A Life of Alcohol
I remember coming home one night after being out with friends. Walking into the living room, I saw the TV on in the den to the left…my father sprawled out face down on the floor in front of it.
“DAD!” I screamed, as chills of fear flooded my body. Then he groaned and opened an eye, looked at me, and muttered something. It was then I realized. It wasn’t a heart-attack or a stroke. Dad was drunk – again.
I wish I could say I had a heart-to-heart talk with him the next day and he vowed to change, but in never happened.
For my entire life, it seemed I grew up without a father. In some ways, I envied kids whose father’s had physically left them. At least, with a physical separation, you know there’s a reason you don’t see him or know him much. My father WAS there – physically – but he didn’t speak unless it was to quiet down a family squabble because he couldn’t hear the game.
There were three things my father would discuss: work, sports, and television/movies. Most of these topics arose during his inebriated period each night. How he could down 2 quarts of Schlitz and get up and go to work at 5am the next day still amazes me.
He never went to any of my baseball games. He never played catch with me. Didn’t teach me how to shoot a basketball, ride a bike, give me dating advise, or how to drive a car. The only time I spent with my dad was fishing. Why? Because that’s what he loved. I liked it, but I mainly did it so I could spend time with him…of course, he listened to the game on the radio and talked sports. Other than those rare times, he worked and he drank.
Was he a bad guy? No. I still loved my father as only a son can. Now that I’m an adult, I understand things that are impossible for a child to grasp. He was escaping. What? A life of pain, misery, abuse, and a history of feeling totally insignificant – that’s how his family treated him. How can I not have compassion for a person who suffered through that? He had no idea how to break out of his prison or, that his actions were hurting those he cared about the most. So, he anesthetized himself to the world he hated.
In late summer of 2000, my father was rushed to the hospital in paid and great difficulty breathing. What, at first, was thought to be a blood infection, turned out much worse. Cancer, believed to have started in his lungs, metastasized throughout his body. There was no treatment…years of smoking and drinking had finally caught up to him.
What was a tragic end to a tragic life became a blessing. In those final few weeks, I caught a glimpse of the true man I somehow knew was there all along. Funny, sensitive, thoughtful, caring, and genuinely afraid of death. I forgave him and he told me he was proud of me. We made peace and – I think – he made peace with God. He died at home thanks to Hospice. In those final moments, I was there with him.
When he passed, I cried like never before in my life. I cried not so much for the man I knew, but for the good man I never go to know.
To this day I enjoy the occasional beer, cocktail or glass of wine – rarely more than one – usually on a Friday or Saturday with dinner. I have never been and don’t want to get drunk. I want to be there for my wife and daughter. The message of his life is I can run from the heartaches of life (which is easy for me to do) or I can choose to be there for my loved ones. I can face my fears and show that I’m human – someone who loves and hurts.
My dad missed out on a lot. Based on family history, he should have lived another fifteen to twenty years. He missed my wedding, the birth of my daughter (whom he would have loved), my niece’s birth – a miracle for my sister, the birth of a great-grand daughter too. All because it was easier to embrace beer than to embrace life.
I miss you dad.