Radio Diaries: Quitting

Aug 25, 2017

My mother was in the hospital with internal bleeding.  “They say I have liver trouble from drinking,” she said in a puzzled voice.  “Maybe it was those Pina coladas I had on the cruise.”

I knew it wasn’t the Pina coladas.  Twenty years earlier, as a young girl, I had asked my mother about the wine in the cupboard that disappeared so quickly.  My father told me not to mention it again.

Now the doctor was speaking to my father and me in the hallway.  Her liver was too damaged to repair itself and we could only make her comfortable.  We walked out to the parking lot together where my father opened the trunk of his car.  It was full of empty wine bottles.

“She told me she had stopped!” he yelled, “Why didn’t she stop?”

I shook my head.  My mother and I had only spoken once about why she started.  It was during World War II when my father was in the South Pacific and her mother had said, “Have a glass of wine.  It will relax you.”

She didn’t know how to stop.  A support group wasn’t an option in her world; neither was counseling.  It took me a long time to feel compassion instead of anger.  To forgive her, to forgive all of us.