Hurricane showed up at the local AA club. I noticed constant sadness in his demeanor. I zeroed in on him and resumed the questioning begun during our trip to Florida.
“Are you happy with the quality of your sobriety?” I queried.
“And do you want to get well?”
“I guess so,” he looked at me with sullen eyes, “I hadn’t even thought of that.”
“The next level is available to you,” I assured him, “the purpose of the step work is to heal broken-heartedness and provide freedom from being stuck.”
I could only suspect that grief for his late wife, and an inability to let go of that obsession was part of his problem. I had no way of knowing the depth of his despair and what drove his perception. We are all a mix of what we discover, what we decide and how we see. He was not alone. He was part of the group. I wanted him to see he wasn’t the only one with challenges. Things at our home were insane. Gail had enough of my self-centered productivity. I was always going and going with yet another idea. She felt left out and finally had had enough.
Gail insisted I move out. Hurricane had a room in his house for me. This mostly became a place to store my stuff. I had lots of opportunities for paint work, festivals to attend, and my horse trailer to use as housing. I simply got busy and pursued projects I could accomplish on location.
A few weeks later, Gail and I patched things up. Each time we reunited, we experienced an incredible emotional condition not unlike a honeymoon and we rode the crest of our immense love for each other once again.
In the afterglow that followed, Hurricane knew I would return to his house for my stuff. On the day I drove over to his house, I found a note on the door; ‘don’t come in, call the police.’
I did just that. After making the call, I returned to Gail’s house. Later, I received a report that the police had gone inside to discover that Hurricane had shot himself in his bed. He had all his affairs in order including instructions for all the members of his family, and for me to come and get my stuff.
Not knowing the extent of his mental condition but being well aware of his lack of healing by working the twelve steps sent me a big message. I got the edict loud and clear. Unchecked, even while sober, this disease has the power to kill. Without recovery from a hopeless state of mind, the end is the same whether the alcoholic is drinking or not.
His example became a motivating prompt for me, as the lingering residue of the turbulent relational discord with Gail and myself needed to be processed. We entered into our attempt. With the help of my sponsor Ralph and his wife, Gail and I began our effort to enter into the process of healing and understanding what was going on by working one-on-one with these lovely people. Hopefully we could rise above whatever it was that kept us in this cycle of on-again off-again.
Back in Jackson, a local sound system store wanted me to decorate the large delivery truck they acquired with flashy sign work. This gave me an opportunity to develop a technique of blending colors that went through the entire spectrum for a central rainbow sound track design. Also portrayed were several logos and speaker depictions. I worked on this project, outdoors in the warm autumn months in Gail’s driveway.
One lumber company in Jackson had a custom woodworking shop out back. I made friends with the fellow who worked there and discovered we could collaborate on special projects.
A lawyer wanted a three-sided pedestal sign with elements from the architecture of the elegant home he converted into office space. Recreating some of the features, I designed a wooden project that we constructed at the lumber yard. I carved incised letters for gilding with gold leaf and finished all the woodwork in Gail’s basement.
The deadline for completion loomed. The finished pieces of the project were almost ready for me to load up and go on location to install. When I returned from a quick errand, I found Gail’s car locked and parked up against the lift garage door preventing my opening it. I went up into the kitchen and saw two empty coffee cups on the counter but no Gail. Not knowing what to do and having a deadline to meet, I took a chain and my truck and pulled her car back far enough to open the door. I then loaded the pieces that would soon be another great sign in town.
When she returned and found me loading the components to the sign, she hit the roof. She had an issue with me and wanted me to slow down enough so she could talk to me about it.
She had provided me with housing for two years and had yet to receive any compensation. Not knowing how to initiate a conversation about what would be appropriate, the attempt to force the issue only promoted division and more frustration for both of us.
Among the responsibilities of being a home owner were projects that she needed help with. Her house needed a coat of paint. This was a specialty I knew nothing about. Now that I was getting a hint about what would be appropriate for me to do, I entered into getting this done for her. I purchased extension ladders needed to reach the second story and ladder jacks to support a work plank. I figured these would also come in handy in my role as sign man around town.
I did have a guy available to do grunt work as needed. With this newly acquired equipment, my workman had the ability to go to work. I set up the ladders and plank in front of her house and sent him up to scrape the loose paint off the eaves, two stories up.
An area of the side of the house over the garage had clap-board siding. I used the mentality of a sign painter. I realized making lateral strokes with a wide brush would take forever. I found out about a thick-nap roller. Using lots of paint, I rolled on a heavy coat and covered this stair stepped surface rapidly.
Regardless of the progress, Gail was not impressed with any of my efforts. As my industry continued, I felt unappreciated. This project commanded time and was not my area of expertise.
She finally called a professional house painter to complete the easternmost side which also was covered with clapboard. When I saw how the pro did it, I realized removing every tid-bit of loose paint and making sure that every square foot of the surface received a thick coat of paint was not priority. He had a pressure spray system, thinned paint and a wide brush, he put on a questionable coat of paint but the entire end of the house was complete in one day.
My mom and dad enjoyed traveling in their Transvan camper van with their little dog Choco. Gail and I visited them in Arkansas earlier that summer. They were proud of my accomplishments and liked Gail and wanted to visit us in Jackson. They arrived to see us when tension was at its peak. My dad inspected the paint job I put on the house and commended me for the healthy coat of paint. But while there they did not receive an audience with the human being I loved.
Tension was thick at Gail’s home. The fall of the year was upon us and the logical thing for me to do was to once again load up the livestock and head for Florida. An opportunity waited for me to work with John Herriott prior to the circus festival and this time I would compete. I also planned to pursue opportunities for sign and mural work at the luxury RV resort I discovered the previous winter. I had work in Jackson to finish first.
I saw Duane Zwick and his wife Mae Jean at breakfast one morning. They had exciting news. They had driven their Wanderlodge to Georgia, to the place where it was manufactured. During the annual rally, an old friend saw the mural I painted and noticed my name in the corner.
Robert Luce, whom I had met at Shiloh years ago, said to them, “next time you see Dave, tell him to stop by and see me”