Joy's birthday present

to me (psst..God helped her)

By CharlieG

Joy's birthday arrived, and so did my roommate's son.

Keith had told me he was coming,

But with Joy's birthday approaching, I didn't really process it.

Till I got home &….Hello!!

Ryan is an 11 year old boy that could have stepped out of Huckleberry Finn.

But instead of a slingshot, he carried a football,

Ryan, 11, was a present, for me, I could never have imagined, before sobriety.

And his father Keith,

My friend and roommate,

Gave me more than he can ever know.

Or maybe he does.

When he told me that Ryan was coming,

I explained to him

Who would trust, or want, me with their son?

Even knowing the extent of Joy's injuries, and suffering,

If it was him who it had happened to,

A friend!

Her death, and his part in it,

Would stop me from letting him hold, or play with, my child.

And if I, having done the very act that I would judge so harshly a friend,

Wouldn't allow it,

How could I expect someone to allow me?

He looked at me and said,

"I know you. I think you would have been a good father."

Taking a life, whether by accident, or on purpose,

For justified, or completely senseless, reasons,

It….changes… something inside you.

Scars you.

Watching your 3 year old child,

Your only child,

Lay blind, deaf & paralyzed for nine months,

Pouring cans of liquid food through a tube hanging out of her stomach,

Rubbing hot & cold washcloths on her arms & legs,

Telling her; “This is hot, Joy. This is cold, Joy.”

Dipping Q-tips in sugar water & lemon juice,

Then putting it on her tongue, praying for a reaction.

Holding your breath as a therapist suctions mucus out of her lungs;

With a tube sliding in & out of a hole in her throat,

Until you are uncomfortable from lack of air,

And you scream at them to bag her; give her some air!

Taking it upon myself to decide that Joy would be better off dead,

Rather than continue in a vegetative state for years, possibly more,

And carrying it out,

Has changed me,

Scarred me.

I spent over a decade in a maximum security prison,

Then over a decade free,


Not emotionally.

Drinking, shooting up, smoking, snorting, and swallowing anything I could get my hands on,

To not feel that…change,

That gnawing,


Never letting you forget you've committed the ultimate act,

Inside your soul.


Of where your soul's going to spend eternity?


Your very essence of life, mourning the loss of a fellow life?

Since getting clean & sober, God has given me a look behind the curtain;

Beautiful glimpses of a purpose for me, and,

A reason for Joy strangling in the footrest of her Grandfather's recliner:

After Joy's accident;

Recliners were changed so a booster came up, or a cloth stretched across,

The space between the actual chair, and the footrest.

So I knew, abstractly, that children were saved from injury or death,

Because of these changes.

Then while speaking at a treatment center I met a woman,

Whose little sister was caught in, and was removed safely out of, the footrest of her parent's recliner,

Because of the changes made from Joy's accident,

So I now know personally, a child that was saved because of Joy,

And that child’s name?


How cool is that?

THAT'S a God Shot.

Bartender, I'll take a double!

And yet,


Always the deep, choking, sobs of a crippled soul echo inside of me.

Not getting lost inside of me, but,

Ricocheting around,

The emptiness of myself.

And I was content to live with it.

Not enjoying it,

Accepting it.

With JOURNEY magazine I was helping another suffering alcoholic or addict,

And I was living a spiritual life, to the best of my abilities.

I was living a life of amends.

To Joy,

And to God.

I knew God forgave me, He's served me too many God Shots,

On the house.

I just could not forgive myself.

Then I held a child.

Holding Ruthie, one of my boss's 8 month old little granddaughter,

Changed me inside,


In a good way.

I wrote a poem; I held a child today, and it says in part;

* * * * * * * * * *

Then into my arms, was placed a new life;

The last time that happened, it was done by my wife.

Her skin was like silk, her eyes soft & mild;

It'd been 20 years, since I'd held a child

As I held this infant, who smelled like milk & baby;

I thought I'd never again feel it, but now thought, just maybe..

Because when I lost Joy, my heart had been broken;

And the healing before now, had been just a token.

You see healing my pain, had for so long been a goal;

But in an instant, this child, has made my heart whole.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Holding that baby was cathartic.

I had wrapped myself in guilt, and fear, and self pity.

After doing the steps, and having a conscious contact with God,

It started to peel off.

Sometimes in pieces, sometimes just threads,

But after Ruthie?

It came off in chunks.

What was left?

Fell by the wayside with the arrival of Ryan.

When the dogs saw him, they were a little shy at first,

Except Lady.

Lady was all over him.

Lady was all over anybody who offered a chance to play.

She would not be a first choice for a watch dog.

Lady is a recent…

A recent….. aaaggghhh!

I don't want to say "member of the family", because I've only agreed to keep her temporarily,

For a few weeks,

Till a good home is found for her.

She's been here since Christmas.

Eileen, The lady who runs Transitions,

The rehab I went to,

Had called me right before Christmas week-end,

"Charles?" Her voice asked on the other end of the phone when I answered it.

"This is Eileen, from transitions."

'Eileen? She's never called me.' I thought as I said hello.

And no little alarm bells went off inside my head.

"Listen, we have the sweetest dog we've been feeding…"

"Transitions has a dog?" I asked, surprised.

When I had gone there to talk about entering their program,

I had Flop & Teddy bear with me.

Flop & Teddy bear are my dogs.

They are my children.

Both were born in my house before I sold to go into treatment.

Neither knows they are dogs.

Teddy bear is a black, shaggy sheepdog/bearded collie.

Flop is the son of Teddy Bear.

He's 1/2 Teddy Bear.

I know this.

I saw him come out of her!

But, the other 1/2 of Flop….

Jessica & I had decided one night to get Teddy Bear fixed.

She must have heard us,

Teddy Bear jumped the fence and partied that night with who knows what,

To get Flop.

A wire haired hound dog, with a sprinkling of Dalmatian spots!

So when I agreed to go to Transitions, I told them,

I had to have my dogs.

They were so cool about it,

Taking me to different boarding centers till I found one close by that I liked.

And then, they took me to visit them twice a week.

So I knew they would go above & beyond to help you, but,

They would not allow dogs to stay there.

"She doesn't stay here," Eileen said, "She just hangs out here. She's homeless"

"And with Christmas coming, there won't be anyone to feed her."

Just the echo, of a bell, starting to ring

"Can you keep her? Just for the holidays?"

"Eileen, I have two dogs now, you know this." I cried, knowing it was too late.


To late,

"It's just for the week, otherwise she's on her own & will starve, we'll find a good home for her, And I know how much you love Flop & Teddy Bear! I'll see you in a bit!"

All in one breath.

No questioning about it.


So I got Lady,

A Doberman, Greyhound, & Whippet mix.

The fastest dog in the world.


I will ride my bike by the house, a ten speed at full speed,

Keith will wait till I am a block away, at eye blurring speed, then let Lady go.

She looks at me as she flies by.


Put a leash on her, get on your bicycle,

POOF! Your on a motorcycle, scooting down the neighborhood street.

She is like the Duracell rabbit.

She will not stop until you make her stop.

When she lays on the couch next to you, she crosses her front legs,

Hence, her name.

She's alright, I guess,

I'm just waiting till I find a good home for her.

A few weeks more, at most,


It didn't take Flop long to get in on the fun.

Soon Lady & Flop were going long, for TD passes, thrown by Ryan,

Mellow momma, Teddy Bear, cheered from the sidelines,

Rolling on her back in the grass, legs kicking in the air.

Rah Rah Rah!

Soon Flop came over by his mom & lay down,

These are serious house dogs, they only exercise in spurts,

And then only occasionally.

But Lady,

Lady would run with me being pulled behind her on the ten speed until her mouth foamed.

She has worn a track around my whole house,

From the circuit she makes every time I come home and let them out.

Now? Lady comes over and flops down next to Flop.

The kid has worn out Lady!

This is not good news for us,

We're taking Ryan to Gator Park for a day in the Everglades,

And we're both a little past 30.

Will we be able to hang with this kid?


How do you explain God?

Since I've done the 12 steps,

And had a conscious contact with God,

I sometimes feel like I am in a twilight zone.

In a good, but oh, so weird, way.

Where you look over your shoulder, spinning around, trying to see where that moment came from.

On the way to Gator Park, Keith & I stopped at a gas station to get gas & drinks.

Inside, bottles of water under arms, ready to pay,

I step on a carpet in front of the glassed in cashier.

The carpet has been pushed up against the cashier's wall, too much.

It had curled up and rolled into the wall,

Like a question mark laying face down,

Like a wave cresting,

Where the curl would start turning into foam, is where it touches the wall.

I reach into my pocket to pay for the water,

And a dime falls to the floor.

It rolls down the carpet and up the swell,

Like a perfect shot on the 9th hole of a put-put golf course.

It crests the carpeted knoll and taps the wall,

Rolls back a little, rocks forward, then settles in the crease between carpet & wall,

Standing up.

On it's rim.

Keith & I look at each other.

"The weirdest *** happens around you." Keith says.

I have to agree. It doesn't surprise me anymore.

This phenomenon causes one thought to go through my head,

"God Shot. Cool."

I got ready to pick it up and my roomy stopped me,

"Leave it! Maybe it's a sign."

That coming from my friend, was something.

When Keith spoke at the treatment center I bring AA meetings into,

He described himself as a, "Recovering, angry alcoholic."

And he was.

The fact that his ex wife was letting him have Ryan come down & stay with him,

Shows you the power, of finding your Higher Power through the twelve steps,

In recovery.

He is so much mellower now.

One of the reasons, I believe, is that he is starting to see God Shots as everyday occurrences.

I explained to him about doves, and how I see them as a sign from God.

Whenever I am stressed, I ask God to send one across my path, and,

Without fail,

One will glide before me, not above me,

Right before me,

In the course of the day.

The first time I told him that, I added the caveat,

"It will be cool if one is waiting at home for us."

"Yeah, right!" He laughed.

When we pulled into the driveway, a dove was perched above our door.

He looked at me, he has heard my story.

"God Shot." I said.

"Twilight zone." He said,

But he looks back up and scratches his chin.

Leaving the gas station with our water,

Keith is still talking about the dime, then he says,

"I saw a white dove the other day."

"Really?" I said. "Nice?"

"It was beautiful."

"I actually thought of you."

Which really meant he thought about God Shots.

And that was a God Shot, for me.

The day was incredible.

The dessert after a beautiful meal.

One of the hardest things I lived with was never being sure,

Always trying to quiet that voice in my head that asked me,

Taunted me,


"Did Joy die to end her suffering?

Or yours?"

Imagine thinking you'd never hold a child,

Thinking you didn't deserve to ever hold a child.

Then having one thrust into your arms.

When Rootie oh so casually handed me Ruthie to hold

Looking down at that little girl,


In an instant.

That you did what you did out of love.


In an instant,

How much you loved your child.

That, no matter how shocking to the conscious,

And what I did was so shocking,

That I tried to blot out any thought of life before losing her,

Through anything mind altering I could put in my body.

To realize, after decades of pain and doubt,

That it was done out of the purest of motives,

To release Joy from years of suffering.

Not to end my own.

Words lose me right now.

Even now.

Then, on Joy's birthday,

Spending the day with my friend and his son.

Spending time with a child.

Two times in two weeks,

After two decades.

It was the first time I've smiled on Joy's birthday in 22 years.

God forgave me.

Now I've forgiven myself.



A dime standing on it's edge,

A white dove.

No idea what it means,

But so grateful I am seeing it.

So grateful for my sobriety.

I'm ending this here,

I'm through.

If it is a little choppy, I apologize.

I've been doing it in bits and pieces,

Savoring the reliving of it,

And going off on tangents.



That's Ryan sleeping in the car on the way home.

The kid wore out the dogs.

We wore out the kid.


1 Comment
  1. jess 14 years ago

    You write beautiful and intensely engaging schtuff!  Thank you thank you thank you!

    0 kudos

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