As a kid, one of the things I admired about my dad was that regardless of how much alcohol he had imbibed, he wouldn’t stagger; he always remained collected and he didn’t seem to forget anything he did/said when he was intoxicated.
At one time, we thought he was extremely drunk so when he was seated on the couch dozing off, my sisters and I decided to get to some mischief. We pulled some money from his shirt’s pocket. He only opened his eyes for a few seconds, and we stilled, but he went back to counting sheep.
In the morning, he came straight to us asking for his money back. We were shocked. We had assumed he wouldn’t remember a thing. Meekly, we told him we had spent it. We still had it of course, but we didn’t want to part with it. I bet he read the mischief on our faces and let us get away with it deliberately. He didn’t even scold us. He tried to look stern, but his brown eyes sold him out. There was a trace of amusement in them. That was my sweet dad, ever patient with us.
I had seen some of our neighbours staggering home, and later we would be treated to a ‘Mr. and Mrs. Smith’ show. There was this guy, he was the second born of our neighbour from staying in. To date, he is the most repulsive drunk I’ve ever met. He would walk into his parent’s compound drunk into a stupor. Then he would walk into the house, drag his old dad out, and with a mop handle, he would rain blows on him, he didn’t seem to care where they landed, beating him senseless. It was horrifying. I haven’t the slightest idea why he did that.
His old dad, who we were so fond of, passed on silently one night, sitted on the couch. We were woken up by loud screams which cut through the night, and I remember the first thought that came to mind as I lay in bed was a grim one; the old man had died. We didn’t know for sure what had happened until dawn when mourners started streaming in, and I realized I had been right.
I couldn’t help wondering if the wayward son had gotten the chance to ask for his dad’s forgiveness. I don’t know if it was out of guilt, but soon after his dad’s funeral, our neighbour’s son stopped drinking.
Silently, I found myself looking up to my dad on matters drinking; he managed to remain composed even when he had consumed large amounts of alcohol. Sometimes I even preferred him drunk; he was so lively; so relaxed. We would dance, and occasionally we would do karaoke, and he would record it all on tape.
But with time, and so much pressure from his mom, it all changed. The one person, who had given me hope, that one could drink and still look happy, became the one person I hated to see drunk. Each drop he consumed seemed to drain all his joy, leaving a vicious man in its wake. All he wanted to do was fight.
The roles reversed and it happened that my parents became the ones to treat our neighbours to scenes from Brangelina’s Mr. and Mrs. Smith. The only noticeable distinction was that there were no firearms involved. Our once happy home became a place I dreaded. Dad would only be my happy dad, until he took alcohol, then he would visibly morph into evil dad, seeing faults with everyone; with everything he laid his eyes on. At times he would challenge mom to fist fights, but she knew better than to oblige.
We would watch from behind closed doors, but when things intensified, we would throw all caution to the wind and run to intervene.
Slowly, as I watched similar things unfold with passing years, I started developing a negative attitude towards alcohol, with the realization that I didn’t want to be like my father. I couldn’t comprehend any of his violent outbursts, but one thing remained evident; when he was sober, he was my happy dad- the one I loved, the caring one, the kind one…
Each time he drank, turning the house upside down, I would calm myself down; all I had to do was wait till morning, and he would be back. Happy dad would be back. I was never disappointed. In the morning, when his head had cleared, he would resume his happy self, looking so innocent and loving.
However, to my displeasure, I noticed that his two shades have become permanently conjoined by alcohol, melding them into one version of him, with his darker side being dominant over his recessive good side, which we rarely catch glimpses of. I’m still in the process of trying to understand him; to assess what I feel for him. Sometimes I feel it’s still love, but at times he leaves me so enraged and I start second guessing myself. It’s a feeling that oscillates between love and hate.
When I look at him-the man he’s become- and the fact that his dad died of alcohol related complications, I feel I have reason enough to be a teetotaller.