• Anne Royse

Finding the Friggin' Sugar.

Updated: Aug 19, 2019

When life gives you lemons, making lemonade isn't always that easy. Where's the friggin' sugar?! Here's hoping you have a neighbor who will lend you a cup! Growing sugarcane might take a while.

If you'll indulge me in my metaphorical musings for just a smidge longer, I would argue that some folks have discovered how to turn the crap thrown at them into fertilizer that grows them into some of the sweetest beings you'll ever want to know. They had rough lives and they don't want anyone to feel the pain they felt. They go out of their way to make things better for others. Sweeter.

Count off by twos. Almost all the twos have a friend or family member battling addiction according to PEW research.

The addicts are the walking wounded and their loved ones have been hit by the shrapnel from explosive binges, overdoses, and even death. Suicide has more than doubled in less than 20 years thanks in large part to the opioid crisis, according to this article in Science Daily. Our world needs to stay hopeful as we find our way through this.

The father I never met was more than a statistic. And his story, while tragic, is nevertheless filled with hope. As he was drowning in a vast ocean of addiction, he and my birth mother lifted me up and handed me a better life by giving me to a family that could better care for me.

His family's hearts broke as his life seemed to be condemned to an endless swirl in the toilet. His life spun through booze, jail, homelessness, and detox. But his family never stopped loving him. His younger sister Marilyn was just a teenager when I was born. Most of her life was filled with worry for her big brother. She once considered taking a year off just to try to save him. But she learned that only he can save himself.

A dark cloud of addiction hung over that family for years. There were occasional silver linings. My birth father was sober in prison and found his calling as a teacher. A 50 year old man named Darryl would leave prison and go home to read to his baby girl for the first time, thanks to my anonymous father.

This past week, there were more silver linings. In fact, we witnessed a beautiful full-on rainbow. Marilyn won a bunch of money from a church raffle. She decided to use some of her winnings to fly my daughters and me to New York to spend time with her family and stay at a beautiful little home that has been in the family for almost a hundred years.

We discovered fresh flowers cut from the garden in just about every room in this sweet home. She had thoughtful items for us everywhere. A New York Times review of the musical we planned to see hung on the fridge. Books from favorite authors and articles she thought would be of interest were fanned out on the coffee table. While you could count on one hand the number of times we've seen each other in person (we met years ago, after my birth father died), there were pictures of my daughters and me sprinkled throughout the house. Neither of my birth father's sisters were able to have children. I was the only descendant from their family. Because it was a closed adoption, for years they worried about how things turned out for me. There was sort of this open wound in the family. And now it's healing.

We shucked corn together, we put our toes in the sand and watched the tide come in. My 19 year old twin daughters saw fireflies for the first time in their lives, and we watched their dancing lights while telling childhood stories as the night grew darker.

My sweet, sweet aunt shed tears at the bus stop as we said goodbye. Turns out our time together was like a huge cup of sugar for a big batch of lemons.

"You know how much I loved my brother," she said through tears, "I can't tell you how healing my time with you and your girls has been..." the words drifted off. She didn't need to say anything else. Years of a tormented life, still produced something quite lovely.

She pulled out her guitar and we sang "Leaving on a Jet Plane" together. We drank in the moment she had thirsted for, for such a long time.


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