It’s Tina’s birthday as I write. The last one of her twenties and the first one since I’ve known her when I don’t have a gift for her. The first time, I bought her an antique jewelry box and took her out for a night on the town at some of the best, most expensive places I know in Minneapolis. The next year, I spent a month painting a jean jacket for her in old-school graffiti style. Last year I bought her a car. This year, I only have advice for her: “Get into treatment and counseling. Your life will continue to suck and get worse and worse if you don’t. I guarantee it!”

About that car… I knew she was very anxious about where she was going to live and where she was going to work last year, since her Mom kept changing her mind about where to be and Tina was dependent on her for transportation.

Maura had floated the idea of staying at her Dad’s cabin for at least a summer. Tina felt like she didn’t have any control and told me she didn’t want to start a job in the area if she was just going to have to move and have no way to get there.

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I’d always been concerned about how isolated and dependent on her mother and others she was to get around and before we’d broken up the last time around, I had been planning to get her a car. We’d only been back together for a couple months, but it seemed like a car was what she really needed most just then, so, for her 28th birthday, I gave her a used Kia Optima. It was in great shape with low miles and I got it for a song because it didn’t run. It only took about $700 to get it going but the repairs meant she wouldn’t have it until a couple days after her birthday.

On her 28th birthday, I was working until 10:30 at night, but I was hoping and expecting to see Tina afterwards. She texted in the middle of my shift to let me know that Nate was going to take her out “for a little while” and that she’d keep me posted.

When I got done with work, I tried calling and texting, but Tina never answered. She didn’t make any effort to “keep me posted” at all.

I went home to my lonely bed. Just before midnight, I shot her a Happy Birthday/Goodnight message and drifted off to sleep.

I was up before the sun and feeling anxious, for some reason. Maybe I was just upset that Tina ignored me on her birthday while she was out with Nate.

I tried texting her, not knowing if she’d be asleep, still up, or even where she was. There was no reply and I decided to drive over.

I guessed she’d be hung over, so I put together a care package of Gatorade, Monster Energy drinks and smokes and drove to her place early in the morning. There was an unfamilliar black Toyota parked in the driveway and I realized that Nate had spent the night and was still there.

I wasn’t thrilled, but I gave her the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he just needed to crash out on the couch for a while.

I had some work to do, so I left without disturbing them and set to that for a few hours. I stopped at Target and got a fancy gift box, freshened up Tina’s care package with a cold Gatorade, added some snacks and went back to her place.

The black Toyota was gone. I knocked on the door. Maura let me in. Tina was sleeping in Maura’s bed. I let myself into the dark bedroom, feeling my way onto the bed and found a lump of hungover Tina under the covers. She roused easily and gratefully swigged her Gatorade.

She was in terrible condition for the rest of the day so I didn’t end up taking her out for her birthday. She didn’t say anything about Nate spending the night, and neither did I, but I did gently chide her. “I thought you were going to keep me posted,” I said, draping an arm over her.

She told me she’d gone to bed “as soon as Nate dropped her off.”

Scott and his daughters became the primary beneficiaries of the car I gave Tina, kept fueled and insured.  I was paying for Scott’s daughters to get to school and back

After my mom died, Tina was spending a lot of time with me at the house in Minneapolis, so we brought her car into town so she could get around when I was at work. She got into an accident that marred the front bumper but totalled the car she T-boned. When I asked for details about how the accident happened, she claimed not to remember where it happened.  Some time later, she told me she was pulling out of the liquor store parking lot onto a busy road and somehow failed to see the car she ran into.

I know Tina wouldn’t normally be one to drive drunk, but with the amount she’d been drinking around that time, I doubt if there was a moment in any given day that she’d pass for legal, even if she felt sober. You can’t drink a gallon of whiskey a week and have any time without some alcohol in your blood. Livers just can’t work that fast. I should point out I wasn’t keeping track of the volume she was consuming at the time of the accident, but once I started paying attention, I found she was going through at least a handle of whiskey in 2-3 days time, by herself. That’s more than I could have managed at my very worst before I got into treatment. It’s epic-level drinking.

She didn’t want to tell me she was at the liquor store. She hid how much she was drinking, even from me and I would have understood, even if I’d not have wanted her driving.

After the accident, Tina insisted that she’d never drive again and her car sat idle for weeks. My brother had an emergency situation with the family car so I lent him the Kia, since Tina wasn’t using it. She seemed to resent that, but Jason and his family needed it. Tina had me to drive her and was refusing to drive, anyhow.

A while later, Tina and I were up at her grandpa’s cabin and she was wasted at 8:00 in the morning. She wanted me to drive her over to her Dad’s to ask him about getting one of his cars to use. I pointed out how amazingly terrible this idea was and she went to bed, instead, but the story got considerably crazier after that, which I will relate in another post.

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