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How Dad's Alcoholism Affected Me
At the age of five I once climbed on the roof of my father's garage because I wanted to be up there with him while he was putting shingles on his newly built man cave. The look of horror and shock on his face when he looked up to see his little girl at least 18 feet off ground is still firmly planted in my memories decades later. I've not seen fear like that since. I just wanted to be with him and see what he was doing. He grabbed me like a football and held me with one arm going down the ladder and told my mom what I had done. Then he told her to keep an eye on me while he was working on the garage roof.
The years flew past. Mom became increasingly angry and bitter for reasons still unknown, had men calling the house at all hours, and she did a lot of absolutely horrible things before finally leaving all three of their little girls with dad so that she could get an apartment a few minutes away to do whatever she pleased...while still married. Dad chose to use his funds just as he had always, paying bills and taking care of us...without mom's help even though she earned twice as much and was quietly building a large nest egg for herself to her family's detriment.
Yet, home was finally happier due to the the absence of her nonsense and ill-doings. We all grew up and left one by one. My older sister left for college and boomeranged back to dad a couple years prior to graduating with twins in tow. That was a fun time for me as an aunt. A friend from the cheer leading squad absolutely loved playing with them too. There was plenty of room for them and dad was happy to play with them when he wasn't working. Being a traditional man, he wasn't happy with how he became a grandfather preferring his daughter be married first (I agree), but he was proud nonetheless. When his grandson came along he was elated and happy to finally have a boy in the family. After a few years, my oldest sister moved out and dad was then living alone. All seemed fine.
Consequences Of Alcohol
One day while at work, I received a call from my sister telling me he was going to the hospital. Just about 15 minutes away, I rushed to be with him fearing the worst, knowing he never routinely visited a doctor, yet he had also never had any problems before. Not even a cold or the flu. It was found that he was suffering from end stage liver disease, it hit me very hard when I learned why. There are several causes of liver disease such as eating fatty foods, malnutrition, viruses, etc. However in my dad's case we found out extremely late that he was an alcoholic and had hidden his drinking very well. I distinctly remember visiting him often unannounced long after I'd left the nest. No matter how many times I may now mentally replay in hopes of finding a clue, there was never a clue in his behavior, surroundings, or otherwise. I simply had no reason to suspect any problem with alcohol, nor did my two sisters.
I did not know what suffering alcoholism could cause, reading books, studying the human body or learning medical terminology in a class setting is one thing. Seeing someone you love suffer physically from alcoholism is very different. In total I took about two months off from work to spend as much time that I could with him. Dad spent those months in and out of several hospitals and eventually spent the last two weeks of his life in a nursing home at the fairly young age of 63 because of his condition. He was too fragile for a liver transplant and it was very hard to see my dad suffering this way. I had always told him that I loved him every time I saw him or spoke to him and during this time it could simply not be said enough.
How Alcohol Attacks The Brain
I remember my dad not as an alcoholic but as a man who would cut the elderly neighbors' lawns on our street without ever being asked. He knew who was genuinely in need of help and did it simply because it needed to be done. He wasn't looking for anything in return and was truly a do unto others type of man. I have yet to see more than one other person like this in the world firsthand but my dad has inspired me to do the same through his example. My dad would do anything to make sure his three girls had the things they needed and often looked out for others in the neighborhood. He took us out on his boat and he was a master of all things construction and auto related. Once he completely disassembled then reassembled his truck and drove it for well over twenty five years even though he had a car and later bought another.
When we were children, he enlarged the size of the little house he bought to three times it's original size to make sure that we would be comfortable as a family. This was done before my mom went nuts and chose a variety of other men over all of us. Dad tucked us in at night, told us he loved us at least twice a day, gave us big bear hugs daily, and would give us his last dime if need be. This is particularly in contrast with our mother who openly cheated on him (and us in my opinion) and never showed any affection/love or even said that she loved any of us. However, dad will always be held in very high regard by his children, extended family, and many others in our old neighborhood. There was standing room only at his funeral, something I would have never thought of (who would) but it made me feel good that he had so many people's respect. Our old babysitter walked in the rain to be there. However, dad was human and he made the mistake of being an alcoholic and not seeking help. He paid for it with his health and later, his life.
About 38 million adults in the U.S. drink too much
During the last two months of his life, the decline was frightening and fast. At times, when he first arrived at the nursing, he would stare at a blank wall. I promptly put up pictures of family in his room. That sight was very painful and I felt guilty not having the tools to take care of him. He kept saying he wanted to go home. He needed round the clock care that even the tag team of my older sister and myself simply could not provide. I never thought that I would see my strong, independent father reduced to this. It was unnecessary, painful, and unfair. Nevertheless, there were a lot of things that needed to be done in case he died and it did not look as if he was going to get better.
One day, I asked him where his will was. He told my sister and I that he had some papers at the house in his bedroom. They weren't in the nightstand that we looked in so we kept searching. Seeing several stacks of paper under his bed we looked there and were stunned. Under his bed were dozens and dozens of Smirnoff vodka bottles. I was only about 12 or 13 when I had last seen him drink anything and that was a Miller beer. After that, I never saw him drink anything and could not believe the small mountain of bottles beneath his bed. My sister and I both gasped in shock. The will was immediately not important with our discovery and we stopped looking and went back to his bedside.
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Just one week after my dad was admitted to the nursing home, he was rushed to the hospital again with a severe buildup of fluid in his abdomen. While there, I asked the doctor how long my father could be expected to live and was told two weeks at the most. I don't know what I was guessing or expecting but it certainly wasn't two weeks more. What still stands out to me as far as my reaction is that even at that point I didn't break down into a mass of tears and incoherent sobs, I immediately went back to my father and held his hand. I guess he might have been proud that during this I tried to hold my composure for his sake and was able to. Despite my tendency to cry when happy, sad, or angry, the tears didn't come. I was on autopilot, in shock and fear, but also somehow functioning without sleep.
Just days after asking the doctor that question, my father passed away. He almost lasted one full week later rather than the two that I was told he had at the most. I got the call from the nursing home that he was not breathing and absolutely raced on rain slicked highways to reach the nursing home. The lady on the line told me to drive safely and without saying it verbally to her I quipped "to hell with that." I arrived at the nursing home in less than 8 minutes or so, the trip would normally take double that or more.
Just looking into his eyes, I saw that my father was gone. I followed the ambulance to the hospital and they were trying to save him but nothing could be done. It was as if I was watching some horror movie, I reacted with fear and tears but it all still seemed unreal. I had to break the news to my sisters and my uncle. Shocked, I was on autopilot, numb until he died. That's when the tears came and several years later they still haven't gone. Since he died, not a single day has passed that I've not thought of him. I wish he was still here. I am not a child but I still need my dad for all the advice and hugs and I love you's that will never be replaced by anyone else. Perhaps I'm selfish but I've always been a daddy's girl.
© 2012 Express10
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