My father died several years ago at the age of 53, not from alcoholism but from what abusing alcohol did to his body and life. I hardly remember a time when my father didn’t drink. I have vague recollections of all of us eating dinner together but they are few. I didn’t have much of a childhood. I mostly remember my father coming home drunk and my parents fighting all the time. When I was little I was a Daddy’s girl so it took me a long time to see how bad things were for my mother. I honestly don’t know how she put up with him. I often wonder why she didn’t leave or how she contained herself from shooting him in his sleep. As I got older I realized how mean he was to my mother and I turned my back on him. My father woke up in the morning and cracked open a beer. He was mentally and physically abusive to all of us. I remember begging him to stop drinking on many occasions and he would promise he would only to act like nothing happened the next day. I never had sleepovers or friends in the house. I was either to afraid my father would be really drunk and embarrass me in front of my friends or worse still he would start fighting with my mother at some point during the night and wake the entire house, which happened more times than not. I can’t count how many times as a teenager I would come home to my father beating on my mother. There was even an occasion that he hit me and called the police on himself but he was so drunk that night that the next day he said I called them. I should have, but I didn’t. Family reunions and Christmas parties were always a cause for concern. My sisters and I would walk around on egg shells wondering when Dad would be far past drunk and become belligerent or pick a fight with a relative. He never came with us on family vacations or to any school functions. I was kicked out of my first high school and had to transfer to a different school,my father never knew of this or many, many other things. My father was basically a man who sat in the living room and drank beer and barely said two words to anybody unless he felt like arguing. I don’t think I said two words to my father after the age of thirteen. You would think that all of these things would have made me hate him and as a teenager sometimes I did. Looking back now and reflecting on his life I just feel sorry for him.
Not only did alcohol destroy my fathers body it destroyed his life. When I think of that poor broken man I just want to cry for him. After many years of emotional and physical abuse, my mother finally left my father. My mother had this planned for months ahead of time and I didn’t blame her. The same week she moved out of the house my father lost his job of 16 years. If you can guess, he got hurt a work and upon arriving for medical treatment the clinic did a urinalysis and he was legally drunk at the time of the accident. These circumstances left me somewhat holding the ball on my fathers well being. My sisters were long gone from home and although I didn’t actually live home, I was close by. My fathers only saving grace at the time was that his 16 years of employment with the same company left him with some retirement money. He was burning through that money like wildfire,mostly drinking it away. He lasted six months after my mother left. One day I came home from a weekend trip and my father wasn’t acting right. He kept asking me if I could smell something burning. He asked me about 30 times in an hour. I called my sisters and they came to the house and we forced my father to go to the hospital. We had to carry him for he couldn’t walk and he was hallucinating.
Once in the care of the hospital my father was diagnosed with Korsakoff’s Syndrome. The doctor explained to me that my father hadn’t been eating. He had only been drinking alcohol. This caused his body to get very low on vital nutrients which caused him to become disoriented. He forgot to drink more alcohol and he went through detoxification at home and it caused him to have brain damage. My father was a crazy man in the hospital. I would come to visit him to find him in restraints. He would lock himself in the hospital bathroom and yell. He would see things that weren’t there. On one occasion he told me that he had seen a girl hanging out of a window at the hospital shooting birds with a BB gun. After a three week hospital stay my father was released into my custody on the grounds that I had to show proof of constant supervision. My sisters and I had to hire home health aides to look after him during the day and I had him at night. I moved back home for fear he would set the house on fire if left alone. I became my fathers warden. He was no longer allowed to drink.
In the beginning of his illness my father was childlike. He would do crazy things. On one occasion I was contacted at work by one of the home care aides only to be informed that my father had been sitting on the basement toilet since 8 o’clock that morning and it was 4 o’clock in the afternoon. He would collect things, bread bag ties, empty soda bottles, and trinkets he would find outside in the gutter and hide them all over the house in vases and such. He wouldn’t take a shower, I would have to threaten him to do so. Only to have him go in the bathroom and sit on the side of the bathtub and splash the water with his hand so I would think he was in the tub. (There was a crack under the door and I could see him sitting there) I tried to make him a productive person. I would give him chores to do so that he wouldn’t just sit in his chair and watch TV all day. I took the role my mother should have taken years before.I demanded him to be a normal person. A few years passed this way.
In time, my father got better. He still had some quirks but he was about 80% well in his mind. The problem was with me. I don’t know if I was just so angry with him for messing his life up so bad or if it was for more selfish reasons of feeling like “why me”, I was only 22 years old. The guilt I carry for the way I feel I treated my father in his final years will stay with me forever. I couldn’t relate to him in any way. I forbid him to drink. I barely spoke to him. I thought it was better to just not talk to him then to yell at him. My future husband and I would go and do things and I never took my father along. I didn’t include him in my life. I took care of the house and the pets, I made sure my father ate, but I didn’t try to make his life worth living. I wonder now how he must have felt and if he was as lonely as I imagine he was.
One day I came home and I kept smelling something. It wasn’t horrid, I just kept getting a faint smell of something like rotting garbage. I searched everywhere, in the kitchen cabinets, under the sink , I even pulled out the appliances I couldn’t find the source of the smell. A week or so after the mysterious smell appeared my father started looking sick. He started to look kind of gray in the face. I told myself that the next day I would make him go to the hospital if he wasn’t any better. The next day was Halloween, on my way home from work I stopped to buy candy for the trick or treaters. One of the last things my father did was give candy to a little girl of about four years old even through his sickness my father turned to me and smiled. When the little girl left I told my father I was taking him to the hospital. He refused to go, so I had to threaten him and make him get in the car. Upon being in such close quarters of a car, I realized that the smell I had been searching for for the past week was coming out of my father when he exhaled and his breathing was very labored. That car ride was my fathers last . On his arrival at the hospital the doctors induced him into a medical comma and he died 5 days later of bacterial pneumonia at the age of 53. His body was so used up from the years of alcohol abuse that it couldn’t fight off the infection.
When I went through my fathers things I began to realize that he he died partly from a broken heart and partly from nothing to live for.You can see it in his eyes in pictures after his detoxification.
Upon opening his wallet the first picture was of him and my mother when they got married and all the others were of my sisters and I. He had many pieces of paper folded in puzzle books with titles of love songs written on them. At his viewing a man approached me and asked who I was. Apparently this man had worked with my father and he told me how all my father talked about was my sisters and I. I couldn’t understand how that could be when he never had a good word for us growing up. He used to like to tell my mother when he was drunk “that she was raising a bunch of whores who would be pregnant by the time we were sixteen”. My sister told me that after my father got mentally sick from the alcohol, if she asked my father if he wanted to do something he would say “he had to check with me first”. Apparently he held me in high regard. I don’t think I will ever truly forgive myself for not helping my father to have a reason to live. When I think of my fathers life its just a very sad story. He had so much to live for and he could have done so many things differently if he could have just given up the alcohol before it ruined his body and mind. I wonder what things would have been different in my own life had I not been raised in an alcoholic home. I also wonder how many things I do are because of living with an alcoholic. I don’t blame my father for these things he couldn’t help his sickness. He didn’t know how to be around people so he drank. Everyone loves a fun drunk. Except after a while drunks aren’t fun anymore. Alcohol robbed my father of so many things.It also robbed my sisters and I of a father and my nephew of a grandfather. Most people who have alcoholic parents will say that they hate their parents but that’s only because their alcoholic parents are still alive. It took my fathers death for me to realize how much I loved him. And now I can see him for what he really was. Before he got mentally sick from alcohol he was a very scared, lonely person who probably had a mental disorder and he self medicated his disorder with alcohol. After his mental sickness from alcohol he was a sad, broken human being who had no idea how he got that way. One of the side effects of Korsakoff Syndrome is memory loss. Most children of alcoholics grow up to be alcoholics. My sisters and I are lucky, none of us have become alcoholics ourselves. Although there were some years as a teenager that I was probably close. Maybe its because we have seen first hand what it does to a person. I also will never forget that smell, now I realize that it was the smell of sickness.
If someone you love is an alcoholic get them some help before its to late. If I had it to do over I would have tried harder. I moved from the city after my father died and everyday I think how much he would have loved living in the country. I wish he was here with me.