Posted by: Rob | November 14, 2008

Life Serves Up Another Shit Sandwich

I like that term “shit sandwich”.  It has all the connotations of something extremely unpleasant, yet you are faced with it and you have to…well…eat it.  It can’t be avoided.  I may have heard the term before, but I most recently ran across it in Jim Kunstler’s latest post on Clusterfuck Nation.  Jim was describing the situation that outgoing US President George W. Bush was leaving for incoming President-elect Barack Obama.

I hadn’t really thought much about blogging our latest shit sandwich.

Then I was reading a Song Lyric Thursday post at Umdalum’s place.  His post Thursday was the song “Dreadful Selfish Crime” by a Robert Earl Keen.  I’ve never heard the song but as I read the lyrics the image of my father-in-law (my late first wife’s father) came to mind and I left a bit of a soul searing comment.

With apologies to Umadalum for leaving the comment on his blog, I’m reproducing the comment here:

“dreadful selfish crime”…

the only thing that comes to my mind is my father-in-law (my late 1st wife’s dad) who, at 73 years of age, looks beyond 90. He spent his life drinking and “partying” (mother-in-law divorced when my wife was 13 or 14) and smoking. Now he has recurrent metastatic kidney cancer in his hip and back and possibly his brain. He’s been sent to the city for radiation to relieve the pain, but I just found out he fell this morning and broke a hip.

I don’t know what my late wife would say were she here today. It doesn’t seem right to say “I told you so” when the guy is pretty much knockin’ on death’s door now.

Talk about dreadful selfish crime.

There’s not much else to say really.  My father-in-law suffers from the disease of alcoholism.  Anything good that he ever had in his life he has lost because of his inability to withstand the disease.  What do you say to someone when the results of a life time of self-abuse comes home to roost?

I don’t think there’s anything you can say.  We’re doing what we can.  At this point that’s simply spending time visiting with him.  It’s certainly not the best of times.  He’s been pretty well medicated for the pain and, now with a broken hip even more so, it’s difficult to have a conversation with him.

The girls and I visited with him Wednesday night.  His sister was there too.  The four of us pretty much talked around him.  He joined in the odd time, but mostly listened.  And, by all accounts, it did some good.  Brought some life back into his eyes that wasn’t there earlier.

Bu now we wait to hear what comes next.  And we eat our shit sandwich.


  1. I don’t think this one will last long, either. In the days before hip pinning, a broken hip was a death sentence (and yes, I am old enough to remember those days.) He most likely broke the hip that has the cancer, no way to pin it. I think it’s palliative care from now on.

    Yeah, I tend to agree silverstar, although I think it was going to be palliative care from now on anyways. I think the pain meds will have to be much heavier now, though.

  2. cancer – and in fact, death – don’t discriminate. as i’ve learned, it isn’t just the sweet, kind and generous who get knocked down with it. assholes, sociopaths and evil-crazies can get it as well…

    doesn’t make your visits any more pleasant. kind of you to go see him… very kind. not sure i would…

    Ann and I talked about this a bit tonight – about this sense of obligation and tendency to “do the right thing”. You know, I saw this coming from years and miles away and yet it doesn’t make it suck any less, you know?

  3. Rob, I hope I don’t alienate you or your lovely bride (or anyone else) with this but I’ve always resented alcoholism being labeled as a “disease.” It makes it sound arbitrary and lets the drinker off the hook. “Oh, I can’t help myself because I have a disease.” You can’t quit cancer. You can’t quit leukemia. But you can sure as hell quit drinking. I’ve seen it done many, many times.

    And I don’t know of any other disease that will allow you to go out on a Saturday night, party your ass off and then drive on the wrong side of the road and plow into a van full of kids.

    I’ve had alcoholics in my life and the common thread that runs through them is that they tend to be a bunch of big babies who have to be mollycoddled and “understood” because they are suffering from a “disease.” As soon as they walk into the room they have to be the center of attention or there’s hell to pay. Meanwhile, the people around them suffer.

    Never be afraid to speak your mind around here, Unbearable.

    You spoke what I refrained from saying. I imagine you read Annie’s comment. I have to add that my own father was an alcoholic as well. Although I don’t know the whole story of his growing up and young adult years, through the things half-whispered and half-heard and half-told I can only surmise that he had an incredible amount of demons which could only be tamed by drink. His drinking resulted in quite a few experiences that imprinted on me over the years. Sober, my dad was gregarious. Drunk, he could be mean. Very mean.

    I tend to agree with you. To drink or not drink is purely a choice. But, it would seem, there are those too weak of character to overcome the addiction. Addiction. Perhaps that is a better and more apt descriptor? I don’t know.

    In the case of my father-in-law…he has lived his life as he did. There’s naught to be done to undo any of the wrongs now. I only seek to make his transition out of this existence a little bit easier.

  4. My own father was an alcoholic until his first stroke “cured” him. So I know what you mean, Unbearable. There are people who are too weak emotionally and spiritually to stay away from substance abuse and there are frankly way more people than most of us would be comfortable confronting who are substance abusers on a regular basis – just not daily or to the detriment of our jobs/families – but I won’t go there.

    It’s a disservice to people afflicted with real physical disease to lump in alcoholics who had a measure of control.

    I don’t know Shelley’s dad beyond a couple of meetings at funerals, but he seems a very sad person who is probably well aware of how he has ruined his life and its effect on his family. It’s tragic.

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