The Sidelines

Life is hard.

Beautiful, exciting, frustrating—but so damn hard.

In one moment, a person is on top of the world, then in the very next, they are at rock bottom, wondering how they got there. And as I walk the path of life, a path unique to me, I experience the highs and the lows. But now that I’m a little older, and maybe a little wiser, I see things through a different lens. A lens experience has given me, which doesn’t make my path any easier or any prettier, but I know that in the end, things work out the way they are meant to.

And yet, as I watch my father-in-law deteriorate from alcoholism, I try to find the meaning, try to find the purpose, and I fail.

Every.

Single.

Time.

Because I can’t understand how something can consume a person so much that they lose sight of what is important. That they say horrid things that destroy their kids’ hearts as it tramples on their souls. And for me, it’s personal, just in a different way. It isn’t my father drowning in addiction, but I see the impact it has on my husband, on my sister-in-law, and those are the arrows that pierce my heart.

And I find myself being angry.

No, not angry, furious. Furious at my father-in-law for the years of pain he has caused. Furious at him for getting drunk on a day of a family barbeque. Furious at him for not knowing his grandchildren. Furious at him for saying he has no regrets when he has been absent from his children’s and grandchildren’s lives.

Logically, I know alcohol changes people. I do. But right now, he’s sober. Not because he wants to be, but because the alcohol has stripped him to bare bones. And he’s not grateful for the months his children drove him to and from work in the middle of the night, for the time his daughter spent completing insurance paperwork and making appointments as he battled throat cancer, for them being there when his house burned down.

So here I am, still trying to find the meaning, the purpose.

But I don’t understand how he can say such villainous things when he doesn’t have a drop of alcohol in him. And I wonder if he was always selfish.

Then I remember a time when we sat on a riverbank for hours casting a line into the water, a time when we sat across from one another playing Rook, a time when he would tell a joke just to get someone to laugh. And I wonder if the alcohol has forever changed him… even when he’s sober.

Sadness dampens the anger, and I feel hollow.

Because no matter how much I wish I could give my husband and my sister-in-law a father who is present, a father who cheers them on, a father who encourages their dreams, a father who knows his children… I can’t. Instead, I’m on the sidelines watching the destruction alcoholism has created, and the only thing I can do is be here, be present. And maybe that’s enough.

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