As a freshman member of Alcoholics Anonymous, my father memorized its renowned twelve steps. My memory of his success is recounted on page 62 of Before the Door Closes: A Daughter’s Journey with Her Alcoholic Father:
“More than fifty years earlier, Daddy had memorized its twelve-step program. ‘Listen to this, Judy,’ he said, taking a card from his wallet. Striding around the room, he repeatedly read aloud the dozen principles. Day after day he thundered them until they were rooted in his mind. That accomplished, there were times, it seemed, when he needed a reminder. Roping the family in it, he would unexpectedly walk to the middle of the living room, square his shoulders, and deliver each step perfectly.
“He sounded every bit like a fervent evangelist when his assured voice thundered, ‘Step Two. Come to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.'”
Thinking back on that now, I believe those were times when Daddy was asking his family for patience. At his core he desperately wanted to quit drinking–never succumb to another slip. Making us listen to his recitation was his way of reminding himself and us.
The plea of Daddy’s heart was epitomized in a maxim in the late seventies/early eighties, abbreviated PBPGIFWMY: Please be patient; God isn’t finished with me yet. Also during that time Joel Hemphill wrote the gospel song “He’s Still Working on Me.”
In commenting on my previous post, “The All-Weather Friend,” Carolyn revealed that she learned from classmates after she was grown they had similar stories to mine. She regrets not knowing their secret earlier so that she could have been of support at the time.
Her regret reminded me of André Auw’s poem “Out of Order,” which tells of a little boy wanting to cry because he couldn’t get the popcorn machine to release the popcorn it held. He didn’t understand that his desire and his money were not enough to make the broken machine work. The poem then concludes:
And Lord, I too felt like weeping, weeping for
people who have become locked in,
jammed, broken machines filled with
goodness that other people need and
want and yet will never come to enjoy,
because somehow, somewhere,
something has gone wrong inside.
Many lives cloister wounded feelings, bruising as easily as magnolia petals. We do not always recognize these mangled souls. We may meet them only briefly. In a crowded store. At the gas pump. During a “move on” business call.
A patient word, a thumbs-up gesture, a simple thank you to these nameless victims may be enough salve for them to make it through another day. And what’s the price? A passing moment of stepping outside ourselves.
But what about the life who is harboring undeserved hurts? You do not have to pass them on. You have the power to break the cycle. You can help others not to be out of order too!