“…when I see the wonder in the smiles of my children, it reminds me of dreams worth coming true.”
“Holy Creation”; ‘This Old Road’, Kris Kristofferson (2006)
“Surrounded by the absolute darkness of a rural highway at 1am, I’m staring at my girlfriend who’s only barely visible in the weak dashboard lights of her ten-year old Mazda, with its broken something rattling around in the wheel well, as she drives me to the Emergency Room where doctors will tell her whether or not she’s having a miscarriage.”
“Maybe The Devil Is Really God In Exile OR Counting My Blessings One Pregnant Girlfriend At A Time”; May 30, 2009
2009… the year I started dating again, the year my girlfriend gave me a son, the year I adopted a cat, the year I almost stopped blogging, the year my recovery took two steps back, and the year I got a blender for Christmas.
Thank fuck it’s finally done.
I’ve experienced some pretty bizarre and tragic stuff in my life, and had some truly horrible years, but I’ve never — ever — been so glad to see a year in my rear view mirror.
And everything started with such promise… which should have been a clue.
In January and February I was finding the humour in my life, in my circumstances. I was in Toronto for a couple of weeks for my brother’s wedding, and had the opportunity to visit some of my old neighbourhoods, and some friends. I felt more than a glimmer of optimism that by the end of 2009 I’d be back in Toronto with a job.
Here on Salted I was writing some great pieces about Internet privacy issues in an attempt to work out my flabby reporting muscles. Over on my ‘other blog’ I was writing some advocacy pieces, and it all felt great.
I was in great physical health, I was seeing a dentist regularly and my diabetes was under control for the first time in almost a decade.
But then, five weeks after we started dating, my girlfriend was pregnant. That was pretty much “it” right there.
It wasn’t the idea of the pregnancy that almost killed me, my initial reaction was “okay, great, we’ve got eight or nine months to figure this all out.” What nearly killed me was the physical day-to-day grind of living with a high-risk pregnancy for eight long, horrible, painful, exhausting months filled with panic, frustration and pain.
So 2009 started out great, but in March and April went to complete shit, and stayed there until late November.
Things picked up again in December, with the actual birth of my son, but getting there was a matter of survival… not fun.
…by “picked up”, of course, I mean the birth of my son made me forget the narrow, winding, uphill path I had to climb to get to the mountain top.
My entire year was dedicated to keeping my girlfriend — someone I only barely knew — safe. Midnight car rides to the hospital because she was spotting, or cramping a little too long. The constant threat of miscarriage for the first three months, then the constant pain from the cerclage for the next five.
5am trips to Ottawa to spend twelve hours visiting her in the hospital when the pain got too bad. Trying to prevent her from doing all the things her doctors warned her not to do if she wanted the pain to go away.
I got so wrapped up in her life, trying to defuse situations involving her Soon-To-Be-Ex-Husband, her roommate, her insane parents and sister, her son… that my friendships became pretty much fictional, and any relationship I had with my own parents deteriorated almost completely.
It was actually a very lonely year. It got so bad that in October, with nowhere to turn for support, I started drinking again. I was drunk for ten straight days just so I could spend time away from my girlfriend and all of the bullshit surrounding the pregnancy.
One weird effect of the pregnancy was… I ended up with a kitten. So far, after the birth of my son, this has been the brightest highlight of 2009.
I’ve never had a pet before, at least not since childhood. I’ve moved around far too often — 54 places and counting — so having a pet never made sense. Especially since most of my moves were made using plastic bags, and from one rooming house to another.
But in June my girlfriend’s cat gave birth to four kittens. Once they were old enough we tried to find them homes. Everyone kept asking which one I was keeping. My mother and even my psychiatrist thought it’d be a good idea, they thought it’d be important for me to have something in my life I could bond with.
I thought it’d be a good test for when my kid was born.
Cooler’s a great kitty. She’s really active, she can keep herself occupied chasing pennies across my floor, she sleeps with me every night, she’ll run laps around my apartment chasing noises, when we’re on the couch, and I put my work glove on, she knows it’s time to wrestle with her claws out, and she really enjoys playing cat games with my left foot.
She’ll sit in my lap while I surf the web, and she loves tapping the scroll at the bottom of the TV screen when I’m watching the news. Mostly paper and plastic are her enemies.
Every night I give her a little bit of warm milk, or a sardine and I love watching her little feet make those kitty happy fists while she’s eating her snack.
Another strange side effect of all the turmoil of 2009, is I now have a baby and a pet to bond with. It’s stunning how long it has been since I’ve had the motivation to push, or lean into a relationship. I stopped trying to have close relationships with people so long ago. I stopped accepting help from people so long ago…
I can go weeks without speaking to anyone… other than my mother, my girlfriend and the people around them at the time.
And now I look at my son, and my most recurring thought is “…okay, I’m going to give you all my unconditional love and support, and if you fuck it up I think I’ll fucking die.”
I’ve done my very best, since I was a young dude, to not get close to anyone. I even promised myself I’d never have a pet, or a kid. And now I’ve got Cooler and Victor. At least I’ve made sure they’ve got really cool names.
A very good friend of mine left for Edmonton a couple of weeks ago. This region’s unemployment level has gotten so out of control the only way to make a living is to sell drugs to some other unemployed dude. It’s getting really fucked around here. Getting out of here will save his life.
When I came back here to start my recovery, Dean was the first person — family or otherwise — to really try to help me. I was really looking forward to getting back together with him.
We’ve known each other since high school. During the pregnancy our friendship got strained, we basically stopped hanging out for six months. And when we did get together I was generally too exhausted to do more than get frustrated with him.
So now he’s driving a forklift three provinces west of here. Sometimes I feel like the air is getting really thin around me.
I think that might be the common theme, or tagline for my 2009… the year it got hard to breathe.
It was also the year my girlfriend got me a blender.
Six years ago the only appliance I owned was a toaster made out of a coat hanger folded in half. Now I have a real toaster, a coffee maker, a thing to boil water and a blender.
My girlfriend has a blender and two “Magic Bullets”, and all summer I kept suggesting we make frozen drinks or desserts. So she actually wrote it down as a possible Christmas present.
It’s probably the sweetest gift I’ve received… maybe ever. She heard me, she made a note, then months later bought me a gift I really wanted.
I’ve had a weird flu for the past week. Every time one symptom disappears, another one slides in to take its place so there’s always something going on, so I just can’t call it an official flu.
I lost my voice from coughing two days ago. My throat is so messed up I keep waking up thinking I’m being strangled — it felt like I was trying to stifle my cough, then I’d wake up in a panic gasping for air, which set off a long coughing fit which led to my losing my voice.
I actually started coughing up blood yesterday. Which probably isn’t good. It’s like 2009 won’t stop kicking me in the groin.
All of this means I haven’t been able to hold my son in three days.
He’s doing great though. He’s gained back all the weight he lost after popping out, plus another half-pound. His feet are now too large for his booties, and with his little round stomach he looks like a really comfortable pillow.
Being away from him for so long sucks massive lemon balls. It feels wrong. Which, all things considered, is probably a really good sign.
I’m so fucking glad 2009 is over. I feel like I might have time to breathe, to take a month or two to decompress, then figure out where my recovery is at, what I want to do, and where I want to do it…