As my parents celebrate their 38th anniversary, I must poo-poo on their parade. You see, I have lived a long time with my parents but have never truly known my father. He is simply the male roommate, the one who comes and goes to work. If he isn’t working, then he is sleeping.
There is one thing that I do know about my father; he is an alcoholic. Granted he hasn’t had a drop of alcohol in over a year and before that who knows. Regardless he is an alcoholic. The reason for this is that one doesn’t simply stop being an alcoholic. Sure, you can add “recovering” to the front of alcoholic, but it never truly goes away. They see the struggle as a never-ending war and each day sober is a winning battle.
His wagging war against alcoholism started at a young age, roughly 15. But in hindsight, who wouldn’t be an alcoholic if by 15 you were married to a girl you had just met, expecting your first child, and having to drop out of high school? That’s a lot to take as a 15-year-old who didn’t develop strong coping skills.
My father’s alcoholism did a number on his marriage , more specifically in the early years, and on my sister and brother’s childhood. For one thing if he came home drunk, he was mean, not physically but verbally. My mother tells me that they (her and my older siblings) would pretend to be sleeping just so they wouldn’t have to deal with him. Dad had a lot of pent-up anger that only seemed to come out when he was drunk. Then if he didn’t come home, my siblings wouldn’t eat their dinner. Side note: my mother insisted we have dinner as a family so often we waited for my dad who may or may not have shown up. My brother would sit by the window waiting worrying about our dad and my mother at the dining room table coming up with 101 ways of disposing of Dad; I assume my sister stopped caring because she is never mentioned in the stories.
My dad was 25 years old when I was born and by this time he was a full-fledged alcoholic. He didn’t bother coming home on pay-days. By this point the only thing my mother asked of him was to call (before cellphones) her and let us know that he wasn’t coming home; a few drinks in and he would forget all about that one important phone call. Seriously, what a dumbass! One phone call would have ended years of arguing before it even began. But we all joke about him being a smart alcoholic. He never spent HIS paycheck. He was the last one in the yard to buy the other truck drivers drinks and by that time most of them were gone or either sleeping that a simple 18 pack of Budweiser as all they needed.
I never saw my dad as the mean parent; he was the opposite, the coolest dad on the block. I can’t remember how many times conga lines were started because of him, my mother glaring from a chair; why did she always have to have a stick up her butt? I mean when Dad didn’t come home, the next day we went to Denny’s! And who doesn’t love Denny’s? Or how about that time Dad didn’t come home during the Christmas season and we got the best gifts. It wasn’t that he was out drinking like Mom said or brooded about. Dad was out shopping for us because he loved us. At least this was my rationale as a seven-year old.
Dad was the reason I had my first taste of alcohol at seven or eight. Isn’t it cute how Angie holds the bottle? Everyone look at the face she made because it tastes so bad! I didn’t really see the problem with alcoholism until I was eight or nine. It was my sister’s quinceañera. Dad was our own Mister Hyde. My mother was hiding keys because Dad wanted to continue to party. My sister attempting to tuck me into bed so I wouldn’t notice the fight that was about to take place. I remember laying in silence along-side my sister trying to understand how and why the fun ended abruptly. Why were the conga lines no longer fun?
My dad’s alcoholism continued to spiral out of control for a few more years after my sister’s quinceañera, maybe four or five. It ended just like it began, with trauma; with the death of my youngest sister. Dad was 36 years old and already had buried one child, had a still-born daughter (my twin sister), sent away two other children to live in a foreign country (myself and my brother, who was struggling with his alcoholism by the age of 16), and then my older sister who would be turning 21.
Why did he stop drinking? This is the one question I’m uncomfortable asking.