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!

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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!

Thoughts on being back in the UK

So, tonight, back from two weeks’ stint in the UK, Bracknell, to be exact.

Thoughts?  Hmm, let me think, while I slouch on the couch, feet throbbing from dashing round Heathrow.

Well, I’m glad to be back in Germany, in a well-ordered society, where there are plenty of cycle paths, trains run on time and do not cost the earth, where there is not the huge gap between the haves and the have nots, where even the immigration officer from the Bundespolizei wishes you in English, “Merry Christmas.”

UK:

  • Chavs
  • Low aspirations and educational achievement
  • A “problem child” father constantly texting and phoning, eg 05:15, 06:11, “R U UP?” etc.

Mensch…

Nice to be earning again, but there’s no place like home in Germany.

Have a patriotic day, won’t you!

What is your Black Beauty moment?

So, a cup of coffee in one hand, my latest book order from Amazon in the other hand.  The book?  No, not Harry Potter, not Fifty Shades of Grey, not even a for Dummies book.

The Empathy Trap

I always like a bit of light reading…

I received the book on Thursday and got to the final page on Sunday.  A very accessible book, written by academics, but written in very down to earth language.  Quite a lot of sucking in of air while reading it, especially when reading the case studies of people who’ve had relationships with sociopaths, whether as family or colleagues.

Towards the end comes the section on triggers.  What’s a trigger?  Essentially it’s something that reminds us of the sociopath.  Think of Pavlov’s dogs and their mouths watering whenever they hear a bell ringing.  Their mouths water when they experience the trigger associated with din-dins.  For people that have had close contact with a sociopath, the reaction is somewhat different: hair standing on back of neck, and increased blood pressure and heart rate, waiting for their next move.

I myself have called such triggers a “Black Beauty moment.”  Why?  Black Beauty was a series in the 1970’s with quite a haunting theme tune.

Black Beauty

In the late 70’s, early 70’s it was broadcast on Sundays at about lunchtime in the UK.  I still even now associate the tune with:

  • The sewage-like stench of boiling cabbage
  • The aggressive hissing of a pressure cooker
  • The pressure cooker countdown to a blazing row between Sunray and his first wife because of his hangover caused by overindulgence down the Serjeants Mess the night before
  • The impending attempts by Sunray to force me to eat cooked vegetables, including the sewerage cabbage
  • Stress and emotional abuse (although it was never called that in those days.  We pads brats were just expected to get on with it and get over it.  The spouses were expected to take the abuse on the chin… and in the face… and in the stomach… and in the rib cage.)

Have a trigger-free day, won’t you?

Only the first three letters are “fun”

The one thing that is certain in life is death.  Fact.  When I was ten or eleven years old, I sometimes used to cry at night, thinking about how one day I would die.  To quote Monty Python:

For death’s the final world.

I’m a business analyst by trade.  I’m not a tree-hugger.  I listen to reports given to me about Sunray’s decline as he descends ever more into terminal alcoholism.  For the German-speakers, we are talking about “Untergang,” which is quite ironic, as Sunray was born two days before Hitler’s death.  As a practising Anglican, I don’t believe in reincarnation, but it does make me wonder occasionally, can a dead person’s spirit enter another person’s body and take over their soul?  (A point to ponder some other time.)  (I use the adjective “terminal” deliberately, for as I see it, his alcoholism is as terminal as cancer can be.  Just like a tumour taking over various organs in a body and spreading, so his alcoholism is terminal (to me as a non-medically-qualified person).  My business analyst approach is to ask:

  • What is the problem?
  • Is the problem solvable?
  • If yes:
    • How to solve?
    • What do I have to do?
  • If no:
    • What steps need to be taken?
    • What palliative steps are there?

(Maybe the business analyst approach is a coping strategy?)

So, that brings me to funeral planning.  There’s rarely any fun in a funeral.  Normally only the first three letters are “fun.”  Sunray has named me in his insurance documents as his funeral planner.  He did take out a funeral expenses policy some years ago, about six or seven, maybe eight, years ago.  Whether he’s been keeping up payments is questionable.  Whether the policy would pay enough for his funeral costs is also questionable.  That means almost certainly a pauper’s funeral for him.  None of his offspring can, or will, pay for his funeral.  (Why should they?)

Nowadays the British authorities do not use the term pauper’s funeral.  A funeral where the state (the taxpayer) pays is nowadays called a public health funeral.

Still in business analyst (and eldest child) mode, I have emailed bruv a link to the local council web page about public health funerals.  Bruv has grown up a lot since starting university as a (please don’t laugh) mature student (aged 40+), yet remains somewhat inert and reluctant to get involved in messy admin matters, or indeed in helping others – unless it is to his own advantage.  I’ve briefed him that he and I need to have a sensible, adult conversation about funeral planning.

For background, Sunray was warned by his diabetes specialist in June:

Stop drinking now if you want to see Christmas.  [Note the verb used: not reduce, but stop.]

Clearly, we could all say:

My grandad died at 112, and he drank and smoked all his life, and, and, and, and…

but if Sunray does not have only weeks to live, then he probably only has months to live.

Hopefully bruv will show some maturity and discuss funeral steps sensibly with me.  It’s in his interests.  All he has to do is sign a disclaimer form for the council, and it’s all handed over the the council to pay and organise.  I’ll even do the eulogy, bruv, because the council won’t pay for a minister or officiant.  We are talking cheap, and not very cheerful.  How many people will turn up to Sunray’s funeral?

  1. Ginge in Germany
  2. Bruv
  3. Bruv’s wife (maybe)
  4. Sis (maybe – just to get closure)
  5. Sis’ husband (maybe)

Not even double-figures.

Sunray’s siblings won’t know a thing until after the funeral.  Three of the four have started punch-ups at their offspring’s wedding celebrations.  At the last family funeral they attended, there sat four feuding family factions, one in each corner of the church.  That’s a lot of alliteration, but there will no feuding at Sunray’s funeral.  Everybody, no matter who they are, what they’ve done, deserves dignity at their funeral, before we commend their soul to the Lord.

Have a commendable day, won’t you!

Sunray down – not long now

So, the latest sitrep on Sunray (from A1 source, for those of you familar with G2 terminology) does not make pleasant reading.

His house:

  • Stinks of stale urine
  • Has empty bottles of whisky everywhere
  • Has empty packets of Benson & Hedges lying everwhere

Sunray:

  • Is dirty, unkempt and unwashed
    • Hard to believe that we are talking about an ex-22-year SNCO of the British Army
  • Has been banned from three pharmacies in his area due to his “anger management issues”
    • Losing his temper like a two-year-old not getting his favourite sweets in the supermarket because the shop assistant took ten minutes to process his prescription:
      • Find his tablets
      • Count them
      • Get them checked out by the dispenser and pharmacist
      • Hand them over to him

Am I beyond caring?  No.

Am I beyond worrying?  Yes.  I can do no more to help him.  Yes, I could:

  • Fly over on the next available flight from Düsseldorf to Teesside
  • Sit with him 24/7 (“I’m a lonely old man.”)
  • Keep him company, listen to “all his war stories” (insert barracks name, rank and unit to create a Sunray war story, eg:

    At Osnabrück in 1964 this WO2 in the Green Jackets…

and still achieve nothing.  Instead, I’d be employed as his gopher (“go for this, go for that”) all hours of the day to nip down to the shop and get his daily fix of intoxicating liquor.

His catchphrase the morning after the night before is:

I am NEVER, EVER drinking again.

One day, probably within weeks, not months, he’ll stick to that promise.  When he dies.

Meanwhile, life goes on for the rest of planet Earth, including his offspring.

Have a sober day, won’t you!