I am grateful that I did not inherit my dad’s predisposition to alcoholism. And I am grateful that I was spared any knowledge of it until after the fact.
After my dad recovered and was released from the hospital, he joined AA, where he met his second wife. She urged me to go to a meeting – al-anon or adult children of alcoholics or something like that, I don’t remember exactly what kind of meeting it was. What I do remember is not being able to relate to the stories I heard there. They were horribly heartbreaking stories of chaos, clothes dumped in front yards, physical and verbal abuse. I had no such story to tell. It’s not that my family was healthy, obviously it was not, but its dysfunction was subtle, it could not be summed up or illustrated in a dramatic story. I couldn’t even share the contents of Concerning Hope because I didn’t know about them until many years later.
My experience of my dad’s drinking looked like this: He would sit in his leather chair in the comfortable paneled family room he built in our basement, listen to classical music or opera through headphones while reading a book and sipping wine. That was it.
No stories to tell equalled no need to go to meetings. I didn’t go back.
It’s not that I didn’t have painful childhood memories to share, its just that my dad and alcohol did not play a starring role in any of them. They were stories for another group.
On the one hand, I wish I had known what my dad was going through, perhaps I could have helped. On the other hand, I was a child, I could not have helped. All I could do as a child was love him, which I did. Knowing would have only brought fear and insecurity.
I am glad that I did not see my dad’s addiction. All I saw was his kindness towards me and example after example of honesty and integrity. We both loved the outdoors so he took my younger sister and me camping one weekend. I asked him why the firewood for sale was sitting out unattended. “Won’t someone steal it?” He told me not to worry, that most people are honest – especially the type of people who go camping. I don’t know why but his gentle and positive answer made a lasting impression on my young mind. He showed me how to be friendly and trusting, to see the best in people. I never heard him say a single unkind word about anyone, including my mother. It would have been warranted, but he never did.
I cherished our many spiritual, philosophical, theological, eschatological conversations. I loved hearing about whatever book he was currently reading. I loved going for long walks with him. He was my favorite person and I loved just being near him. I miss his kindhearted love for me and I am looking forward to being greeted at the gates of heaven by his warm embrace.
My dad was born on January 18, 1930. He died 68 years, 6 months and 10 days later, long before I was through loving him. Happy Birthday Dad.
© The Reluctant Baptist, 2015