One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do
Two can be as bad as one
It’s the loneliest number since the number one
~ Three Dog Night, One (written by Harry Nillson)
One thing I can tell you, if you’re in a relationship with an active alcoholic, you are living a lonely life. Your significant-someone is fixated on the bottle first. You and your relationship, if you’re lucky, are number two. I was lucky number two, in my relationship with Boomer; the drink was always first. I didn’t realize just how lonely a relationship I was in until we spent a week in Kona, Hawaii, for our honeymoon, when we traveled — on day two — to the Kohala Forest Reserve in Waimea where I embarked on a Pololu Valley hike toward the breathtaking black sand beaches by myself. Boomer opted instead to sit in the rental car at the lookout point, he was passed-out in the front seat when I returned.
Later, as we looked through photographs taken during the trip, the evidence was undeniable that he hadn’t been a part of most of the sightseeing. He spent the majority of the time hunkered down in the condo, drinking, watching football and making calls to his cronies on the mainland. The irony is from that time forward, until he died, he revered our Hawaiian honeymoon as one of his most positively memorable trips. This baffled me because it was a sad contrasting memory for me –my honeymoon, alone, without my husband.
Still, one distinct pleasure we mutually shared from that trip was the splendor of the hibiscus flower, you don’t see a lot of them in the Midwest. The vibrant array of blossom colors from shrubs and trees were everywhere greeting you with a giant fragrantless smile amid the lush tropical landscaping of the condo complex where we stayed. Since the yellow hibiscus is Hawaii’s state flower, naturally the big bloom with its darting appendage of pollen is everywhere at every turn on everything from being tucked behind a woman’s ear to printed t-shirts and body tattoos. A visual feast.
The evening before we left Kona to return home, Boomer asked me to go around the development and take some pictures. He specifically mentioned the hibiscuses, a tiki statue that caught his eye, as well as the sunset over the Pacific Ocean at the edge of the community. I obliged. Alone. He stayed inside and drank. I amassed over 60 images that evening with an Olympus 8.0 megapixel digital pocket camera Boomer gave me for my birthday earlier that year. Most of photos were total crap. That camera and I never played very well together, yet I salvaged about a dozen images of what he expressed keepsake interest in. What I’ve learned since that time, through my own recovery process, his request as an active alcoholic was a manipulative tactic to create a diversion to satisfy the ulterior motive to continue drinking uninterruptedly. He cleverly leveraged what he knew would be a guaranteed positive reaction from me without question, hassle, or forethought. He manipulated me into going out alone to take the pictures because he knew he’d get my agreement. I like taking pictures…check. We both like hibiscus flowers…check. It’s our last night…check. How could I say no?
A year later, our lives were on rapid decline, and in an effort to lift his spirits I assembled a ‘floating’ trio collage frame as a Christmas gift of three hibiscus flower photos I had taken (‘floating’ means a photograph is pressed between two pieces of glass with no other support to hold it in place). Memory of a time and place he held fondness for even if I didn’t. From me, to him, for us. He loved it.
When we moved to southwest Florida in 2011 the hibiscus collage made its home hanging on a narrow kitchen wall adjacent to the bedroom and dining area, a primary pass through of the little 1920s Spanish-style bungalow then our home. Before long, the orange-colored hibiscus went rogue, slipped out of place igniting my affair with the flower.
Boomer was the first to spot the slip and the week before our third wedding anniversary began having extra fun at my fastidious tendencies toward home decor perfection. It started with him simply saying he noticed something. Every day he mentioned it with accompanied laughter as I scampered around trying to figure out what the something was. He offered no clues for a week, finally surrendering to the old ‘hot and cold’ clue game leading me to the discovery I’d walked by hundreds of times without noticing. The hibiscus gave us moments of levity during the increasingly dark time when our life together was running short of joy, laughter, and time. While an orange hibiscus in particular, collaborated with Boomer to teach me to embrace the gift of imperfection. I’ve kept its displacement in tact.