People would say that he wouldn't be one to be gifted with the “Father of the Year” award, but I think he did the best he could…when he wasn't drinking. As the years went by that drink took a hold on him with vengence and wouldn't let him go. It controlled every part of his life and his mind.
As a young child I remember my mother waking me, my sister and brother and driving around town to find which bar he was at. I cannot remember what she did when she found it.
I remember one night my mother called all of us kids into the kitchen. She had gathered up every last bottle of liquor she could find and in front of our dad and all the kids, she poured all that liquor down the sink. I really don't know what the purpose was of her pouring it out in front of us, but I made me feel awfully bad. I think I was as much ashamed as my daddy probably was.
He was a mean man, mostly with his mouth. I remember all of us kids were crying just about every single night he was home.
When our mother was in the kitchen cooking, we were not allowed in the kitchen with her.
When we sat down for a meal together we were not allowed to talk. We had to eat quickly, then get up and leave the table.
When he was a manager of a bar, he would come home in the middle of the night from working and start playing the piano loudly. Even when I would have a friend over to spend the night and we had to sleep on the couch in the living room, he would come home and play the piano, waking us up.
When I was in the 7th or 8th grade, my friends and I would go to the movies. After the movie, we would go to a little cafe, order a coke, and call our mothers' to come pick us up. One night I was sitting at the table with my friends, drinking my coke and my dadddy came into the door with a woman. They were both drunk and trying to hold each other up. He either did not see me or he pretended he did not see me.
That was the end of my parent's marriage.
He left, leaving my mother to shoulder all the bills, feed and raise us four children.
It may sound terrible of me, but I don't think any of us kids were sorry to see him go. Not at all. Finally, there was peace in our home, even if we were poor and barely got by.
All the years thereafter, when my dad would get really bad with his drinking my mother would ask me to take him to the Veterans Hospital (about 200 miles away). After years of doing this, I finally said, “NO! I am not taking him to the hospital any more. He can either sober up or die.”
He sobered up…mostly. Sometimes he would binge, but mostly he stayed sober. By that time, all of us kids were grown up. He moved back to the area, but not to the same town. He would attend family events (if a football or basketball game wasn't on). Other than that he really wasn't a part of our lives except ocassionally.
One day I received a phone call. It was from a local alcohol rehabilitation center. They asked me if I could come pick my dad up because he has a heart condition and they aren't allowed to keep anyone there that has a heart condition. (He didn't have a heart condition). I picked him up and he was in bad condition. I asked him if he would like to stay at my home that night, but he wanted to go home. I took him home but didn't feel comfortable about leaving him there.
The next morning my mother and I decided to go to his home and check on him. He was in worse shape than he was the day before. I called the ambulance. When the ambulance arrived at his home they told me they couldn't take him to the hospital because they would do the same thing they did the day before, send him to the alcohol rehabilitation center.
I was angry. I told them they had to take him to the hospital and to tell the ER doctor that they had better not let him out until he sees his doctor and gave them her name. I suppose they decided they didn't want to fight with me.
The next day I went to the hospital to check on him and they had to put him in the ICU. (That was just how sick he was). Because he was unconscious I wasn't able to talk to him, but I continued going to the hospital every day.
About one week later he became conscious and we finally had his diagnosis. He was dying with advanced kidney cancer.
He was admitted to a rest home across the street from the hospital to live the remainder of his life. His cancer was too far advanced for any of his children to take care of him. He was given the news that he had three to six months to live.
Every single day after work I went to the rest home to visit with my daddy. He really looked forward to seeing me. And of course, all the staff at the rest home were happy to see me. (They are happy for anyone coming to see the residents). They would tell me he was outside waiting for me. Because it was the summer we would sit outside together and talk.
About three months later, in the middle of August, he wasn't able to make it outside anymore. Shortly after that, he passed away.
My daddy and I bonded during those three months. Even though he was dying with cancer, we both experienced a lot of emotional healing.
I do believe that my daddy died in peace. I was standing right next to him, as well as, my mother, my sister, and my brothers.
The family he had lost, had not been lost after all.
Rest in peace daddy.