My father's brother is 92 yrs old. He is the only remaining child of Henry and Shrilda, my grandparents. I went to visit him over Christmas to learn as much as I could about my Dad and his dad. He loved to tell stories about his childhood. And, he was a great story teller. I kept asking about Henry and he gave brief answers and changed the subject. He did this many times.
Henry was my alcoholic grandfather, whom I never met. My father didn't have a lot of nice things to say about him. But, those words weren't mean, they just came from a place of hurt. Now that I live with an alcoholic/addict myself, I wanted to hear what life was really like during those times.
Clearly, this wasn't a subject that my uncle wanted to talk about. I asked how he treated them. My uncle said that he and my Dad would do a job (cleaning out fence rows) and Henry would come and collect their pay and spend it on alcohol. If they argued about it, he would become physical.
Next, I asked if he was mean to grandma and my uncle chuckled and said, "he knew better than that." This made me very happy on many levels. First of all, I did not want to hear that he would hit a woman , my grandma, and secondly, I was so proud that her presence "made him know better."
He gave me an example of her strength. One day, Grandma was making what he called a butter biscuit on the wood stove. She had filled the pan with this bread dough which had a pat of butter in the middle of each biscuit and she decided to stoke the fire before she put them in the oven. As she was doing this, Henry came in drunk. He started to pick on the boys and she said, "Henry, you leave those boys alone." My uncle said, "Mama never asked more than one time." Apparently, Henry forgot that fact because Grandma took that log out that she was stoking the fire with and whacked him, right between the eyes!
This is a funny story now, but living with active addiction/alcoholism isn't. Addiction/alcoholism is very selfish. It will take from anyone and everyone in it's path. It is tiring and leaves families feeling so isolated and alone. Even recovery is lonely. Those questions regarding sobriety always plague you. The "dry drunk" behaviors are no fun either.
I must admit, that it is lonely, even when you are in a crowd and you hear others speak of all of the wonderful things that their kids are doing. Even if your family member is doing better; because this disease has such a long road to recovery, you become afraid to comment. It feels as though you are watching everyone else moving forward in life and you are in this limbo and unable to participate in moving forward.
It's not all bad, though. It is in the loneliness that I find humility. It is in humility that I find God. It is with God, that I learn who I am and who he wants me to be. It is in God, that I have the faith and peace to wake each day, thankful.
Today, I say a prayer for all of you who feel alone. You are not, because I unite with you in prayer. I pray for our family members, that they may return to God in healing...one day at a time. I pray for each of you to see beyond addiction and learn the lessons that God has in store for you. And, I pray, as always, for Henry.