My name is Ed. I’m a smoker but not a drinker—it would get in the way of my gambling. I guess I got the gene for addictions. That’s what my wife used to say. She sure stuck with me, but when my temper got outta control—in her opinion—she kicked my sorry butt out. I remember standing on the front porch steps, telling her nobody was gonna tell me what I could and couldn’t do, that I was leaving her, and I walked away without even wanting to look back. I was free.
I’m a fat-headed, old coot as my granddaddy used to say, so it took me almost four years to admit the one thing I didn’t want to admit. My kind of freedom was lonely.
It was time to change. I started with a certain relationship with a certain Almighty, but I can’t say I had the purest of motivations. Somehow I just knew He'd dog the dickens outta me if I didn’t put Him first. So I did.
Next I found support groups. There was Smoking Cessation for my two-pack-a-day habit; Gambler’s Anonymous to keep me off the track; and Anger Management for the problem I didn’t think I had. As luck would have it, they’d finished construction on this center where I could attend all three meetings—a couple of ‘em back to back. I also visited the seniors who played Bingo, and shot hoops with a group of high school boys.
After having been an outsider for so long, I derived a certain pleasure in being with people.
“Hi there, Marsha,” I’d say to the receptionist.
“Hi, yourself. Anything shocking happen today?” Being an electrician, I get that more times than I care to recall, but from her, I didn’t mind.
Once, she said, “They’re already upstairs—Martin’s having some crisis with his nicotine patch.”
“Yep, page came an hour ago—got here as fast as I could.”
On that day I realized there was indeed devilment regarding my temper. Martin had seriously over-patched himself—again—and I fumed at his irresponsibility. My fist went clean through the flimsy wallboard like it was Styrofoam. That had never happened in my house. But our walls had been made of plaster. From that point on, I took Anger Management more seriously.
A year later I was working up the nerve to ask Marsha out for some yuletide cheer, but she was an evasive little hen. The Saturday night before St. Nick’s visit, I donned a new suit, bought a dozen red roses and a bottle of champagne—which I had to brown bag on account of the AA people.
Marsha hung up the phone when I walked in, and boy did she smile.
“Don’t you look like Dapper Dan?”
I took a deep breath, pooling my courage, and said, “What smells so good?” I inhaled again and my nostrils quivered. I forgot about Marsha as I sought to separate the aromas and put labels to them. Ginger and pumpkin. I could also make out butter, onion, celery, and garlic—stuffing.
“What’s going on?” I asked Marsha. I hadn’t had home cooking in years.
“Senior’s Christmas Dinner. Might surprise you to see who’s cooking it.” She pointed in the direction of the kitchen. I hurried down the checkered hallway wondering if—hoping it was—my little Shirley. Through the porthole on the swinging door, I spied my five-foot-nothing estranged wife.
I flushed with happiness. I looked at the flowers and champagne in my hand and tried real hard to think of something nice to say as I shouldered the door open.
“What are you doing here?” I said, gruffly.
“Making Christmas dinner for the seniors like I do every year.”
“I didn’t know you cooked like that.”
“Not surprising—all that smoking—kills the senses.” She dropped a lid onto an industrial-sized pot of mashed potatoes.
“I know—Marsha’s been giving me updates.” Shirley had the nerve to laugh at my perplexion “We’ve been friends since high school, Ed.” She sprinkled cinnamon on yams. “Marsha’s told me how you’ve been hangin’ on her.”
“I figured there wasn’t a snowball’s chance you’d ever take me back.”
“So you’ve got trust issues on top of everything else?”
That’s when I attended the “Believe Again” seminars. Meanwhile, Shirley cooked for me every day like it was Christmas. Which brings me to where I am now.
“Hello— my name is Ed, and I have an eating problem.”
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