I had a quick flight from Paris to Amsterdam, then got a flight to Dulles on Northwest Airlines. I sat next to a quiet Dutch woman and watched reruns of Friends as the plane carried me back to the United States after over two years away. When we landed and I got through customs, I saw my dad standing there. I was surprised to see him and was actually kind of upset that he was there, since I had told my parents that I needed to go to Becky’s apartment to get the stuff I shipped and give her back her key.
Also waiting for me was my friend Chris, whom I met in college when we were both 18. He had come just to welcome me back and I had been planning to get a bus to my sister’s place. I told my dad I wasn’t expecting him and he said, “Well, I’m here and you can either come with me now or get a bus.” He was being kind of mean, especially for not having seen me for two years. And it was pretty embarrassing, since Chris was there, but Chris knew about my dad…
So anyway, we got in the car. I was pretty annoyed. He drove me to Becky’s place and I got my stuff. Then my dad gave her key to her neighbor, who had just moved in. I felt dread, since I had a feeling Becky would go nuts because we’d had this sudden change of plans.
Dad started driving and it was actually pretty scary, since he was speeding and being kind of reckless. But then he told me that the next day, he planned to go into inpatient rehab for his alcoholism. That was a huge load off my mind, actually, because I knew I would have to live with my parents for awhile and my dad and I don’t get along very well. The drive home was awkward and I was feeling like I had just been plunged into a big crisis.
My mom had fixed a nice meal for me… comfort food, really. There was chicken, mashed potatoes, and vegetables. She poured some wine, hesitating before giving any to my dad. My dad said, “How would you feel if you knew that after tomorrow, you couldn’t have another drink for the rest of your life?”
Mom gave him the wine. Of course, it turned out that rehab was not a barrier to his future drinking. He still drinks today. The difference is, now he has dementia and my mom doles it out to him in very small amounts. She gives him non-alcoholic beer and he doesn’t seem to know the difference.
Anyway, Mom later told me what had led up to this crisis that kind of ruined my homecoming. A few weeks before I came home, my dad had gotten very drunk on vodka. He then decided he wanted to take a bath. My parents had a jacuzzi tub installed when they renovated their house. Dad was filling it and had sat down on the toilet. He was naked, save for his glasses, which were knocked askew when he passed out.
My mom noticed the water was running when she went to bed, but apparently thought nothing of it. When she woke up later and still heard it running, she went to investigate and discovered my dad, passed out naked, wearing his glasses askew, sitting on the toilet. The tub was overflowing and the water had seeped through the floor and into the ceiling over the laundry room. The water caused the ceiling to bow a bit.
Mom then told my dad that he had to go to rehab or else he had to leave. So he arranged to go to rehab through the Veteran’s Administration in Portsmouth, Virginia. He was supposed to be there for four weeks, but ended up staying for six. I want to say it was because they were backed up with cases. I was happy he wasn’t home.
Mom later told me that my dad had been doing things like mistaking the small wooden chest by the toilet for the commode. He’d pee in the chest and my mom would have to clean it up. She said it would be one thing if he had cancer or something, but his issues were caused by drinking himself into mental oblivion.
While I was overseas, my dad had gone through my very extensive CD collection and got them all out of order and lost a couple of my classical discs. Then when I mentioned it, he got all pissed at me and accused me of being selfish.
Apparently, rehab was like a fun camp for him. He was a white, middle class guy amid a lot of young fellows who had hit skid row or were using street drugs. I think he thought he was above them. But the rehab didn’t stick and he ended up going through it again on an outpatient basis. That one didn’t work, either. My mom obviously loves my dad. She’s been married to him for 55 years and has put up with a lot. God bless her. I don’t think I could do it myself. It was bad enough being his daughter sometimes.
Under the circumstances, I probably shouldn’t drink. But when I drink, I don’t turn into a flaming asshole like my dad does… at least not most of the time. I do love my dad, but I often don’t like him very much. Yesterday was his 80th birthday. He seems to have inherited his mother’s iron constitution. She died in 2007 at six weeks shy of 101. I don’t think my dad will last that long, but he’s obviously got a very strong body, even if his mind is pickled.
I had a good time in Europe and for the next ten years, I pined to go back there. It was amazing to go back again in 2007 to live… Perhaps my next post will be about that, rather than my depressing family of origin.