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Looking out my Backdoor: As the World Turns The Edge of Night


Last updated 1/28/2021 at 8:16am

Nobody could have written a soap opera to equal the drama of these pandemic days. It’s not just me and my family. We are all part of the drama. Nobody would believe it. No soap would sponsor such a program.

Last week’s episode of my family drama left us hanging with my son struggling with seizures resulting from the COVID virus, on strong medication, and Oops — The Secret Storm we were not supposed to know — drinking. He was a mere month away from celebrating six years of sobriety.

Both he and his girlfriend, a woman he’d met in aftercare treatment, were struck down by the virus and the dummies began drinking. Which came first. Don’t know. Doesn’t matter.

I had not heard from Ben for several weeks so naturally I was worried. Fortunately friends and family quickly intervened. Ben finally reached out to me, admitted he’d drank and claimed three days sobriety at that time. We talked. We connected heart to heart. I did not barbecue the fatted calf. But I gave it an extra measure of grain.

In the dark of the night or early morning if you must be technical, the phone rang. It was Ben. “Mom, Kristen is dead.” “What? How can that be?” I’d just talked with them in the evening.

Ben said they’d gone to bed early; he woke in the night to snuggle and her body felt cold. He called 911 and began chest compressions. The medics said it looked like she’d had a heart attack in her sleep. She was only 35.

We were both in shock. He talked. I listened. We cried. How? Why? The only thing I could think to say was, “Ben, you loved her for five years. Nobody can take that away from her or from you.”

The following day Ben and I talked several times. In the evening, he said, “Mom, Kristen’s mother died.” No — how can that be? Later talks revealed her mother had not died but her aunt who has the same name died that morning, news no less devastating.

Her parents had been on the way to Ben’s house to pick up Kristen’s dogs. They had detoured to the hospital in Gig Harbor where the aunt lay dying. I’m not making this up.

Further phone calls plus talks with Ben’s support team, which grows by the day, assures me that “Ben is still sober which is hard to determine in this mess.” He is beginning to cope, has begun grief counseling, has reached out to friends for help, is running out of room for tuna casseroles.

Since then we’ve had many conversations and I’m giving the frisky fat calf rolled oats with molasses. I’ll let you know when we hold the fiesta for the prodigal son, after pandemic danger is past.

Let’s leave no stone unturned in my family drama.

The phone rings. I stare at it, afraid to answer, afraid of the daily serial.

It’s my daughter. I feel relief. “How’s your day?” Five seconds of silence. “Like that, huh,” I continue. “Tell me about it.”

My daughter is still weak and exhausted with on-going symptoms of the COVID virus she’s been dealing with for two months. “It’s your granddaughter,” she said.

“Ah.” In addition to dealing with family illness, with both Dee and Tyler ill, in the past two months the furnace blew up and Dee’s husband Chris has been quarantined in the basement because he works at the hospital.

Their eldest girl, 27, with a non-employed boyfriend and three stair-step babies, is an on-going worry.

Back when Dee Dee was working on an advanced degree in college, she held this baby girl in her arms six hours after birth, an emergency foster care baby she later adopted. The baby was diagnosed fetal alcohol syndrome and Dee worked hard with her child.

When Dee and Chris married, Chris immediately adopted the young girl. They have been supportive with Jess through times thick and thin, above and beyond; you get the picture? Jess is a remarkable young woman when at her best. When off the rails, she is not so remarkable.

Jess is making choices which ultimately will endanger her babies. Dee, Chris and Tyler, now 15, held a family conference. The safety net is now transferred to the babies and the young adults may land in a snow bank. No more enabling, no more rescuing. The next several days will not be pretty.

These are the precious Days of Our Lives and like no other time in my life, I’m aware that we each have One Life to Live. In our Search for Tomorrow we certainly need The Guiding Light.

I don’t know about you, but if this daily drama with All My Children gets much worse, I’ll be headed for the General Hospital.


Sondra Ashton grew up in Harlem but spent most of her adult life out of state. She returned to see the Hi-Line with a perspective of delight. After several years back in Harlem, Ashton is seeking new experiences in Etzatlan, Mexico. Once a Montanan, always. Read Ashton’s essays and other work at http://montanatumbleweed.blogspot.com/. Email [email protected]


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