An Alcoholic Legacy

In 1979 I was born to two young, restless souls who were already emotionally crippled by their personal demons. In the previous month my mother had turned 17 and my father had turned 20. Both were still living at home with their parents and neither had the benefit of a healthy support system. My mother and father were both children of alcoholics themselves.

Mom was one of ten children who grew up in a bootlegging home. This was the place I spent most of my first eight years. My grandfather drove cab while my grandmother poured drinks. I can remember friends and neighbours (customers) gathering in the "back room" to play cards. They were a fairly calm crew of regulars and I never felt threatened by their presence.

Back then my grandmother liked to watch the soaps in the afternoon and buy cheap items at the Salvation Army to mark up and resell at the Flea Market on Sundays. My grandfather had little patience for kids so he was usually off driving cab or playing bingo. Occasionally he'd joke around but mostly I remember him yelling at us (mom's younger brothers, my cousins and I) to get out of the house and go play. I hear things were pretty bad when my mom was growing up but my grandfather had quit drinking and calmed down a bit in his later years. I certainly wouldn't call my grandparents nurturing but they weren't without their particular brand of affection. Off-colour humor, raucous laughter and teasing were commonplace. Interestingly my grandparents didn't even get married until their children were all grown. Eventually, as a formality, they just went down to the courthouse and signed some papers.

My father's parents were formal, distant and Catholic. I never heard them swear but I didn't hear any real laughter either. My grandmother had the six children pray the rosary together daily but there was no real joy in their religion. It was mostly a lot of fear and rules. Family secrets, such as my grandfather's drinking and an out-of-wedlock firstborn that was sent to be raised by family living in the US, were simply not addressed. I've been told that my father never admitted to his parents that I existed until I was almost in kindergarten. I don't know if this is true but I wouldn't be surprised.

The year I turned eight my mother and father reunited and got married. We moved into a dirty, two bedoom apartment above a gas station. There were beer posters on the walls and my bedroom doubled as a dart room on the weekends. My parents drank and fought a lot. The smell of marijuana, the music of Tom Petty blasting full volume and the intensity of pure alcoholic rage are deeply imprinted on my being. Screaming, punching, smashing furniture, wrestling matches and police intervention were typical weekend warfare. Usually I'd just hide under the blankets in my bedroom and talk to God but eventually my mother would bring the fighting to me. I don't know if she thought I'd offer her protection or solace but invariably she would stumble in my room cursing and slam the door shut on my charging father. If she got into bed with me my father would drag her out by the ankles. My bedroom was often torn apart. I hated her for using me as her shield instead of protecting me. She'd spit in my father's face and the foul-mouthed language exchanged between them would make a grown man cringe. The beatings came from both directions but my mother was always quick to play the victim. She'd come to me smelly, drunk and crying for comfort. Even as a young child I felt nothing but contempt and disgust.

I can remember one particular night quite vividly. I was tucked away in my bed listening to the madness unfold in the living room when some desperate shrieks made me think they really would kill each other this time. I went to the kitchen, grabbed the biggest knife I could find and pointed it at them while screaming "STOP IT" at the top of my lungs repeatedly. If they became aware of my presence between the neck-wringing, hair-pulling and eye-gouging they didn't acknowledge it. The wrestling continued, the glass coffee table shattered and I realized, if there was ever any doubt, that I was indeed completely invisible.

We moved apartments every other year and despite a rich fantasy life I was never rescued by a nice policeman, teacher or neighbour. Plenty of people knew what was going on but there was no intervention. When the police did show up they would look at me with pity but as far as I know there were no calls made to child welfare. Usually they would insist that my parents separate for the night or my father would be taken to the drunk tank so mom and I would go to her friend's place. I wished they would take both of them.

The drinking and fighting continued several nights a week for the better part of ten years until my parents divorced. My nerves and my trust were shattered. I had no brothers or sisters to commiserate with which only added the isolation. I suffered from depression and panic attacks throughout my teen years. I was nobody. I was rejected and abandoned. I was unloved and forgotten. I was ripe for addiction.

  © Free Blogger Templates Blogger Theme by 2008

Back to TOP