their child, although it happens all too often. I can even admit how hard it must have been to have me underfoot--living, breathing--when he had lost his own son.
So Leighton, if you have any awareness of what is happening down here, I offer my heart to join with yours.
And together we can reach out to other's in pain.