Of Twenty-Four Packs and Red Sox Tickets This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

August 1, 2011
By , Herkimer, NY
My dad has been the best man in more weddings than he can count. His friends swear that you can rely on him for anything, that they’ve never met someone with a bigger heart. And I guess that’s true. I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve heard about my dad shelling out cash to a pal who’s a few bucks short or giving a lift to a friend left in the lurch. Those who’ve been touched by his kindness all agree that you’d be hard-pressed to find a guy as genuinely selfless as my dad.

But I disagree.

My dad is an alcoholic.

I know what you’re thinking.

He must never show up to work. Wrong. My dad rarely uses his sick days, unless he finds some cheap Red Sox tickets. Watching crappy baseball is one of his favorite pastimes.

Aren’t alcoholics homeless, old men? Some, but not all. Sure, my dad is old, but he doesn’t live in a cardboard box in the back alleys of Manhattan. He’d never survive without cable.

Don’t alcoholics beat their kids? Yeah, and the thought makes my gut hurt. But my dad’s not violent. He’s just vacant. Dumb. A shell of his former self.

He’s a functional alcoholic, which is just like it sounds: he’s able to go to work and support himself and all that, but alcohol is his crutch. And it has been for as long as I can remember.

When I was little, maybe seven or eight years old, I just thought he was stupid. It wasn’t an illogical conclusion. He could never remember a thing I told hum.

“How was school?” he would ask.

And I would answer, “Good. I got an A on my spelling test.”

Ten minutes later, he’d walk into the living room where I used to watch cartoons before I started on homework.

“How was school?” he would ask.

And I would repeat, clearly annoyed, “Good. Like I said, I got an A on my spelling test.”

And a little later at dinner, he’d ask again. “How was school?”

And I would crack. I’d slam down my fork and call him out on his screw-up. “You just asked me that!” I’d yell.

My mom, ever the people pleaser, would tell me to watch my mouth, and after a tense couple of minutes, the heat would die down. But I was always bitter. Every single day he asked the same questions, like a broken record, and my responses went from rude to mean to downright nasty. Gradually, the feelings of intolerance I harbored for my father became harder to ignore. He could never remember my friends’ names. He’d forget how to use the remote the right way. He didn’t even know that station 104.4 was country music, and that was all he listened to. He couldn’t grip the steering wheel tightly enough, and his reflexes were shot to hell. He broke everything he touched. Worst of all, he’d make my mom upset, which of course made me upset. I used to get so angry that I couldn’t stand to be in the same room with him.

Somewhere along the way I realized I hated him. When I finally put two and two together--Dad drinks, drinking kills brain cells, Dad has the recall of an Alzheimer’s patient--I knew I had reached the point of no return. I’m not hateful by nature. But he had done this to himself. He didn’t have to be this way.

He could give the shirt off his back to any old stranger in need. He could drop everything for a friend in crisis. He could leave an astronomical tip for a s***-tastic waitress that screwed up the order a dozen times. But he couldn’t quit drinking for his family? HIs wife? His daughter? Why was he such a deadweight at home, and Mr. Nice Guy/Resident Big Man on Campus everywhere else?

I still can’t answer these questions, and I’ve already wasted too much time trying. Mom and Dad are split. He lives in a crap apartment with a fridge perpetually stocked with a twenty-four pack. I live in a cushy ranch style with a modest collection of dusty, untouched bottles of wine tucked under the sink.

It stings to think about him. It stings to not think about him. His world is in my past now, and I find solace by reminding myself that our failed relationship is his fault, not mine.

I just hope he knows what he’s missed out on.

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