I don't remember my age other than I was very young. If I had to give it a good guess, I suspect I was 6 or 7 which would make the year 1965 or 1966. During this time span I had a playmate whose parents employed a babysitter that lived in their home with them. I guess you would say she was a nanny although she wasn't called such at that time. She came to live with them from their hometown in another state, so they knew her well enough that they trusted her with their children. In exchange for watching their children they gave her a small salary which included room and board. For some reason I have the impression it was to also give her opportunities that weren't available to her in her hometown.
One afternoon the babysitter brought my friend to play with me outside in my yard. I remember playing in the side yard by the clothesline with my playmate while the babysitter talked to a young man who came to visit with her while she watched us. I'm not sure if they realized how attentive I was to their conversation or if it even mattered to them that I was listening. Their fun loving playfulness with each other caught us girls up in their moments of laughter and we giggled as she challenged his strength by saying he couldn't pick her up because she was too heavy. Much to her pleasure he picked her up in his arms just like a groom would pick up his bride to carry over the threshold. After he scooped her up he twirled her around the yard until she begged to be let down.
After the laughter faded their conversation took on a much different tone and my memory starts to become somewhat disconnected. I'm not sure I have the sequence of the events he revealed about himself in the right order. I'm not really sure whether the laughter or the story came first. Nonetheless, he started telling her about some intimate moments in his life which seemed to start with him being in the military. What he went on to share about himself is what impacted my young mind.
He had fallen in love with a woman who was a heroin addict. In his effort to help her recover from her dependence on the drug he thought he could use it with her and then just stop to show her how easy it would be...to be an example of how will-power and personal choice would be the answer to overcoming her addiction. That didn't happen. He too became addicted with just a few uses. Maybe this is where the military came in because he went on to explain how painful his detox from the drug was even though he was in a hospital setting. I remember him using the term cold-turkey. A term I would later come to know its meaning. I also remember him saying he knew he could no longer be in a relationship with the woman even though he still loved her. The drug still consumed her life even after his recovery.
Whether this moment was meant to be some form of cosmic foreshadowing in my life is debatable depending on one's beliefs. Later in my young life and throughout a large portion of my adult life, I would live through the pain and turmoil of addiction within my own family. Some of those addictions would be overcome and some not. There aren't too many people in this world that can say addiction hasn't touched their life in some form and I am no exception. One cannot imagine the true impact it has on the lives of those who suffer with it, how truly difficult it is to overcome...if ever, or the impact on family dynamics unless one lives it.
Drugs take the life of loved ones not only through overdoses but through the breakdown of their internal organs caused by the degrading effects the drugs have on their bodies through the years. In my experience I have seen how difficult the recovery is and how easily the relapse can happen. Over and over again. I have lived through the split in family. I have witnessed the pain and suffering of parents, wives and children. I have witnessed the generational predisposition to addiction. All the while unable to do anything other than stand in my own form of suffering. Both willing and unwilling to be an enabler. Willing to be supportive if asked or not. Buffering the reality of it all from my own children and realizing that hiding the reality of it was in itself a form of enabling the illness and allowing it to continue on its path of destruction. A path that would lead to the death of my brother at the young age of 51. Even though his life was tumultuous, to say the least, and caused a great divide in our family he had a heart of gold. Truth be told we lost him when he was in his twenties when his addictions took over. When he lost his free will and never got it back completely.
All those years ago my young mind absorbed the information I overheard that sunny afternoon and stored it for my entire life. In hindsight, I realize how it was a snippet of my life that attuned me to the ebb and flow of life. How strength gives way to human weakness. How pain and laughter can coexist...be juxtaposed...be copacetic. How the sharing of ones laughter, sadness and pain are all part of getting to know one another intimately. Like the courting ritual of two young people that I witnessed so long ago.
Little pitchers have big ears - This English expression (idiom) refers to little children overhearing and understanding more conversations than their parents might think. The allusion is to the ear-like handles often found on smaller pitchers.