Every important thing I know about adult life I learned from watching you. It's all right. I know you're sorry about those times. You were always were sorry for what you did to me but that didn't stop you from repeating it. Repetition always helps to drive a lesson home and you did. You taught me many things, Mother. Please don't cry. It's okay now. I'm stronger because of the things I learned from you.

I remember times spent alone, the children of your drinking buddies sleeping around me on the floor. They cried for their mommies but their Mothers were with you and you were at a bar. You liked to do that, drink and dance until the bar closed. I soothed them to sleep. We played games. I read them stories and sang songs for them. But there was no one to sing me to sleep. No safety. One by one, I picked them up and carried them to my room. They were heavy for my small arms. I kept one eye always on the clock, knowing you would be home, drunk around two thirty. You were always loud and often angry when you were drunk. I protected the little ones. Someone had to while their parents were drunk. There was no one to protect me though from your angry words or your swinging hands.

You were unhappy with your life. You used alcohol to escape and it worked. Things don't seem so bad when you're drunk. Don't cry, Mother. You're getting old and you're sick and I know you just want to be forgiven. I forgive you. I told you, those times taught me alot.

I learned that household chores need to get done. You can't put them off forever. The dishes always need washed. You never would do them if you had been drinking but I still needed clean bowls for cereal and so, I learned how. I can clean the table and the stove. I know the frustration of picking up after small children. I can do my own laundry and I don't turn things funny colors doing it anymore. I'm not afraid of the bits of food that collect in the bottom of the sink when you drain away the dish water either. You'd be suprised how many other young adults don't like to touch it. I am more prepared for life in the real world because I know these things.

I learned that alcohol can not take away pain. The trouble has to be transfered to someone. It is not worth it. No one should have to deal with the results of your bad choices except for you. It's not even a complete transfer. When you're sober, the pain is worse because you know deep down even when you can't conciously remember that you did something wrong.

I will be twenty-one soon and legally allowed to drink. I remember times when I was sixteen, sitting at the table and matching you shot for shot because you made me. I learned my limits well and my tastes. I do not like to be drunk. As I get older, I may choose to have a glass of wine with dinner or a screwdriver with breakfast when I'm on vacation. But I know that alcohol is a dangerous thing, not because you could hurt yourself but because you could hurt others. I will never make anyone pay the price for my choices.

Here, have a kleenex. Are you still all right? I'm not trying to make you feel bad. I want you to understand that I learned important things from you. Let me tell you about the last few things I learned. Then we'll get your pills and you can go to bed.

I learned that I can not ever completely trust anyone except for myself. From an early age, I discovered that things don't always go as planned. If you depend on someone for a ride, and they forget you, you have to start the sad walk home alone with no one to wipe your tears. That's just life. Sometimes, something legitimate had come up. Perhaps an accident on the highway between work and my school. Most of the time though, you just didn't remember me.

I learned to be compassionate and understanding. You told me about all of your troubles, made your many excuses. Everyone has to make the right choices for herself. Even now, watching you, I am learning that I can forgive anything.

I do not bear you ill will for my early life. I wish that you could grow old and learn to be happy. The doctors say you will not live past forty if you do not listen to them. You may not live that long even if you do. You've abused your body too much. Smile for me now. You'll be all right. I've learned alot from watching you and I will not make your mistakes. I forgive you and I love you but it's time for your pills and then the doctor says you should sleep.