Throwing in the Towel

The following morning she got up, sat on the edge of her bed, looked in the mirror, on her vanity, and sighed. Her eyes had dark bags and the lines on her face seemed more pronounced then ever before. Her head ached and her stomach was upset. Last night had been brutal.

She couldn’t remember everything that happened. All she knew was that at some point, after several drinks at the local country and western bar, a violent argument broke out between her and her husband. Before she was escorted out of the bar she slapped him in the face, tossed a beer on his shirt and cussed him out.

As she sat on the side of her bed she began talking to herself in the mirror. A behavior she had done so many times before.

        “My meds must be off. I know that is what is going on. My medication is not working. With all the stress I am faced with, and the pain in my body, my medication needs to be adjusted. I will call the doctor as soon as the office opens. I wish my husband were here. I need to know everything that happened last night. Oh well, he will understand. He always does.”

She began to look around the bedroom as she muttered,

        “Where is my cell phone? I know it was here.”

She picked up her phone and turned on the screen. She gasped, and turned white as a sheet as she looked at her call history.

        “Oh my god, did I really call all these people last night? I wonder what I said?

She started to shake, and sat on the edge of her bed for several minutes. Guilt began to hover, and eventually encase her. She had embarrassed herself and her husband in front of all their friends and family. Not only had her behavior been embarrassing, she did the one thing she never wanted to do. She hit the one man who loved her unconditionally.

Her mind began to race as she thought about her life and the state it was in. Once again she looked in the mirror and began to talk with the silent stranger.

        “What am I going to do? Maybe I can ask the doctor for stronger anxiety medicine. With the upcoming trip I will need stronger medication. I cannot believe I have to fly home for this. I can’t watch him die. He should not be dying. I need more time with him.”

She picked up her cell phone and made a call. This time she called me.

As I picked up the phone and said hello and all I heard was broken sentences.

        “I have blown it, Misty. I really, I think, I am not sure, but I think I messed up this time.”

Her voice was not normal. There was a slur in her words, and her sentences were incomplete. Even though it was early morning, I knew she had messed up her medication again. It was obvious she had taken her nighttime medication, and she had exceeded her prescribed amount.

        “What do you mean, you think you blew it? What happened last night?”

She muttered a few more incoherent words and let out a long yawn.

At that point it was painfully obvious that our conversation was not going to be productive. When she paused to yawn again, I calmly said,

        “Maybe you should go and lie down. Call me back when you wake up, if you remember and we will talk more then, okay?”

A few more incoherent words poured through the phone, and then the line went dead. I waited; I waited for her to call back and hoped she had not overdosed.

Two days later I received a phone call from her. She did not remember calling me. She recalled the night in the bar as a wonderful night. She had a great time with her family and friends. Too bad they did not remember that night the same way. She just wished they could all “Grow up” and forgive her for whatever they think she had done wrong.

I did not know what to say. I knew this was not just about her meds, or the bar, it was more than that.

I asked her if she had her plane ticket booked, and if she knew when she would be flying into the area. I asked her if this visit would be an extended visit, or just for a few weeks? There was a long pause on the phone. She finally answered and said,

        “I will be staying until daddy passes away.”

She asked me if her dad was okay, and if we had had our morning coffee time. I reassured her that he was fine though a bit weak.

I then asked her how she was really doing. She tried to change the subject and talk about the weather. I knew what she was doing; I had watched her dad do the same thing. I just listened. Eventually though I said,

        “You cannot fight or avoid your feelings forever, you know. You are going to have to face the fears you’re feeling. It is time for you to throw in the towel and admit your dad is dying. It is time to admit and acknowledge your pain. There is going to be a lot of intense emotions over the next few months. Please acknowledge your pain. You need him, and he needs you, especially now. Try not to wait too long to come. Every day he gets weaker.”

She began to cry.

        “This is so hard. I just don’t know if I can do it, if I can watch him die.”

I just listened. I honestly did not know what to say.

A few days later she flew into Oregon. Her timing was good, she was able to spend a week with her dad before his health failed and he was gone.

Even though she was in Oregon and trying to tend to her dad’s needs she still was unable to process her emotions correctly. She was unable to “Throw in the proverbial towel.”

By now you may be asking yourself what I mean by throwing in the towel? I am not a therapist, or a counselor, but to me I think it signifies surrendering. It is acknowledging, in a good way, that you need help, and that your heart pain is too great to bear alone.

I would like to say that by the time her dad died, and she left Oregon, she was able to throw in the towel but she was not. Within a few months, after returning home, all contact had to cease. The relationship had become toxic. Her drug and alcohol use increased as well as the irrational behaviors that go with substance abuse issues.

So, why am I bringing this up today, in this article? We are coming up on the two-year anniversary when Old Man was told his time on earth was almost over. I remember that day, because I was with him. I remember our time of crying together in the car, and the many discussions we had about death after his diagnosis. (I shared that day with the story titled “Temporary Seasons.”)

Unknown to me, at that time, Old Man was teaching me how to throw in the towel. He shared his emotions and thoughts with me. He could have taken the stand of “Real men don’t cry” but he did not. Instead we cried together.

There are many things in life that produce pain. Some pain is self-inflicted, but more than not it is pain that is inflicted upon us. I think the “trick” in life is learning how to handle the pain, the disappointments, and the effects that they leave. The trick is learning when to stand tall and firm and when to drop to the knees and cry.

I hope in time my friend will be able to drop to her knees and cry. Until then she will continue on the road she is on. Miserable, stoned and in deep emotional pain. If only she knew the healing power of a good cry, and a good surrender. If only she knew how freeing life can be by simply throwing in the towel.

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