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That's All She Wrote

Health & Fitness > Alcoholism > Through the Trees

Through the Trees

I posted this on Facebook but thought I would share it here too.

Situated on a double lot in the middle of a subdivision, the house we bought over twelve years ago, was and still is, a perfect fit for our small family. The front of the house played host to a covered wood-floor porch, complete with a country swing, while the back yard was expansive, yet empty. Wide open views of five adjoining neighbors in the back yard prompted us to pack the fence line with arborvitae trees, that at the time, stood about four feet tall with three feet between them. We did this not because we don't like people... but, well... because we don't like people. Seriously, the yard just needed some privacy. More than a decade later, the trees are massive, and completely enclose the space into our own private paradise.

Throughout the years that we've lived here and before the trees got wide and tall, we happened to meet our neighbor 'John' & his wife 'Holly'. In the early days when we could still see into each others yards, 'Holly' and I would talk over the fence like neighbors do; Mostly about our kids or that years summer flower choices and then more about our kids. 'John' would holler 'one-liners' over the fence and tell short jokes about his own ethnic heritage, which I always felt uncomfortable hearing, but tried to remain indifferent about anyway. As time went on, 'Holly' would casually confide in me about 'John's' 'drinking.' It didn't seem too serious at first... more of a nuisance, I'd suspect. But by and by, I could tell it was becoming a bonafide problem. Meanwhile the trees were getting wider & wider, crowding out room for 'Holly' and I to talk over the fence. I began to 'hear' more of the drinking problem through the trees than actually 'see' it as the years rolled in and out. And by 'hearing' it, I mean that 'John' would gibber on loudly in his own back yard, usually when he was all alone, and I could just tell he'd been drinking. And for a couple years in between then and now, I never heard 'Holly's' voice through the trees. It was obvious she had left 'John'.

This summer, 'Holly' caught a glimpse of me in the only (tiny) space where she and I could still see each other while standing in our own back yards, before the perennials grew too tall . She wanted to tell me, matter of factually, that 'John' had liver cancer. She went on to say that he was not expected to see this winter. And although there were options for his survival at first diagnosis, 'John' continues to drink to excess each and every day, which would make any and all attempts to save him, futile. As I looked past 'Holly' into her back yard, I saw a mere shadow of the 'John' I had known in previous years. Thin & gaunt with hollow eyes, he was a dead man walking. Turns out that 'Holly' had indeed left 'John' in a physical sense a few years ago, but now that he is terminal, she comes back every day to administer his medicines and keep him company. They never got divorced; 'Holly' doesn't believe in it, though she did move out of the house to avoid the abuse that alcohol addiction can impose on a spouse. And now she waits... She waits for the years of her husbands self inflicted mismanagement of his life to end.

Throughout the summer, I have heard 'John's' gibberish through the trees several times. For some odd reason, I've been comforted by the sounds of his chaotic nonsense. When I walk out the back door as I do each day, I stop on the path that leads through the gate to listen for him... just to know that he still lives. Winter is coming... I haven't heard any gibberish all week... I haven't heard anything through the trees...

posted on Nov 5, 2010 2:09 PM ()


I kinda get enough of people during working hours, therefore I like my home time to be somewhat minus neighbour visits. Good think I have shined my “smile and nod in passing” to perfection over the years. Also helps that I live on acreage, so neighbours are not right outside my door.

I have had my share of friends who are alkies. I’m a social drinker, always have been. Although I haven’t had a decent drink in years. Probably because I am unsocial now. HaHa. A “newer” friend, I am discovering, has a drinking problem. She’ll charley-horse up if she doesn’t take her iron tablets, all because of her regular vodka intake.
comment by kjstone on Nov 6, 2010 9:45 AM ()
Our yard is pretty secluded now (for being in a subdivision) and although I like my neighbors, like you, it's more of a simple "hey" or wave most days.
reply by shesaidwhat on Nov 6, 2010 11:32 AM ()
This is a lovely story with a sadness, but lovely all the same. One of my grandfathers drank himself to death, and I don't think most of us will ever understand the demons that gather people up and make them think they need to escape the pain of daily life through drinking in excess.
comment by troutbend on Nov 5, 2010 10:44 PM ()
It must be a very powerful addiction. Very sad
reply by shesaidwhat on Nov 6, 2010 8:34 AM ()
alcoholism is a sad disease, not just for the alcoholic, but for the whole family
comment by firststarisee on Nov 5, 2010 4:55 PM ()
His wife told me that although it makes him literally throw up and that it HURTS him physically the moment he drinks, he still drinks a 5th a day.
reply by shesaidwhat on Nov 6, 2010 8:34 AM ()
Yes, that is sad. Doubly so for his wife, who obviously does still love him, hence her devotion to ensuring he gets his medicine, but she must also have some feeling of 'regret' by him drinking (and ultimately depriving them 'both' of a proper relationship together).
comment by febreze on Nov 5, 2010 4:17 PM ()
Well said. His wife looks worn out
reply by shesaidwhat on Nov 6, 2010 8:32 AM ()
comment by fredo on Nov 5, 2010 4:09 PM ()
reply by shesaidwhat on Nov 6, 2010 8:32 AM ()
Geez. That's sad...
comment by kristilyn3 on Nov 5, 2010 2:50 PM ()
Indeed, sad
reply by shesaidwhat on Nov 6, 2010 8:31 AM ()

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