“Can I borrow this glass?”
My sister-in-law shakes the drink ware, rattling half-melted ice cubes. It’s not actually glass. I don’t own an actual glass. She has been imbibing from a blue plastic tumbler from a set of four purchased at Target. All my possessive instincts kick in. They aren’t fancy, but they are mine. I’m unwilling to part with a single one, even temporarily.
“Use this instead.”
I offer her a clear plastic tumbler that I stole from my university’s dining hall. To be clever, I told friends that I had “acquired” it. It was me using words to avoid acknowledging the truth. I’ve kept it for twenty years, four cross-country moves and a divorce. Despite our long history together, I’m willing to loan it to MJ. Why not add enabling to this cup’s illicit narrative?
I was surprised MJ needed a container today. She usually brings all the accoutrements: her own over-sized glass, a bag of ice, a two-liter, a bottle of Bacardi and a straw. “It’s my sippy cup,” she giggles, taking her own turn at using words to mask the truth. For this visit, she not only trusted me to have a cup, she even believed me when I assured her we had ice.
She accepts the cheap tumbler and empties the last of her rum and Diet Dr Pepper into it. One for the road. I keep mum about open container laws. Dottie, her partner of twenty-five years, is also her permanent designated driver. No more party plates – MJ’s license is revoked.
She used to ask permission to bring liquor, wine or beer when visiting. She knows we won’t have any. Peter would say, “I don’t care.” Twenty years sober, he can be around others who drink.
But the phone will ring at 6:00 am. An inebriated MJ will cry over past slights, her lack of money and her failing health. Her brother has no patience for it. “She wouldn’t have diabetes if she would stop drinking,” Peter fumes. “She needs to sober up and get a fucking job.” But he knows that she doesn’t want to stop, not like he did. She attended court-mandated AA meetings after getting out of jail because she had to.
“These people are fucked up,” she told us.
I just listened, refraining from any mention of pots and kettles.
“She can’t even visit us for a couple of hours without drinking,” I complain to Peter. After another drunken phone call, I want to put my foot down. No, you can’t bring alcohol into our house. I want to tell her she’s a bad example for Philip. Yet, other than flushed skin and a tendency to repeat herself, her behavior is acceptable. Well, as acceptable as drinking yourself to death can be.
Despite her “sippy cup,” she is an adult. I decide that I am treating her as one even as I help her into the car. As someone who eats her feelings, who am I to judge?
“I love you guys,” she slurs.
“Love you, too,” we say. “Have a safe trip home.”
If only she loved herself enough to stop drinking.