“The waitress arrived with their drinks and Paul ordered for them. He seemed pretty knowledgeable so Colleen sipped her coconut milk. It was very sweet despite its suspicious dirty dishwater color. She pulled out her chopsticks and studied them. They were attached at one end. How was she supposed to get food between them if they were attached?
“Here, you hold them like this.” Paul pulled his out of their paper wrapper and broke them apart. Colleen studied the way he held them and tried to copy it. “Let me show you.” He reached across the table and formed her hands around the sticks. “See, this bottom one stays still. You use the top one to pinch the bite of food you want.” He closed his hands around hers to demonstrate.
“Oh, I see.” She wiggled the sticks. “I hope I can manage to make them work with food.”
This past summer I went to Disney World to meet up with a friend and her daughter. One of the places her daughter had gotten reservations for us was Teppan Edo. It’s a one of those places where they cook the food in front of you and you sit with strangers. There were three of us, a family of three with a small child, and an older couple. The older couple looked at the chopsticks with fear, but I lived in Korea for two years and have taught kindergarten for five so I was up to the task of teaching these people to eat with chopsticks. It was a valiant effort, but they gave up about half way through the meal. I—being unconscionably stubborn—ate the entire meal with chopstick clutched in my out-of-practice fingers. Ow, ow, ow.
I’ve had a long running interest in addiction and recovery starting with alcoholic grandfathers. My paternal grandfather, according to all reports, was a gentle drunk. He came home from work every night and drank until bed. He died when I was three so the only memory I have of him is his funeral. My maternal grandfather was a mean drunk. My mother has only recently begun telling stories about how she grew up and they are completely at odds with the man I remember. Of course by the time I came along, he had mellowed and my uncle had stood up to him. I do remember him drinking a lot. When I was little, every time he opened a beer he would give me the tab (yes, it was that long ago) if I took the first sip. I hated the taste, but I wanted those tabs and I had enough to make necklaces with.
When I went to college, I was the designated driver because I didn’t drink. The fact that both my grandfathers were alcoholics and my early aversion therapy thanks to my maternal grandfather left me with zero desire to drink. However, my penchant for hanging out with musicians in bars, meant that I had a lot of contact with drinkers and drug users. Then I moved to Akron, right into the neighborhood where Alcoholics Anonymous was born. Every June, on Dr. Bob’s birthday, the city is overrun with recovering alcoholics and drug users. It’s quite the event.
Those interests, along with my running interest in musicians, led to this story. No one moment of epiphany. Lots of little moments and pieces that added up to be greater than their sum.
Alan’s story breaks my heart. I so wanted him to be happy that when it came time for him to find out the truth about Angie, I hated myself for putting him in the way of it.
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