This is one of my very favorite pictures of my dad because this is truly how I remember him the most. He loved to drink coffee morning, noon and night and he always had a smirky smile. In my mind he was such a big man even though he only stood 6′ 3″. He always gave me a big side hug and patted me on the bottom and called me baby girl. That is what I miss the most.
Our family growing up was a living example of dysfunctional. Dad was a pipeline welder which meant he was gone six to nine months of the year. My mom ran the household when he was gone but as soon as he returned he wanted to be in charge and it always created so much friction. He drank…alot. Countless times my parents sat us down in tears to explain how they loved each other but just couldn’t live together and would prepare us for a separation only to be back in love again a few days later. My brother and I really had no awareness that my dads drinking was an issue most of our childhood. As I became a teen, however, the economy hit a slump and my dad had a hard time finding work. He was home for an extended period of time which meant he was able to show up for my sporting events. Basketball was his favorite sport and he loved to show off his moves and tried so hard to teach me some skills at home. At games, however, he would show up after drinking all day and try to coach me from the stands. It became obvious he had a problem and after we had all had enough and confronted him one night he moved out. He tried to stop drinking on his own and realized he could not. Thankfully my mom had been attending Al-anon meetings and new exactly how to respond when he asked for help. She provided a number and he called and checked himself into rehab. That was it…when I was 14 my dad stopped drinking and he never touched it again. When he died he had been sober for twenty plus years. It was his proudest accomplishment.
For those of you who have watched someone battle with an addiction you know it is not just as easy as quitting. Addiction is real and it is a disease and you have to separate your love for that person with your resentment for the addiction. My dad admitted that there were times he thought about having a drink again just to see if he could but he didn’t trust himself. During his recovery I know he leaned on a “higher power” as they refer to it in AA. He knew that he was not strong enough on his own to stay sober.
A real turning point for my dad happened when I was a sophomore. I was playing basketball in a town close to home and knew he was suppose to come. The game was more than half over and he showed up. It had been storming outside and his pants were soaked. I’m not going to lie, when someone is recovering from an addiction it is hard not to speculate they may faulter and that night I was definitely thinking he was late because he had stopped to drink. Instead, on his way to my game as the rain fell down, he saw a little boy in a drainage ditch with one arm in the water and the other waving for help. The little boy was holding onto his friend who had been swept by the water into the drainage pipe and my dad stopped and pulled him to safety. My dad truly believed that God put that situation in his path to show him that staying sober was the right answer. He knew had he been drinking the outcome may have been much different as he may not have even noticed the situation.
My dad taught me that working for what you want is worth any price. He sacrificed time with his family to provide for his family. There were many times in my life when I resented his choice to work away from home and miss so many special occasions. As a parent myself it is easier to look at his choices and know that he was doing the best he could the best way he knew how. I hate that my daddy had to die so soon and I hate that the last 60 or so days of his life he was in so much pain. Having the chance to spend those days caring for him and telling him how much I loved him just the way he was and how much I would miss him are priceless. I knew he loved me beyond measure and never doubted how proud he was of me. I knew in the end he knew how much he was loved too. No matter what I would always be his baby girl.
If you are reading this and you have someone in your life who has reached their 50th birthday please, please urge them to have a colonoscopy. The 50 and older age group represents the age at which 90% of new colorectal cancer cases occur. By doing the following you can reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.
If you know someone suffering from an addiction, tough love is hard. Learn what you can do to best help that person and reach out to Al-anon.