Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Spring continued and work on the place was very slowly getting on. We had a full septic system and the sinks had drains and such but there was no running supply side. Water was brought in in the back of my ’88 F250 in one 300 gallon tank and two 55 gallon barrels. I purchased a small pump that we would use to pump the water out of the tanks and into the smaller blue seven gallon containers to be used inside. These were the kind with a little plastic spigot on the bottom and we would set it on a little wooden footstool on the counter next to the sink.
I was working steady so we had been able to outfit the kitchen with a brand new electric range. It was a nice one and no longer were we relegated to heating water on a little plug in electric burner. Now we could use the stovetop and heat it in a fraction of the time (the wood stove would have just run us all out of there). Showers were a little better too. I picked up a camp solar shower. On the ceiling of the bathroom, I mounted a contraption that hinged down and would hold the water bag of the shower with a little spot to attach the spigot. You filled it with warm water, closed it up and had the immense luxury of a full three gallons to shower with. It was absolutely heavenly.

The other area of concern was the driveway. We had been solidly snowed in quite often because of the slope of it and it simply had to be built up. I borrowed my Dad’s skid-loader and made about a hundred trips up and down the hill to the creek bringing gravel up to fill in. I also carried about thirty boulders to border it. Many trips up the hill were made on the front two tires and pushing the bucket full of a massive chunk of rock. Along with the drive I brought up a bunch of large flat rocks to use as pavers on a sidewalk, a vast improvement over the wood chip mulch sidewalk we had been using.

All this was an improvement but it was still a tough way to go. One thing I discovered was that living in an unfinished and tiny little place without many of the comforts a woman is accustomed to has a way of short circuiting the nesting instinct. My wife was not very happy with the relatively impoverished surroundings.

Her cousin offered to let her come down to Tulsa for a while and learn the ropes as a recruiter for trucking companies. It seemed a pretty good idea and would clear the place out so I could do some of the messier and more kid unfriendly stuff so I encouraged her to go. Soon, she packed the kids away in her car, loaded the luggage and I kissed them all goodbye. It began one of the most incredibly lost couple months I can recall.

As I alluded to earlier, I had fought with depression throughout the entire process. Being laid off, homeless, cold, stinky, etc. all have a cumulative effect that is difficult to shake off. Though I hadn’t really realized it, my wife and two girls were pretty much the tether holding me to the ledge. When they left I began a slow motion free fall.
I still went to work every day, I still tried to get some work done on the place, though not all that much, it seems. Inside I was somehow unraveling. Like a sweater that is snagged on a tree branch while the wearer slowly trudges along unawares, I began to detach. I drank a lot. Not going to the bar and hotting and hollering drinking, it was sit in the cabin, look on the stuff I was working on and needed to work on and drink. Hard stuff. Whiskey, brandy, vodka.
I did manage to get most of the taping done in the lower level, though I ran out of paint and had a few spots left to frame out and finish. I was trying to figure out who kept reflecting on the bottom of the bottle but when I got close I just passed out and couldn’t remember. The bottom of the barrel came a few weeks before my family returned (though I did not know it at the time). I was drinking brandy. I don’t remember a lot but I know I was gone. I killed a full bottle of the stuff and was feeling absolutely no pain. A little queasy is all. I remember thinking that it probably wasn’t a good idea to go up the stairs in my condition so I should sleep downstairs. Then I lay my head over and vomited all over the living room rug and floor.

It was thus that I awakened the next morning. Lying on a cot in the middle of the living room, a pool of congealed puke surrounding me. In my strange and drunken logic the night before I had decided that climbing the stairs was too risky so (this still cracks me up today) apparently I avoided this danger by going upstairs and bringing a cot, two blankets and a pillow down the stairs to sleep on. Safety first.

Cleaning the mess up made me feel a mix of resolve and shame. I am glad my children were not there to see me thus. For anyone who ever tells you that digging out of a total financial meltdown without a government bailout is just a matter of gritting your teeth and charging on through, punch them for me. It is a grueling mind game. But it can be done (I would recommend not spending time blisteringly drunk. It really lessens productivity!).
This was the beginning of the true upswing for me. There were still trials ahead, but to look in the mirror and see that you are now at a place where you must choose to rise above it or wallow in it forces the hand. I decided I would have to get it together if I wanted to look my girls in the eye. I poured out the bottles on hand and didn’t touch them for a long while.

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