Sunray Still Alive

Wednesday morning.  I’m pairing socks on my sofa.  Glenn Miller American Patrol playing in the background.  Incoming call on my mobile.

Sunray’s number comes up.  He has not phoned me on my mobile number for nearly two years.  Is this the call where a stranger’s voice tells me:

“Hello.  Is that German Ginge?  Could you sit down, please?  I’m sorry to tell you…”

It was not to be.  It was Sunray himself.  At least he was sober.  Well, it was 0930 in the UK.  Give him time.  He was fine, thanks.  Actually, no he was very, very down.  Nobody cares about him.  Nobody comes to see him.  He does not very often leave his house.  No, he does not want to go to the library.  No, he does not want to go to coffee mornings to go out and meet people.

Clearly he is in a rut, and it is hard to kick-start someone when they are that deep in the mud.

But, but, but…

I can’t help but asking if some people are “only happy when they are unhappy,” when they can portray themselves as victim.

Nobody from the Royal British Legion (charity for ex-servicemen and women) has been to see him since they were contacted four months ago.  How shocking.  How inept.  How uncaring.

A blatant lie.

A liar has to have a good memory.  His is clearly very poor.  He himself told me two months ago about two lady caseworkers visiting him for coffee and chat.  I myself had a long phone call with one of his caseworkers two months ago, whotold me about his:

  • Alcoholism
  • Drink-caused accidents at home
  • Callouts to the ambulance
  • Discussions with the alcohol nurse as follow-through
  • Constant drunken calls to people in his address book at all times of the day and night, in once case, fifteen (sic) times in one day

Then he tells me the (expletives) from the Legion have not sent a single person to see him.

It’s my birthday in less than a week.  It’ll be forty years to the day since one morning I was asked to come to the headmaster’s office at Wolfenbüttel Primary School, Germany, and take a phone call from Sunray on duty at HMP Maze in Northern Ireland, wishing his first-born a happy birthday.  I think of where his now.  Choose the action, choose the consequences.  You cannot always rescue a drowning man, without you risking drowning.

Have a sober day, won’t you!

Sunray Heading Downhill

Sunray.  His children used to call him “Dad.”  His daughter nowadays calls him “the sperm-donor.”  He’s been a  “problem child” all his married life and in the years thereafter.  Serial borrower.  Serial non-payer-back.  Heavy drinker.  Alcoholic.  Serial nuisance caller, trawling his address book for people to phone up to fifteen times a day.  Serial texter.  “U R ME PAL”; “CUM N SEE ME”; “GET ME A BTL OF ROSE PLS”.

I used to write to him every week or two, either a proper type-written letter or a postcard to boost his morale.  I used to phone him once a month.  Has he ever written back?  Once this year.  He now has a professional caseworker from the Royal British Legion, the Armed Forces charity.  Her summary to me?  “Yes, he’s a very difficult case.”

So, what’s the future.?  It’s not bright.  It’s not orange.  When someone is that deep in the rut of late-stage alcoholism combined with borderline personality disorder or sociopathy, there’s little you can do.

  • Poor physical health
    • Diabetes
    • Obesity
    • Osteoarthritis of both knees
  • Estranged from most of his family
  • No real, flesh-and blood, friends in his locality
  • The kind of personality that means people give you a “wide berth” (his favourite expression)
  • Poor hygiene
  • Etc etc

Does he actually want to live any more?  What are the reasons to live any more?  To even get out of bed?  Would death be a relief for him?

Choose the action, choose the consequences.

Have a consequential day, won’t you!

A moral dilemma

So, for the past month or so, I have been back in DUS, worshipping at my local Anglican church again.  Now, a moral question…

Is it fair for me to avoid “babysitting service” for two member of the church?  I know it is better to give than to receive, but sometimes I feel the need for some “me time.”

It’s often said that single people, especially men, are the overlooked people in a church.  Maybe that is true.  Those with wives/girlfriends/husbands/significant others head home after the service for Sunday lunch and stroll and family time.  Some of the single people need fellowship.

Now, here’s the twist.  What should you do if you feel people expect you to babysit you every Sunday afternoon – on their terms?  In the last three years I have kept two single men company afte church, which trips to villages, coffee and chat, while they let off steam to me.  That’s fine.  Romans 12:12-15 and all that.  Lately one of them has literally breathed down my neck inviting me to head to the pub for a chat.  Last year I did that and ended up as his bereavement counsellor, sitting in a pub for hours, normally on bright sunny days.  In recent weeks I’ve declined his invitations, but suggested to him that he join a group of us for a stroll round the local woods.

Reply: “Oh, sorry I can’t, I have another appointment later in the day.”

Sorry, folks, everyone has a limit.  My time, my terms, I’m afraid.

Have a moral day, won’t you!

Sunray at 70

At long last after an excessive period of silence, I come back to blog.  Two months ago Sunray turned 70, somewhat to some people’s surprise and chargrin.  I have to confess, I waited till a week before his birthday before buying him a birthday card and sticking a tenner in it.

At the end of May I came up to see Sunray and also pick up several items I’d left in storage und her stairs when I did one of my several nomadic moves.

I’d been briefed Sunray had gone downhill.  Nonetheless, quite a shock to see how a “bullsh1t” soldier, who used to be into boots looking like black glass, razor-sharp creases in trousers and shirt sleeves, had “let his personal administration go downhill.”

  • His living room stank of a mix of stale body odour and old tobacco.
  • There was a thick layer of dust everywhere throughout the house.
  • I struggled to find a clean work surface in the kitchen, eventually taking a glass chopping board and scrubbing it under piping hot water.

A whole weekend spent with Sunray.  It was more a chore than a pleasure.  A definite lack of social skills on display.  Imagine a mix of:

  • Petulant teenager
  • Hormonal woman suffering from PMS
  • Two-year-old having a temper tantrum

All that for several hours in Whitby, while Sunray held court on a bench in Whitby town centre on a glorious sunny.

Look at that (expletive deleted) walking around, hands in his pockets.

Look at the state of her, with her hair dyed.

Why are so many (expletives deleted) bringing their dogs down to Whitby?  Why can’t the (expletive deleted) walk their dogs elsewhere.

Etc etc ad nauseum.

No wonder Sunray has so few friends.  Galatians 6:7-9 is spot-on.

Sad to say, a very sad, lonely, almost pitiable man.

Will I be seeing him again?

No.

Looking on the bright side, I did manage to get some delicious, crunchy sticks of Whitby rock for my Schatz back home in Germany.  My trip was therefore not entirely in vain.

Have a crunchy day, won’t you!

Sunray at Seventy

Sunray’s birthday was earlier this week.  Slightly to my surprise, he has reached seventy.  His diabetologist is also probably slightly surprised, given that he had warned Sunray in June:

If you want to see Christmas this year, stop drinking now.

However, Sunray, because of his psychological/chemical dependency on alcohol, kept on drinking and drinking, often being heavily intoxicated at 2pm or 3pm most days, a textbook example of a man with late-stage alcoholism.  After receiving in early January what the police call “appropriate words of advice,” from his younger son, Sunray has cut back on his drinking (but not stopped), and reflected on his actions.

I rang Sunray on the morning of his birthday, and he was subdued.  Five cards.  None from his daughter, none from his younger son.  A card from his elder brother, with whom he is estranged, wanting to “kiss and make up.”  Sunray didn’t.  I agree.  High hedges make good neighbours.

Quite a pitiable situation.  But what you give out, gets repaid – with interest.

Have a celebratory day, won’t you!

Beyond worrying, beyond caring

Sunray. He’s proved his diabetologist wrong. A huge victory, albeit probably pyrrhic.  The diabetologist had warned Sunray in June:

Stop [note: not “cut down”] drinking if you want to see Christmas.

Needless to say Sunray was crying down the phone to me at this piece of medical advice.  (Well, his three-month blood sugar reading did stand at 22 units, a rather high figure.)

Did this yellow card make him address his excess drinking?

No.  On the contrary, his alcohol consumption has increased.  (See previous articles.)  And with it, the vicious circle of:

  • Feeling down (because chemically, alcohol is a depressant)
  • Ringing son number 2, pleading with him to come round
    • “Please, son, I’m lonely.  Please come and see me.”
  • Texting son number 1, son number 2 and son number 2’s 15-year-old daughter at 05:13, 06:16 and 06:23, together with a voicemail, “R U UP YET”
  • Drinking 75cl to 1 litre of supermarket whisky a day, usually starting at 15:00
  • Leaving aggressive voicemails for son number 2, when Sunray feels he’s being ignored
    • Actually Son number 2 isn’t ignoring him for the sake of spite; rather he has a major exam at university to revise for.  Besides, who wants to hear a boozed-up ex-soldier telling you his “when I…” war stories for the 27th that year?

The sad thing is, all his family, bar perhaps one half-sister of Sunray, has pretty much given up on Sunray.

Not out of hatred, spite, malice or anger.  But out of exasperation.

This might seem cruel and heartless, but those of you had done a first aid course will remember the following principle:

Don’t become a casualty yourself.

I’ve given up worrying.  I’m beginning to wonder if Sunray is fed-up of living.  Would death be almost a relief to him?  If so, I pray that God will have mercy on Sunray’s troubled soul.

Have a merciful day, won’t you!

Sunray not down… yet

This morning, slightly early in the day, I wrote my final entry of the year in my Moleskin diary.  To slightly detour from the topic of this article, and also to split infinitives, I’d give myself a C+ for my diary writing this year.

  • An entry (full page, fountain pen, A5) on 50% of the days
  • I found I was more productive when writing halfway through each day, not just before bedtime
  • So pleased that Starbucks Königsallee exists: €1.75 for a large coffee, €0.50 for a top-up
    • Free wifi
    • Big writing desks
    • Ideal for discursive diary entries
      • No “Today I had cornflakes for breakfast,” “Eva sagt, ich habe Mundgeruch,” etc

Enough about my diary.  I’ll never be a 21st century Samuel Pepys, Anne Frank or Konrad Kujau.

Back to Sunray.

One diary entry from July recorded Sunray telling me somewhat tearfully of his diabetologist’s warning to stop (not just cut down) drinking alcohol “…if you want to see Christmas.”  Rather than cut out or even down, since then Sunray had drunk large volumes per day: 75cl, sometimes 1l, per day of Famous Grouse or Asda’s own-brand whisky, drinking ever earlier each day: drunk by 15:00, 13:00, on one Sunday in November, drunk at 09:00.  Taking out payday loans.  Washing once every three months.  A house that stinks (let’s not go into too much detail.)  Passive aggression.  Borderline personality disorder.  Shunned by family members, tolerated and pitied by others.  Quite a pitiable, risible image.

During my two weeks working in the UK, I texted and rang Sunray from my UK mobile.  Within a couple of days I made sure my mobile was switched off on reaching my “transit accommodation” in the evening.  Text messages at 0513, 0603, followed by voicemail:

R U UP YET?

(Maybe, maybe not, but at that time in the morning, I’ve usually more pressing tasks du jour, such as getting washed, dressed, having some “me” time, etc, and not listening to p155head ex-squaddie “when I…” “war stories.”

Not forgetting the text messages at 11:15, 13:12 and other mid-day timeslots:

HELLO R U AT WORK

Yes, that’s why you are, correction, U R, getting radio silence off me.

Also, not forgetting the text messages from 21:00 onwards,

R U STILL UP

Guess what.  Either, no, or I just want peace and quiet and not listen to some slurred monologue ending in the following punchlines:

I should have given him a good punch.

And I laughed.

So I bubbled the f*cker.

But I’ve done nothing wrong.

Two weeks of SMS bombardments on my UK mobile.  Sunray’s tariff was obviously unlimited SMS’s to UK mobiles.  All peace and quiet once I got back to Germany.  Phew…

Fast forward to Christmas Day.  Text to Sunray to wish him Merry Christmas.  No reply.  Probably no credit to text back to Germany.  (Or was the diabetologist’s warning accurate?)

Fast forward to Boxing Day.  A phone call to Sunray.  Yes, he’d proved the diabetologist wrong.  He’d had a nice Christmas Day with his girlfriend.  No arguments.  He must be calming down in his old age.  He was even quite cheery.  Oh, well, that must be the spirit of Christmas, I guess.

So, what’s the next timeline?  Who can tell?  One observation: when I was in the UK, he seemed to be drinking less?  Perhaps our phone chats were breaking his circle of loneliness-drinking-loneliness?  He even went one day to the sports centre to use the steam room, jacuzzi and sauna and mix with his gym buddies, his third trip that year to the sports centre.  He’d actually had a wash there, probably the first time in months.  Yes, eklig, readers, eklig.

So, he’s made it through Christmas.  Will he make it to Easter?  Who can tell?

Have a sober day, won’t you!