The enduring power of love…This I believe
From my earliest recollection, my parents were alcoholics. The odd thing was that they were only part-time alcoholics. During the day, my father went to work as a failed farmer turned accountant and my mother tended to the family and home as a faded debutant turned housewife. They related to each other in the course of their day-to-day lives as partners struggling to make their way in a conservative middle class community. My father was fond of quoting E. A. Robison’s Richard Cory, especially the part about “damming the bread and cursing the meat.” But to work they went in their own worlds and kept the family; my parents, my brother, a half-sister, and me; together in a somewhat less jovial “Ozzie and Harriet” façade.
At five fifteen pm sharp, my father would come home from his office – tired more of mind than body. High balls, a simple mixture of blended whiskey and “branch water,” flowed shortly thereafter. By the time we got through dinner, nobody was speaking and the sweet looks of the morning separation were replaced with cold stares and scowls. The same pattern nearly every night. Pleasant conversation before the meal deteriorated into accusations about miss-deeds in the past and dreams shattered. We children simply watched and waited. Once excused from the table we headed for our rooms, ostensibly to do our homework. Then war broke out – or I should say my mother’s campaign of outright aggression moved into high gear. Hours of screams and crashing objects ensued until they had nothing left to give. My father mostly just tried to keep his head down – generally unsuccessfully. He usually passed out around ten o’clock and the war was over. My brother and I would cautiously make our way downstairs and carry our mother upstairs to her bed. We then got sister and the three of us cleaned up the mess.
The next morning the sun would rise or not and all was sweetness again. There was never any discussion about the previous evening’s activities. We were quizzed about our homework and my father went off to work with a few more “razor cuts” from his morning shave. He and my mother bid each other well, had a fond embrace and a kiss and life began a new day.
This was our life for all the years of growing up. Peace and love during the day and living hell at night. The odd thing was that they never separated or even spoke of it. They lived together for nearly forty years. They raised their family, took vacations together, had a social life, spoke of the arts and literature, went to concerts, and were respectable in every external way. They loved each other and hated each other. They were as close as sweethearts and as distant as warring enemies. Until the time my father contracted Tuberculosis…until the day my father died. After that, my mother never again took a drink. Cold turkey, shakes and all. I’m doing this for my Jack, she would say.
I say, I believe in the infinite power of love.
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