Running Late by Trista Hendren

Painting by Arna Baartz

When I became pregnant with an alcoholic, I should have known better. Throughout my pregnancy, he was always “running late.” I worried whether he would even show up for the birth. Fortunately, we were together—me on top, water bursting all over the bed—a month early.

We made it to the hospital just in time. I was already dilated to 10. Shortly after, he left to celebrate with friends, just for a little while. He returned late. The next day, he didn’t come back at all. The child screamed for hours. He had gas, but I didn’t know it. I desperately called my first husband and his wife at 2 AM. They stayed with us until 5, when my son was finally lulled to sleep.

The next day, he brought me an engraved Tiffany bracelet as an apology and left.

He was a spotty father for about a year before he disappeared completely. He came back, sorry. He was always "sorry." When he went to rehab for several months, I had hope. When he stayed sober for a year, I married him against my better judgment and had another child.

There were 3 years of sobriety before it started again.

On our daughter’s second birthday, we had nearly 50 people over to celebrate. Every time someone arrived, they asked where my husband was. Our 5-year-old son had already begun to defend him. “Daddy’s running late. There must be traffic.” My ex-husband turned on the grill and fed everyone. Six hours later, I finally broke down in hysterical sobs. He never showed. No one could console me. I knew it would never be "OK."

The next years went something like this: Confession. Three months at The Betty Ford Clinic; follow-up somewhere else. Al-Anon meetings. Relapse. Yelling, cursing, and pushing. Reading more books about his “disease.” AA. Relapse. Therapy. Filing for bankruptcy; our home always on the brink of foreclosure. Confirmed affairs. Too many tears. 20 pounds lost. Dinner, cold on the table.  Another missed birthday party. Children waiting, continuously waiting, on their little knees by the front window. He always claimed that he was, “Just around the corner.” Dignity gone; children suffering. Me: alone, broke and striving to keep our “family” together.

I tried far too many times. He was always running late.

An excerpt from my upcoming book, Hearts aren't Made of Glass - out later this summer.