I have some good news. Last week my son proposed to his girlfriend, and she said yes. Not that there was any doubt. It’s just the latest positive development in his life.
The reason I ever launched this blog was because, five years ago, he was in prison. In addition to the predictable emotions like despair, I felt relief that I now would know where his was, and deep shame. Counterintuitively, it made sense for me to write about it for all the world to read.
He entered prison a drug addled, bloated, overweight, broke, middle-aged chronic alcoholic. This was just the latest in a 20-year string of bouts with unemployment, homelessness, crime, and broken relationships.
It would have been easy for him to use drugs and alcohol inside, but Vince chose to be sober in prison. He also started writing alternate posts for this blog. They were heart breaking, hilarious, and articulate.
He made it through an intensive “boot camp” program, where he worked on self-discipline, attitudes, and thinking processes. He also started running, something he hated but continues to this day.
He came home a little over four years ago and moved in with me. That was rough. He dated a woman but it didn’t work out. He got a job in a laminating factory and moved in with a couple guys who were also trying—some successfully and some not—to stay sober. He started his own blog. He bought my beloved old Mini Cooper from me. He dated another woman but it didn’t work out.
Two years ago, he was offered a cook job at a country club on Lake Minnetonka. That’s where he laid eyes on Amanda for the first time, and it was love at first sight. He moved in with Amanda and her two young daughters. From the start, he has been all-in on parenting. He can now put “expert in potty training” on his resume.
One year ago he bought a house in the tiny town of Silver Lake. He traded the Mini for a minivan. He worked with me to publish the first year of this blog as a book. He applied for better jobs, and in the end was offered a great promotion at the country club.
The girls’ father is under a two-year no-contact order. Vince has supported Amanda as she has courageously fought to finalize her divorce, custody, and child support arrangements. Last month Vince and Amanda were awarded full custody. The three-year-old calls him daddy.
In court, Vince made a statement to the girls’ father—that if and when he gets his act together, Vince and Amanda will work with him to welcome him back into the girls’ lives. The guy thanked him. I was very proud of Vince. A lot of men wouldn’t have done that.
Here they are, at the country club where Amanda works, after the big proposal.
In June he’ll mark his five-year sobriety anniversary. They’ll be hitched in August.
All of this is to say that very few situations are ever hopeless. Similar to my own story, it didn’t happen overnight and it took a combination of working hard as hell and letting go. Vince has plugged away, working his program, trying new things, taking risks, sometimes failing, but mostly moving forward.
In three weeks I’ll be in Japan. I still feel way behind on the planning. I created a Google docs spreadsheet to try to keep track of it all and it looks a mess. I’ve got six out of eight accommodations booked. I’ve got my JR Rail Pass in hand. I’m finally able to retain some place names from one day to the next.
Progress, not perfection. One of the AA slogans that is good to keep in mind whether one is an addict or not.
Last night as I was reading about Japanese baths again (I worry about the baths and the shared bathrooms), I was struck by how many iconic cultural traditions Japan has given to the world: origami, sumo, haiku, sushi, manga, anime, samurai, geisha, bonsai, and Zen. There are probably more. Is there another country that has created or adapted so many traditions that are recognized worldwide?