When I first heard One More Day, I was driving Gee’s little Saturn, and nearly drove off the road because of the tears that made seeing the road almost impossible. It sums up what I felt after she died better than any words I could express myself.
This is one of my favorite songs…I believe it came out nine days before Gee died, but I didn’t hear it until a week after her funeral. I wasn’t really a country music fan way back then, and I didn’t listen to much music at the hospital, where spending every moment I could with Gee was the most important thing to me. The nurses were amazing, and they really made a difficult time in my life a lot easier. I think one reason they let me have free reign was because of how devoted I was to Gee and how well I took care of her.
For example, one of the floaters on the Hemo-Onc wing was trying to give me a hard time when I tried to get some ice for Gee. They said it would cost me…so I whipped out my checkbook and asked who to make the check out to and for how much… The regular Hemo-Onc nurses all laughed at the floater and said that I was one of the good guys, and there was nothing I wouldn’t do for Gee. Of course, Gee had told the nurses that I took her last name when we got married, and most of the nurses there, like the ones at her chemo clinic, called me Mr. Gee Kim, a name I wore with great honor.
A few days later, I heard from Woo. She told me about a story that Sang told her. I don’t know whether the story is true or not, but her little sister Sang’s mother-in-law worked at the hospital Gee had been a patient at. Sang’s mother-in-law was visiting Sang and told her this very sad story about how a beautiful young woman had just passed away from cancer. She told Sang about how devoted this woman’s husband was–staying by her side day and night–only leaving to cook meals for her at home and then rushing back to the hospital so that she could have a hot, home-cooked meal instead of hospital food. When she told Sang that the young woman had died of pancreatic cancer. Sang said to her mother, “You know this couple. They’re talking about Gee and Dan. You met them at our wedding in April.”
Sadly, this song would also apply to Ellie in many ways at this point as well. Ellie is the only woman I have ever loved as much or possibly even more than Gee, but I don’t think she realizes the significance of that fact. I don’t even know if the amazing woman who said she loved me so often earlier this year exists any longer. I really don’t know whether she has become a casualty of her illness. I keep in the hope that some of the glimpses I see of the Ellie I love so much, the one who said she loved me, means that she still exists somewhere under her addictions.
So much of the advice I’ve been given has been to forget about her; to move on; to find someone else…and as much as I think the advice is well-intentioned, it isn’t something I can do. I’ve been told she isn’t worth it. I’ve been told that addicts are a lost cause. Yet, Ellie is someone I love–someone who means the world to me–and I can no more give up on her because of her illness than I could have walked away from Gee because she had cancer.
Some of this advice has come from a courageous and amazing young woman, less than a decade older than Ellie, who had been on the same road that Ellie is on now. She has told me that walking away from Ellie and leaving her to make her own decisions–to sink or swim on her own–is the best thing I can do for her. I love and respect this young woman, and am very grateful for her advice, but it really doesn’t apply to me. I am no longer in Ellie’s life by her choice–she has pushed me as far away from her as she could. This is simply the truth.
It started the day I confronted Ellie about her drinking, June 29th, 2011. We went from exchanging virtual hugs and kisses via text message to her saying that I should “Fuck off and lose her number” without us ever having spoken in the course of less than four hours. The key event as far as I can see was my showing concern and asking her not to drink or use the fake IDs she had purchased and shown me. She started lying to her parents, family and friends about me then and hasn’t stopped.
I don’t honestly believe that this is Ellie speaking or her actions, but simply the actions her addictions and illness are forcing her to do. I would point out that Ellie has never accused me of any of the things she has said I have done to my face, and I believe it is because she is not capable of lying to me, someone she has said she loves repeatedly. She is basically an honest person, and I believe she thinks that as long as she hasn’t said these things to me directly, she hasn’t really lied to me–in point of fact, she’d be right, she hasn’t lied to me, only about me so far.
When I have said that I would be there for her if she or her mother should ask for my help, I meant it. As Brad, one of my closest friends, has pointed out–I have loved Ellie for almost 20 years in some fashion. First, as the adorable, if extremely obnoxiously bratty, daughter of two of my close friends. Then as a friend of mine in her own right. Unlike so many of her parents’ friends, I never treated her or her siblings as the children of my friends, but was friends with them on their own merits. Then, finally, as an amazing woman that I realized I love and want to spend the rest of my life with.
Right now, I am waiting to see how she does this semester in college. A large part of her tuition is paid via a merit-based scholarship. If she should lose her scholarship, it is likely to have significant consequences on her ability to afford this school. Considering how important education and attending this particular college are to Ellie, I am hoping that she does poorly enough in classes this semester to lose the scholarship, and that losing the scholarship might be enough of a event for Ellie to finally realize that she does have a drug/alcohol problem, as I have been trying to tell her since this past July. I am praying and hoping that Ellie is smart enough to realize that the trouble she is having academically is directly related to her problems with alcohol and drugs. She didn’t have this much difficulty last year, even though I believe she was taking a heavier class load, five versus four, and was dealing with issues like having a drug dealer for a roommate and a lying, cheating boyfriend.
If she loses the scholarship but doesn’t realize she has a problem or doesn’t do poorly enough to forfeit the scholarship, then it is likely that she will end up having to really hit rock bottom–the hard and ugly rock bottom that most alcoholics and addicts have to hit before they realize they have a problem and can ask for help. Unfortunately, with high functioning alcoholics, like Ellie, this could take decades. If she has to do that, it is far more likely that she will permanently damage her future, injure or damage herself or others, because hitting the real rock bottom may require that she end up in jail, the hospital or living on the street.