Friday, May 29, 2009


Multiple post warning. I know you have other things to do and this would be too long a post for one sitting. If you want, you can wait for the last post to comment. Thanks for bearing with me.

He appeared so small. I looked carefully at his face to be certain he really was my Dad. His face was recognizable but I wondered at the incredibly short distance from his shoulders to his feet under the hospital sheets. Where was the rest of my Dad? Where was the giant of a man that long ago used to swing me high in the air as I looked down at his broad grin and twinkling eyes?

The frail, bruise covered arms that lay at his side could not belong to the same man whose tanned arms used to lift things so easily. The feeling I was experiencing has been felt by generations of people before me and will be felt by generations after, yet each of us will feel is unique. My parent had gone from "super human", to old, vulnerable and sick. Tears burned my eyes as I stared at the unconscious, shrunken man.

Dad was near death in that hospital with cirrhosis of the liver. Wasn't that the disease of drunks? Though a drink in his hand was common, I had never seen the man drunk or perhaps I had never seen him totally sober to properly judge. My Dad was my hero. He was an extremely intelligent man with a keen wit. He always provided for us and was never mean, In fact he was the kindest man I have ever met.

My mother had been a very sick woman most of my life with severe,chronic, asthma. Dad had always taken care of her. He learned to cook marvelously and did all the cleaning while earning a living as a civil engineer. He was certainly not an unflawed man, but in the things that mattered, I saw no flaws. They had a wonderful, fun relationship in spite of her illness. These two people shared a warm, visible love and I never knew what an argument was because they just didn't argue, at least never in front of us.

We laughed and played a lot as a family. Mother would not allow TV for she said we would cease to talk to one another, thus we played a lot of games in the evenings. I can remember being ashamed that we did not have TV and was embarrassed when my school friends would spend the night for a sleep over. I should not have worried for my friends always commented on how neat my parents were and they loved the "games". She was right on about the TV. Mother died at 50 when I was about 16 and Dad remarried about a year later which at first appalled me.

Once I had heard my parents discussing the age old question,"If I die before you, will you remarry?" Most men fear that question for there is seldom a correct answer. Dad answered it correctly though. He said, "I would remarry right away for I have enjoyed married life so much with you." That guys, is how you answer. I thought that was the most romantic thing I had ever heard.

Remembering that, I learned to love my step mother very much partially because she was good for my Dad. Without a rudder, he could easily go off course. Besides, she brought two cool new sisters into the family for me.

As the years slid by, I married and divorced with no children. My husband had been very controlling and emotionally abusive so I was in no hurry to get back in the game. As a fairly attractive young woman, I had plenty of dates but a rabid fear of commitment. So I played the field, jumping out of relationships before they could become marriage bound. The few times I did get serious enough to become engaged, I was scared off by behavior similar to my ex's. I pretty well stuck with my original game plan of just having "fun." I learned to "party hardy."

So here I was in my thirties staring in disbelief at my critically ill father who should by rights have a good 30 years left, but who might not make it through the week.

"Your father is a very sick man." Dr. Roberts said not pulling any punches. "If we can pull him through this crisis and he continues to drink, he will die." Not might die, he had said , but will die. I was terrified.

"Dr. Roberts," I questioned carefully, grasping at the first part of his statement. "If Dad recovers and since he cannot drink again, how should we behave around him? Will it be easier for him if we do not drink around him or will that just make him more uncomfortable. I want to make it as easy as possible for him."

"You father is likely an alcoholic ." he said. " I suggest you and your family contact Alcoholics Anonymous or perhaps join Al-Anon. They can be a great help to you."

I was still reeling from hearing my father and alcoholic used in the same sentence but vowed to visit the local AA chapter as soon as I left the hospital....

Part two tomorrow


  1. I applaud you for sharing what must be a hard post to write, Patti, and I am waiting for the rest.

  2. I am thankful my parents were teetotalers.Despite that fact, Dad lost a sister to severe alcoholism and another sister's marriage dissolved because of alcoholism and accompanying physical abuse and infidelity.

    Not all alchoholics follow the same pattern. In my professional life I've met many alchoholics who functioned very well, despite intoxication. I've never understood it.

  3. I appreciate it so much that you are telling this story, patti.

  4. Thank you Judy, You are right. While it was easy to write it is not so easy to put in cyber space.
    Hopefully someone can benefit.

    You were lucky with your parents but you know all too well the toll alcohol can take.
    Some people can function quite well. Besides personal experience, I have worked for a few.

    Thanks robin, I hope if nothing else, it may make someone just think. I hope so.

  5. My dad was an alcoholic, too. My mother left him when I was about 2 years old. It wasn't about drinking, though. It was because he used all of their leather coupons to buy her a pair of cowboy boots...they last longer and all. I'll have to send you a link to that story. He had a stroke when he was 66, but lived another 13 years in a nursing home. He died from bladder cancer, which is associated with smoking and I remember a hunnered years ago that they had determined sachharine could cause it, too. He held onto his saccahrine love...maybe a little too long.

    I was concerned I'd become an alcoholic, but when I decided I'd had enough it was pretty easy to find something else to do. In my case I went back to finish my degree...and gotta tell ya...can't drink and study and/or take tests.

    I don't hang out with people who drink a lot, but mainly that is because I quit smoking nearly 3 years ago. It doesn't make me want a drink or a smoke, but does vex me that my clothes smell after an evening with them.