Time Capsule – The Letter to Papi

Letter Papi

I have a time capsule.   It’s nothing like the ones they put in schools or space shuttles, but it’s as grounding and poignant.  And it’s not really a capsule, but a file folder.  A slender one at that.  But inside remains the things that remind me to this day where I was at one point in my life.  A point that I don’t visit often, but is marked onto me as gently and distinctively as the stripes and swirls on a butterfly wing.

In treatment, we were allowed visitors on Saturday afternoons only.  Other than that, visitors were not encouraged.  It was a reminder that we were there for one purpose and one purpose only – to get well.  To heal.  To be in a safe place.  Social visits on a regular basis don’t foster that kind of environment.  So of course many of us guys approached Saturdays either with trepidation, loathing or excitement.  Some men had no one visiting them.   Some had a loyal girlfriend or wife to pass the time with.  Some just had mom or a sibling.  I was grateful to have the people that I disappointed and hurt come to see me.  I wanted them to bear witness to my doing well, even though I was still frightened and unsure of my own future.  I had come into treatment shaking and vibrating, still ill, emotionally broken, and still reeling from my DT’s and thoughts of suicide.  I knew that I didn’t have many chances left.   Strike that – I knew that I had one chance left, and I was at it.   I feared the worst, but having people see me was a distraction I invited.

I had my son come by one time, with my wife.  My boy was 3 1/2 years old at the time.  Where I saw a dim place full of suffering men trying to get better, my son saw a place that had large trees growing in the backyard, where branches seemed to reach up forever and tickle and break apart the clouds.  His little eyes saw things of pleasure that his 40 yr old dad could not see.  I hadn’t seen or felt pleasure in a very, very long time.  One thing that did bring me pleasure were the pieces of art that my son would create, and delivered to me on those Saturday visits.  At the top of each painting were the words “To Papi”. ( “Papi” is what he calls me.  It’s Spanish for “Dad” – sort of like “Pops”.  I loved when he first said that word to me.  I still love it now).  I also had cards of well wishing and notes of hope and inspiration.  I had pages of prayers and other trinkets of love that my family brought to me on their visits.  I felt love like I hadn’t felt it before.  It was like sliding sunshine under my door.  I kept everything in a clear file folder, neatly tucked in my one drawer, between the clean socks and my Big Book.

I would lie in bed at night, just before lights out, and flip my way through my growing file folder.  I would admire my son’s finger painting, tracing his tiny finger marks with my own, as if trying to feel his touch through the hues of colours on construction paper.  I’d look at his grinning face in pictures, trying to recount the day – was I sober that day the photo was snapped?  Drunk?  I tried to hold onto his smell, his weight in my hands as I played with him in my memory.  I also thought of how I could have lost him.  I thought of what was going through his mind when he saw his dad, his Papi, getting put in the back of a police cruiser.  His Papi, who had driven drunk, with him in the back seat.  His Papi, who cherished his boy with all his heart, but had put him at the most danger in his young life.  Papi.  I would cry after lights went dark, just wishing that I could turn back time.  But what was done was done.

That was almost two years ago.  I sometimes run into my time capsule.  Like today.  I don’t hide it, nor do I keep it out.  It just lands where it needs to land, and I come across it whenever I am guided to come across it.   It reminds me of where I was, where I needed to be, where God had decided I needed to land at that time.  It’s a reminder that I cannot go back, and yet, I cannot be rooted in the past.  It’s a short stack of long love.  It’s a landmark in my journey.  It puts me in the moment of where desperation meets compassion and where guilt and shame meet forgiveness.  And I have the note.  The note that my little boy dictated to his mother for me, his absent Papi.   The note shown here.

That note never fails to bring a tear to my eye – not only for a boy who only saw the beautiful, stretching trees in the backyard of the rehab amidst the pain of others, but who saw a father he missed and adored amidst a man who felt broken.  That note is innocence, forgiveness and hope frozen forever in time.

The writing may not be his on that paper, but it has his eyes, his fingers, the crease in his smile and the love in his heart etched all over it.

14 Comments Add yours

  1. What a beautiful note to cherish forever. It’s having those reminders of where you used to be that will keep you where you should be. Free to love and be loved.

    1. Free to love and be loved…what a wonderful sentiment. That’s what it comes down to it, isn’t it? Thanks for the lovely comment 🙂

  2. byebyebeer says:

    Beautiful, Paul. I love the gratitude in this post. Yeah, I did some really reckless things when I drank too. Every day I am thankful for the second chance and this new life. It is so much better, not just for me but my family too.

    1. Thanks BBB…amazing how we think we are the only ones we are hurting. What bollocks that is. And of course we hurt the ones we love the most. And you’re right…it is a second chance at a new life. I always refer to the past as “my other life”. We get two lives in one lifetime…how amazing is that?

      Cheers 🙂

  3. Paul,
    Not even an hour ago, I chatted with my nephew, who like his own father and I, has been left wounded and bleeding on the battlefield of alcoholism numerous times. He’s been “trying” to quit for a long time, in and out of AA, off and on…He told me he is on Day 14, this time after he climbed into a car with someone who said they were capable of driving and whom later the police decided wasn’t capable at all. He knows he got off lucky this time, but then he lamented, “I sure miss partying.”

    His, not so young, children have been witness to this their whole life, I’m going to send him the link to your blog and pray that your time capsule has a timely landing in his life. Thank you for this blog on this day.

    1. We get lucky oh so many times. I hope and pray that your nephew makes that life changing decision. Two weeks is great – I hope that he can continue that, and make a good and proper shot at AA or some other program that will get him comfortable in his own skin and not feel the need to pick up again. The “partying” is going to kill him, and believe it or not, life is much richer without alcohol. That “partying” is no longer partying. It’s alcoholism beating the crap out of him, and by proxy, his children. Partying days were done a VERY long time ago for me.

      Thank you for sending him the link, and I hope that he finds something that he can relate to. There are a ton of other blogs that I follow and he can check them all out too.

      He and his family are in my prayers.

  4. Number 9 says:

    Oh Paul this is such a beautiful post. I can absolutely relate. Our children are such sweet innocent souls–almost losing mine (because Husband refused to let me back home until he was convinced I would stay sober) became the intersecting point where I abandoned God and welcomed Him back into my life all at the same time. To lose my children destroyed me. And that’s what I needed. Our sweet sweet children. OK I’m being gooey so I’ll shut up..I’m just so grateful both of our families now have sober spouses and sober parents. Life is good.

    1. Thank you, R. Get as gooey as you need. I still get gooey – it’s great because I do it without the need for alcohol to do that, to get in touch with my true emotions, not manufactured ones. Like you, losing my family was one of the last things that showed me where I was headed if I kept going. Our kids are pretty awesome, yes, and I am grateful that they never have to see me the way I used to be. Thank you for sharing…here’s to gratitude!

  5. I am so choked up I don’t have the words to express how deeply this post touched me. I simply want to write that I take your words into my heart every time your write, and I am so grateful that I found your blog to inspire me. Thank you so much for taking time to share your recovery with all of us!

    1. Thank you so much…I am blessed to have so many friends out here. I am equally touched and honoured to be a part of everyone else’s sharing and support in their blogs. It’s amazing how different things look when we feel a part of something, that we’re all in the same boat. We have the common problem and there is a common solution! I look forward to your next post 🙂

  6. good2begone says:

    What a great post. I was one of the ones that had no none to come and visit me. But, I enjoyed watching the others with their families. It gave me hope. Thanks for this. I have me a much needed smile.

    1. Funny, there were times I didn’t want anyone to come…self-pity, etc. But I am glad they did. And you’re right…when the friends and family would descend onto the house every Saturday, there was such a positive energy…especially when the kids were running around. As one of the counselors stated “Children show us how to live!” And he was right. Living in the present, loving,…that’s how I aim to be.

      Thank you so much for coming by…means a lot to me!


  7. Al K Hall says:

    Beautiful post, beautifully written. Lately i’ve been going over the hurt and destruction my drinking caused others and am amazed at how resilient those that truly love me are. What a wonderful message of hope and gratitude you’ve shared here with us.

    1. Thanks Al! Quite a compliment, considering the source. I totally agree with you about how resilient those who love us can be. I am sometimes blown away how my family and friends stood by me while everything around me crumbled, and was taking hostages with me. It’s their support that got me through the rough times. And it’s their support, having a loving God, and my other alcoholic friends, that keeps me going now. Thank you so much for being here 🙂

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