Today is Fathers Day and I sure do miss my Daddy. He was a wonderful man in many respects: his was a kind and generous heart, he was a hard worker, he had a fertile imagination and a fantastic sense of humor. While he certainly was not cut from the same mold as many of my girlfriends’ fathers, he was oh, so special to me and my sisters.
One of the ways in which he differed from all those other Dads escorting their girls to Father/Daughter Teas was that my dad enjoyed drinking, and quite often, to excess. I am conflicted as to whether my dad was an alcoholic. I don’t believe that he was although he was by no means just a social drinker. Dad drank with one purpose and one purpose only: to get drunk. This was a revelation I had in my late 20’s or early 30’s as I observed how quickly he consumed his alcohol. He downed his drinks with the swiftness of an apple falling from a tree and then, with gusto and that wonderful laugh of his, he would grab another and yet another after that.
He was an often hilariously funny drunk but sometimes, he would turn mean and nasty. He owned and operated Clark’s Sawmill for fifty years and for most of his tenure running the controls that guided those walnut logs through the big blade, quitting time usually meant drinking time. It made for a sometimes nightmarish, always frustrating existence for my mother and the dysfunctional nature of our childhoods left its mark on all six of his daughters.
There were so many times when he disappointed us, both Mom and us girls, and he was quite adept at embarrassing us too, sometimes excruciatingly so. Sometimes my sisters and I believed divorce would be a far better alternative to all the drinking and fighting we had to live with. However, even though he wasn’t a hands on, Father Knows Best kind of Dad he was, all the same, affectionate with us. We knew we were loved. We were Daddy’s Little Girls. Fortunately, he began to mellow as the years wore on. He and Mom began to travel, to spend more time together. Some of Mom’s favorite memories are those of the two of them drinking tea in the morning, watching the birds and squirrels at the many feeders outside their sunroom window.
Watching him succumb to prostate cancer, seven years of increasing debilitation, was difficult. Losing my dad was something I’d feared much of my later adult years and when it became a reality, it was a bittersweet experience. My mom and one of my sisters and I sat with him that last night – a fiercely awful yet somehow beautiful event. Seeing him draw his last was both horrifying and satisfying, in a way that is hard to describe. It was incredibly difficult but it was an experience I will always cherish. I am glad I was there with him that night.
Toward the end, I believe he felt some anguish for the time he’d lost as both a father and a husband due to the drinking he’d done over the years. I hope he didn’t suffer too much for it, though. He was a good man. I had a girlfriend who lived a couple of miles down the road from us when I was growing up. Her family suffered some staggering losses when their barn and other structures on their farm were destroyed in a fire. She told me how the other neighbors stopped by to gawk and peer through the rubbish, asking her father if he still wanted to keep this or that. My father, she said, was the only one to offer assistance after the disaster. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more proud of my Daddy than at that moment. Drinking or no, he was indeed a very good man.
Daily Prompt: Bottle