First Cats

First of own was Ringo Starr,

Whitest cat I’ve had by far

Before him though was Shashie black

First one I ever almost smacked

Took my bologna and scratched me good

Me just four so I guess he could

Snatch that meat with sharpest pinchers

My Aunty pegged him The Bologna Snitcher.

But Mom said to forgive him

Because he liked bologna.

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Of Birds and Bobcats and Offspring All

bradstreethouse

Of Birds and Bobcats and Offspring All

Inspired by Anne Bradstreet’s poem
In Reference to Her Children, 1659

I had four bobcats in my lair,
Two were toms and two were fair.
Off they’ve ventured far and near,
Seems unreal with not one here.
Three from litter, one was claimed,
Miss them all with pain the same.
Most solitary, each of them,
Just one mate in just one den.
Claimed tom now in desert deep,
Pray the Lord his soul to keep,
Safe as he hunts with those quite brave,
Wish he were now here in my cave.
Eldest tom is firm and lean,
Light of foot and eyes quite keen.
His den is close which brings delight,
Can take him food on a moonlit night.
Eldest female traverses far,
Across the spans to another star.
Her coat is red and of spotted hue,
She’s focused, sleek and agile, too.
Baby kit strong as the rest,
Playful, thoughtful, full of zest.
Bold and tender, small and swift,
She will make my spirits lift.
That’s my four to Anne’s full eight,
Birds and bobcats were our fate.

So universal a mother’s fears,
Perils change not throughout the years.
When they were wee I panicked all,
Certain each would trip and fall,
Into trouble of unending kinds,
How do mothers not lose their minds?
Oh, how dear when I stroked their fur,
Kneaded, snuggled and heard them purr.
Nestled snug in our den so tight,
Safe from dangers about the night.
But fate decrees they grow and flee,
Far from here and away from me.
Now trust is what I must embrace,
Believing full in faith and grace,
That they’ll live their lives with full aplomb,
As they make themselves a snuggled home.

At first I wandered lost in thought,
Paralyzed by the change this wrought.
My empty lair so stark and still,
I longed once more for it to fill,
With playful noises amidst the den,
How could I now live without them?
When hunting for a meal to share,
A rabbit brought into the lair,
But kits to eat were now nowhere.
Within me cries “How is this fair?”
Can a bobcat cry like a human lost?
Her entire purpose now since been tossed?
But, oh, how now this angst must end,
Replaced with thanks that kits now spend,
Their days in places they choose to be,
Coats shining strong and velvety.
They’ll bring rabbits to their own one day,
Groom them well, and hug and say,
“What utmost joy were my bobcats dear,
Who now are gone far away from here.”

I must thank you, Anne, for your theme so real,
For collective truth and broad appeal,
To mothers all in whatever form,
Who know the love of those we bore.

Dorothy Drusilla Hagan
February 11, 2017

And now follows, a brief commentary:

A Modern Comparison
to Anne Bradstreet’s poem
In Reference to Her Children

Written 358 years ago, Anne Bradstreet’s In Reference to Her Children is a tribute to her poetic prowess, and a testimony to the many universal themes of motherhood. Composed in forty-eight iambic tetrameter couplets, the poem is ninety-six lines in length. It is composed in roughly three parts: a description of her children, her fears as she brings them up, and her feelings as life slows down when this task is nearly done. Try as I might I could not exactly repeat her eight-syllable lines; for the most part seven syllables seem to come more naturally to me, and I feel perhaps that’s what I am meant to contribute.
Having had the privilege to teach Anne Bradstreet to my high school students, I was overjoyed to find this poem outside of class in another text. It has inspired me to try to imitate her theme, meter and rhyme scheme. The emotional trappings of motherhood are much the same over the centuries. Truly, I was struck by just how much her feelings were my feelings. Mrs. Bradstreet used the metaphor of birds in her nest; I have chosen bobcats in my lair.

Thank you with every shred of my being, Anne, for sharing your poem with me and inspiring me thus. One of your daughters shared my name, and I hope within this namesake I may reach across the ages, and offer blessings, from my family to yours.

Save

Save

Save

Save

A Fog Song

fog-final-1

As I stepped outside a number of nights ago, I became enveloped within a grounded cloud. The wind was silent yet there, and I stood in captivity in the vapors. Certain I had dropped in upon celestial passages, I became inspired to pen this little poem.

A Fog Song

Sometimes the spirits employ at night
Transforming fog and dark and light
They spring out sideways and up and down
Their destinations outward bound.

They dance and tumble and forward go
Billowing out with a rapid flow
Falling, fleeting, crawling, leaping
Effervescent with vapors seeping…

They’re more than cloud but not quite mist
Silent yet vocal with a sound like sliss
Illuminated with burst from a lamp
These spirits of fog too quick to be damp

They land on my hair and my head and my face
Promenade on with no time to waste…

Oh, where are you going my phantoms so blithe?
Where shall you sojourn Fog Spirits of Night?

By Dorothy D. Hagan
January 26, 2017

Save

Sushi in Two Bites? Please Don’t Judge, Stephen

Stephen-King

This post from 2013 popped up in my Facebook memories today. I thought I would re-post to further explain my continued lack of literary fame and acclaim. And I will always grab an opportunity to plug one of the best writers in the History of Time. It is an honor to explain myself to Stephen King.

Not long ago, while sharing some sushi rolls with my eldest daughter, I sliced one in half and consumed the bite.
“You can’t do that,” said the Daughter.
“Sure I can, ” says I.
“Mom…you’re already not using chopsticks, how weird do you want to be?”

I sighed and felt compelled to explain.

“But I like the smaller bites. They fit my mouth better, and besides, that way I get to enjoy every single ingredient’s flavor. And use more ginger. And it lasts twice as long.”

Satisfied with my complete and logical reply, I get the look that says I love you and all, but that’s just not how it’s done.

I guess I have approached my writing life the same way. I go at it in small chunks, clearly on a much smaller scale than is customary. Stephen King, an author whom I adore, (though I’ve not read one single book except his On Writing: A Memoir on the Craft,) comments below. I read these words first in 2001, and they haunt me still. (See Steve, you haunt me in spite of myself. I am a colossal sissy when it comes to the horror genre. Two or three times I have turned one guarded eye toward your movies, yanked in against my will. As I am now in my fifth decade, I may be able to toss my sissified trepidation aside and tippy-toe into your written world. But no promises.)

From On Writing: A Memoir on the Craft, while discussing novelists who only write a very limited number of books, the words of Stephen King:

On the other hand–the James Joyce hand–there is Harper Lee, who wrote only one book (the brilliant To Kill a Mockingbird). Any number of others, including James Agee, Malcolm Lowery, and Thomas Harris (so far), wrote under five. Which is okay, but I always wonder two things about these folks: how long did it take to write the books they did write, and what did they do the rest of their time? Knit afghans? Organize church bazaars? Deify plums? I’m probably being snotty here, but I am also, believe me, honestly curious. If God gives you something you can do, why in God’s name wouldn’t you do it?

Well, Steve, since you asked, with the exception of deifying plums, yes, I was doing all of the above. I would not think of boring you or anyone else with a list of life’s humdrum activities. But since I began writing in 1996 to the present day, I am, without reservation, eating my storybook plate of sushi in two bites, maybe even three or more. My world is full of durable afghans, well-organized bazaars, and I chase people down to pick and haul the fruit from the trees in my yard. In my defense, I am at least a two-book wonder, and that may not entirely be the last of my creative contributions.

So I suppose along with my sushi, I am consuming my literary capabilities in small, tasty bites as well. And yes, that violation of protocol does render me weird in the eyes of many. But I am savoring each bite, and leaving on the plate what I mean to leave.

To each his own, screamed someone. Probably while bleeding…in one of Stephen King’s magnificent books.

Dorothy Hagan is the author of The Offshore Triumphs of Karla Jean, not one bit scary but clever and funny as hell. She has super-duper (thanks again, Steve) reviews on Amazon. Read them. She also published a companion novel, The Edge of the Grace Period, 2000, that folks spoke of in the same breath with Willa Cather, Eudora Welty, Mary Karr and Molly Ivins. Seriously. She’s not making that up.

Tammy Labude: I Think I’ll BE

TammyLabude2

Facebook isn’t always politics and kitty cats. And it wasn’t for me today. It was the mournful media that informed me of a personal loss so heartfelt it is difficult to describe.

How do you describe having known an honest-t0-goodness living, breathing, celestial yet terrestrial…angel…and now she is gone? How do you describe someone who was never supposed to be here on this earth, yet was…how do you describe someone who dropped into your life at the exact moment of necessity, who brightened your days of sorrow and darkness, and touched not just you, but virtually everyone fortunate enough to be found in her presence?

With only two words: Tammy Labude

I met Tammy in 2002 when she was directing a production of Heidi in Garland, Texas. My eight-year-old daughter Abigail was up for the part. She got called back, did a good job and to our utter joy was cast as the lead. Seeing my daughter ecstatic with the joy of a dream come true was the first gift Tammy gave to me.

But soon this joy began to flow to me. I was living in a city away from home, and was profoundly homesick. While waiting for something or someone before rehearsals began, I was blessed to visit with Tammy for more than an hour, just the two of us. An instant friendship was born. We talked, we shared, we laughed, and I went home lighter than I had been for more than a year.

And her blessings to me and my family just multiplied. She always seemed to be there and available the exact moments and days I needed her. Always. Eventually, I moved back home, and so did she. We stayed in touch with occasional phone calls and messages. Every time we talked it was like we had just spoken yesterday.

And now I realize that my daughter and I were but two tiny woven threads on the loving, giving, living tapestry that made up Tammy’s life. Because the gifts she gave to us she gave to everyone who was lucky enough to cross her path. And I believe wholeheartedly that her paths, her every steps were God directed.

How else but Angel might she be called? She was born with frailties that would have taken most away. She bore human challenges most of us have never seen. She was never interested in the grand earthly things. People were her business. Small ones. Tall ones. Old ones. Young ones. All ones. She gave and she gave and she forgave and I will never know why I was so blessed as to have been among those who had the privilege to know her.

I noticed some time back someone on Facebook quoted to her “To be, or not to be?” and Tammy answered, “I think I’ll BE.” And boy, did she.

That I could BE a fraction of her goodness…

God speed, Tammy, and God willing, until we meet again.

 

 

Elevators: Portals or Transporters?

inside elevator

I have always harbored an intense dislike and distrust of elevators. Prince dying alone in one this week isn’t helping my predisposition.

I have oft felt alone in my leery unease on the subject of elevators. I have spent a lifetime avoiding elevators at every possible turn. I have quit jobs to avoid them, I have changed doctors to avoid them, and when forced to enter one, I go to great lengths to make sure I am never in one entirely alone. I stalk friendly faces and law enforcement as I smile and politely inquire if they are going to such and such floor?

Elevators…I hate their looks. I hate their doors. I hate their shiny, brassy rectangular shape. I hate the slit in their doors that slides open and snaps shut at their will, forcing you to move fast in or out. (Who decided this soulless machine gets to determine how fast I move? Who gave it permission to make me hop in or jump out?)

I especially distrust the seemingly benign opening of their doors, that deceitful invitation to step in and hand over your entire control. I distrust the interior of this up-and-down, unpredictable beast that swallows you whole, body and soul, until when and if it decides to spit you back out where you hope to go.

Finally, I hate the awkward interior etiquette of the passengers (prisoners?). I hate the mindless chatter (guilty) or the cold silence (tomb-esque) that’s different with every ride. I hate getting squished by the same types of pushy-doos who park their giant vehicles four inches from your front seat. I hate that I am generally half as tall as any of the inhabitants.

But you know what makes me the most uneasy about elevators? It is their ability to transport people and cargo to seemingly other worlds. They aren’t transporters. They are portals. They take you to worlds you don’t even know exist until you get there. It makes me uneasy to look up at a 10, 20, 50 story building and know that there is a different world, a different reality, a different dimension, a different life, on each floor, in each room, in every nook and cranny within these giant steel encasements. There are thousands of people, of critters, of insects, all living their existences in their elevated worlds.

I recently served eight days on a jury for a case on the 17th floor. I somehow faced my fears and got up and down, several times a day. (The source and nature of this bravery will be a subject for another day. Suffice it to say I believe I was intended to be there.) My fears and anxieties were lit on fifty cylinders. But what I could not fathom was what a completely and utterly different reality transpired within our section of our floor of our building, how it so differed from those folks who scurried on the ground, on the streets, in the cars as they entered and exited the city.

Like many, I am missing Prince with an ache that leaves me hurting. But I am especially sad that he died alone in what I view as a limbo of sorts, an elevator, a non-place. But what do I know? It is my prayer and my belief that those shinny, brassy doors flew open for him to enter the next world. His Final Elevator, his Portal, took him from here to There. God speed, my friend.

Speak Those Goals

It was the end of a brutal year. I found myself facing a divorce, single-parenthood, a draining job and pretty much the loss of everything I thought life had set out before me. But for the wise advice from a life-altering therapist, there’s no way to predict how things might have turned out.

But alas, that life-altering therapist was there. I sat before her awash in tears, despondent, hopeless. She gently suggested I set out some new goals for myself. I must have looked at her as though she had sprouted confetti from her forehead. The conversation went something like this:

Her: Let’s think about some new goals for you.
Me: Goals? You’ve got to be kidding.
Her: No, I mean it. Not resolutions. Those are never effective. I am talking about goals. Short and long term. Some you will hit, some you won’t hit this year, some you may never hit. But that’s okay. Because they are goals. They are desires that you have and are giving a voice to. So what are some short term goals?
Me: God. Breathing? Not driving my car off an overpass? Not setting my ex and his girlfriend on fire?
Her: Beyond the obvious. What are some things in say, the next six months, that you would like to accomplish?
Me: Well, I need to move out. I need to deal with legal crap. I need to find another place to live. My son and I have to move back in with my mother. In Pasadena. Jesus, save me.
Her: Okay. So what about after that? Longer term. What about a year from now? What about five years from now?

So at this point I had no earthly idea. Or so I thought. Again, with her gentle prodding, I began to move forward in my vision.

Me: Well, someday I would like to own another house. A place of my own. A place of peace and safety…Ah, hell. A house with a neighborhood swimming pool! (Okay, NOW the energetic visions were popping!)
Her: What about relationships?
Me: What do you mean?
Her: Relationships. What about another marriage someday? More children?

I was stunned. In my abyss of grief and loss, the notion of having another life, actually living the life of mother with kids with husband with happiness…could those things possibly even be imaginable?

Her: I want you to go home and write down everything you want to accomplish. Big and little. Great and small. Call it your Goals List. Do you want to travel? Add destinations. Different relationships? Add names. Believe me when I say You have the Power to Speak Things into Being.
Me: Okay.
Her: Times’ up. Leave a check with the receptionist. I’ll see you in a week.

So…that’s now been well over two decades ago. And you know what? I DID accomplish nearly everything I set out on those early goals lists. I DID move out. I DID get another house. I DID remarry. I DID have more children. I HAVE had the Life I dreamed of and thought was lost forever.

For the life of me I cannot remember that therapist’s name. I remember her face and the resolute determination she had to help me. And I thank God for her and for therapists and encouragers like her.

So fellow travelers…Speak your goals. Claim your future. Accept years with little change. (The Lose 30 Pounds goal has yet to be realized. But, hey, I’ll put it on this year’s list again!)

Here’s wishing you the best possible life for 2016 and beyond.

The First Thousand Words…Are on the Page

The first thousand words have given birth to…no…

The first thousand words have been launched into…eh…

The first thousand words have…maybe…taken flight…total bleh…

The first thousand words…are on the page. There we go. That will suffice.

There are few experiences in life as daunting and exciting as beginning a new novel. I know this to be true because this is the beginning of Novel Number Four. (Five if you want to count an uncompleted half novel, which I don’t.) This little announcement will be succinct because I am driven and anxious to get back to the story. The characters are all alive, new ones being born every minute, and they are having conversations in my head so fast it is challenging to get the notes down, before they jump headlong and escape from the creative bowel of alphabet soup.

Many things will be different this go-round. First, I am twenty years older than I was since I began novel writing at thirty-five. A lot of Life happens in twenty years. Likewise, I have already made the hundreds of greenhorn mistakes that a writer simply has to make. There’s no short-cutting the the writing ropes, and I know this now. Finally, being older and wiser (and frankly, a much better writer) I will be pursing this venture with vastly different end goals in mind. Fame and Fortune are still distant sirens, but ones calling from near the bottom of the Lists of Things To Do.

And with that declaration, this indie writer will announce this to the world: it will be my focused and complete intention to submit this fourth novel for traditional publication upon completion of the polished manuscript. I have nothing to lose and everything to gain. I am writing because I love to write. And I will share it because I want to share.

So here we go. The first thousand words…are on the page.

Old Gal Rap

Wedding Singer

Another day to see and be, a day of opportunity, a day for me to make my plea, a day to prove this comes E Z to me.

Rappin’ and clappin’ , creating a song, keep the words coming, doesn’t take too long, waxin’ and wanin’ is where I belong.

How can I make it more complicated? That’s what I’m sittin’ here contemplatin’…am told I’m too old to really solicit, lines and words that are really explicit…not in a Hurt way or Dirt way at all, just no “yo’s” or “yolos” allowed to fall.

See, I’m middle-aged, just a white old lady, hardly in the league with the great Slim Shady, but that don’t mean that my words ain’t weighty.

Whoa now!

Okay, the English teacher in me, won’t allow me to be, up with the “ain’t” that gets dropped for free.

Contractions are actions that need to connect, in proper use and be correct, “ain’t” ain’t a word that you can dissect. What is an “ain” I ask anyway? Language like that should be put away.

So how do you know when a rap’s all done? When the words are laid out, and the sentiments won? When the piece has then reached it’s right conclusion?

Guess it’s a trait, I must learn to relate, before I can take, the slate, and partake in the make, of the right formulate, of a Slim Shady resolution.

Cuz I need to be in it, for at least four minutes, to be in it to win it, concoct it and spin it.

To speak of a cause, a story, a lesson, tell of a pause in confession, profession, to make some point within this session. My reason to be, my purpose and plea, causes me to believe, I must do this, you see.

So it is with sincere respect, I attempt to connect, with the art and the rhythm, that are found here within, my mind and my home, my heart and my soul.

So it’s YOLO, yo, don’t be hatin’ on me. I’m just an old lady tryin’ to set myself free, learnin’ what I can from the boyz on TV.

 

Substantial Friends

The following is an excerpt from my unpublished second novel, The Governor Who Arose From Crude. With many characters from my other novels, this is a fictional “biography” of Polly Parker, who will become the third-only female Governor of Texas in the 1990’s. Thanks to Ann Richards and Ma Ferguson for blazing this trail.

“Melancholy, indeed, should be diverted
by every means but drinking.”
Samuel Johnson
(1709-1784)

Substantial Friends

I always hate flying. Even before 9/11, my insides quivered every time my professional life demanded I take another flight. But I have a little helper I take along, a dependable friend to give me courage. I laugh at myself and say “Jack Daniels is my flight attendant.” Once or twice I’ve worried that in a true emergency, I might be too impaired to safely exit the aircraft…but I quickly shrug it off, because, it is the only time I ever have more than a second drink of alcohol. Certainly I’ve never given the dangers of addiction a passing thought. Not until one flight which I shared with a woman named Polly Parker, a gubernatorial candidate from my home state. During the long, late flight from Houston to Los Angeles, she chose to bear her soul before me.

I soon discovered Polly Parker was a recovered alcoholic and drug addict. Not long ago this kind of admission might have spelled electoral death, at the least a newsworthy scandal. But these days she was just one more political traveler with some extra heavy baggage. After a quick round of pleasantries she shared with me that she is the widowed mother of four. She tells me both she and her husband were high school addicts, and fell in love when they met in a community drug program. Sobriety suited them. They married and had their children before they were twenty five years old. Her husband David even became a drug counselor for the recovery program.

I sat there nervously on the airplane, seeking an occasional sip of comfort from my friend Jack, disguised and poured cleverly into an iced tea bottle. (And may I say this has become significantly more tricky since the disallowance of liquids on airplanes.) As I did so this woman was about to reveal a story so poignant, so full of anguish, that I would never look at my purse-sized bottle of courage in quite the same way again. As I listened glassy-eyed from slight intoxication, Polly Parker spoke glassy-eyed from painful remembrance.

It seemed like we had everything, David and me. In spite of our rocky, law-breaking backgrounds, we were just like any other young family. We ate together, we played together, we prayed to our Higher Power together. Looking back, good Lord, I was so naive. I foolishly assumed that since David was sober when I met him, sober he would always stay. Missed that one. No doubt about it.

Until our lives began to fall apart, I never really understood the true power of addiction. I mean, when I gave up drugs and alcohol, it wasn’t really much of a struggle. I only got high because I was bored and it made me feel so good about doing nothing. I remember thinking, ‘Since David and the Program are my life now, the pot’s got to go.’ I didn’t fully understand the power that addiction had on David. I never understood a very painful fact: that every day of his life was a struggle to resist getting high. I just didn’t get it.

Of course, now I see the agony he was in. He could never sleep. He spent nearly every night of our marriage sitting up in the living room, watching late movies, smoking cigarettes, staring into space. He always seemed so tense, never unpleasant, just…tense. It was handy though when the babies came. He never minded staying up with them. He’d smile sweetly and say ‘Hey, I’m up anyway.’ I don’t know when he slept. He must have sometime.

The change came quickly, though at the time I didn’t notice it. I was really overwhelmed with the kids and a job, obviously preoccupied.

It started when he began to join me in bed at night. He’d grab whatever crying baby was up and climb into bed with me (and whatever baby I was cuddling). I loved the change. Sometimes I’d go get the rest of the kids and put us all in bed because it just felt so amazingly good to have us all lying there together. David would sleep long and sound. All was right with the world. I never even wondered how he was suddenly so able to sleep.

I guess my first clue came one morning when I couldn’t wake him up. He had a statewide staff meeting and had to drive to Austin and arrive by one o’clock. I had to really push and pull on him, finally I yelled real loud in his ear. This woke up three babies, and by now I was getting pretty angry. I had to get myself ready for work and I needed those kids asleep while I did it. He finally got up, groggy and a tiny bit belligerent. I stormed off to the shower and left him with the screaming, hungry children.

It wasn’t more than a month later that things began to turn toward utter chaos. Now I may have been naive when it came to symptoms of renewed addiction, but his colleagues on the program staff were not. One day he came home early from work, ranting and raving, clearly high or drunk or both, and as he went off I knew our lives as we knew them were over.

David was always fond of swearing, but he let loose with a stream of profanities like I‘d never heard him use before. He stormed into the house, and started breaking everything he could get in his hands. ‘How dare those self-righteous people tell me to go seek help!’ Crash went my ceramic ivy plant. ‘Who do they think they are? I’m the counselor, not the other way around. I’ve been sober for nine years!’ He slammed a chair into the wall. Tears and sweat streamed down his face. ‘Nine years! And those jerks, some of them with only three years clean, tell me to leave the staff and seek a rehab treatment. ‘It’s OK, man, they said. We love ya, man. We just want you to go get some help.’ Come on, Polly, who do they think they’re kidding? Why are they coming at me this way?’

I stood there, too stunned to move. It was all so much to take in at once. Clearly, he was using again. He’d been removed from the program staff, and everyone knew all this except me. Good Lord. This was a lot to absorb. But you know how horrid scenes unfold. You have to deal with the most horrific scene at hand, and currently it was the contents of our house being destroyed, by his hands that were now bleeding. We both exploded into hysteria.

I started screaming. “David! Stop this! Stop this now! You break one more thing and I’ll knock you out! I swear I will!” Thank God, he backed off. Of course, what came next was worse. Instead of my furnishings getting broken, now it was my heart.
He started crying, and I don’t mean a manly sort of crying. I mean he started bawling and wailing like a baby. Maybe it was the drugs he was on, whatever, he fell down into heap of tears and snot as he collapsed on the living room rug. If things weren’t ghastly enough, now the kids started to stream in.

“What’s wrong with Daddy?” asked Melody, at seven, our eldest girl. “Why is Daddy crying?”

What came next was the worst of all. I guess it was because he was horrified by flipping out in front of us, but what he did was monstrous. Instead of just calming down, or at the least just leaving, he jumped towards Melody. He grabbed her and began to shake her, and it was at this time that I did knock him out. I grabbed an old half-gallon wine bottle, chock full of pennies, and let him have it. I didn’t even think. I just knew I could not let him hurt Melody or the rest of us.

I swear to God, in spite of all my experience with addiction, I never knew what drugs and alcohol could do to an otherwise sane individual.

Well, Lord Almighty. May I say that I didn’t, either. Geesh.

Now I don’t mean to be insensitive. But this whole addiction scenario was alien to me. I’ve never been out of control where alcohol or drugs were concerned. Even growing up, the worse experience I witnessed at the hands of alcohol was when my dad and his brother Simon drank too much whiskey. They fell asleep on the front porch. Loud snores. That was it. I think maybe Uncle Simon peed himself once or twice. But that was the extent of the damage.

I was uncomfortable and frightened to have her go on. Yet I was drawn to her story in some inexplicable way. I was captivated and terrified at the same time.

I guess the biggest tragedy, looking back, is that we might have won this whole horrid battle, if David had just stayed at it. After that dreadful night (I’m ashamed to admit he needed sixteen stitches) David agreed to go for a thirty day program at a local hospital. I thanked God for David’s willingness to cooperate, and I prayed hard for the healing of my family. Believe me, with five small children, a divorce was something I did not want. Who knew divorce would never even present itself as an option? The real tragedy was just beginning.

David went through the treatment, stayed clean, but after six months, somehow just didn’t get his spirit back. He was grumpy and solemn. Dry drunk some call it. His face was solid pain. We all tried to reach him, but we just couldn’t get through to him. The children were always trying to cheer him up, especially Melody. As the first-born, she assumed her role of protector without question. She worried over him, and tried to never let her dad be left alone. It made me sick watching her fret over him. But I couldn’t stop her. Melody was terrified he would begin the drugs again. Eventually she took to hiding in his car whenever he left the house. I suppose she figured to intervene if he went to buy alcohol or score some dope.

One night, as he sat there in the living room, sleepless and sad, he got his car keys and went for the door. Melody, ever watchful, followed her dad and while he opened the garage door she sneaked into the backseat of his car.

Of course, David had gone to do himself in. That was evident by the speed of the car at the time of the crash, and confirmed by his suicide note. I will not ever know if he at any point discovered Melody was in the car with him.

My sweet little Melody was killed, and in what was really a bigger tragedy, David, God help him, was not.

After the accident his grief knew no bounds. Naturally, the first thing he did was buy a gallon-size jug of gin and scored as many downers as he could. You know, I honestly thought burying my seven-year-old daughter was the worse thing that could happen to me, but again, I underestimated that powerful demon of addiction.

The violent streak I’d seen in David before his treatment was amplified after Melody’s death. He seemed ready to snap at any moment. Sometimes I was afraid he wanted to kill us all. Yet just when I’d be at the end, ready to take the kids and leave, he’d come to me, crying, wretched…God, he was so consumed with guilt and shame. Well, you know, I loved him deeply. He was my husband. He was my best friend. How could I turn my back on him at his worst?

Every day held the potential for a violent surprise. I used to pick the kids up from daycare on my way home from work, but now I always went home alone first. I could not chance what the children might find. Life was so miserable. I began to wish he had been killed with Melody. And then my own guilt at these thoughts began to consume me.
But one day what I’d long expected came to pass. I knocked loudly at our door to alert him to my arrival. Only no sound came from within the house.

I walked with trembling legs into our bedroom.

And there he was.

My sweetheart lay peacefully in our bed, surrounded by pictures of me and the kids, and for a change there was a smile on his face. In his still hands he held a picture of our precious daughter. A note beside him said simply “I’ve gone to go apologize to Melody.”

That was it. I could no longer nod in sedated neutrality. Silent tears spilled from my eyes as I apologized to Polly for indulging in my own sorrow. She touched my hand and smiled with a calm strength I cannot even fathom. She finally concluded her sad, woeful tale.

I hope I never know for certain if I am a true addict or not. But I’ll tell you this: I plan to stay sober every day of my life. I don’t ever want to know if the same hideous creature that resided within my precious David, might also reside in me. Drugs and booze be damned. I’ll just have my coffee, thank you, and an aspirin when my fever goes above a hundred.

And she did, too. Throughout all the stress and trauma of the upcoming campaign, to her credit Polly Parker never touched a drop of anything. Just like the sober Ann Richards before her.

Well, I’m glad she is comfortable with sobriety. All this wretchedness was too much for me. As soon as Polly went to the lavatory, I dove straight into my purse for a big draw from my best friend. I was out cold by the time we landed. My last conscious thought was to thank God that addiction held no power over me.

Excerpt from The Governor Who Arose From Crude, copyright 1996, all rights reserved.