Digging to Roam

Is Dad Drinking Again?

Published: October 2, 2018
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“Are you drinking again?” I said it. It was out.

I read somewhere to never let your ideas go because then they become part of the world and live on their own without you. The question was with me only as long as I said it. No one should let weapons go as freely as I did. I was unprepared for an answer of awkward silence where a misunderstood anger had space to linger. It had happened before, my mouth unedited, my tone blunt. That kind of thing never went well for me.

We stood outside. He was on the grass and I slightly above on the long porch like stairs. It wasn’t dark yet, but the air felt late. It would have been fitting for the sun to be setting and the grass to be dewy. An autumn crisp in the wind would make it seem more like the kind of night to you ask questions. A movie dialogue would set in, where one insightful line would lead to a beautifully spoken revelation. A chorus of bird songs would maybe lift us up and our lives would change. A reconciliation by way of near moonlight. I must’ve been picturing such an improbable scene when I first spoke.

He took a quick drag of a Marlboro Light, tapping each toe on the ground as if to shake the dirt of my words from the bottom of his shoes.

“No,” he responded. “No, I haven’t.”

I didn’t have anything to say. I stood crossing and uncrossing my arms, hands in and out of my pockets. I wasn’t fidgeting because I was nervous, I just fidget. Waiting for the chasm between our experiences to deepen I forgot why I asked in the first place.

“Have you been going to meetings?” I was trying to be casually supportive. Asking questions that a daughter asks when she hasn’t seen her dad in a while. How’s the weather been? Is work going well? Have you seen Grandpa lately?

“Not really,” my dad said.

“Oh.” The silence wasn’t deafening; I could hear it. The flick of a cigarette, the sound of skin against jean as I continued to fidget. The TV was inside humming through the white French door, my mom chattered on the phone in another room, I could even hear the toilet flush. It all kept happening.

It took two more drags for him to say, “It’s hard, you know.”

“Yeah, yeah,” I half nodded. But I didn’t know, not really, not yet.

My dad stood in dirt-laden jeans, ripped at the right knee. He wasn’t any different than how I’d always remembered him, except a little more tired and a little older.

“Do you know how hard it was for me at your cousin’s wedding, when everyone was drinking?” He asked. “When everyone was drinking, and having fun, all I wanted was to have a drink. But I didn’t.”

Her wedding hadn’t been that long ago. I, along with all the other cousins, had gotten sufficiently toasted thanks to the open bar. How could I not know how hard it was to give up an addiction with a will stronger than his own? It would be ten years before I understood what he meant.

“It doesn’t matter,” my dad continued. “I didn’t drink, it’s just hard.”

There was nothing I could say and I couldn’t take it back. I caught myself thinking that if he took a drink after he finished his cigarette it would be my fault. That kind of pre-emptive guilt is the egotistical kind, as if my words had the power to save or damn a person. The wind hummed in the trees and my dad crushed the rest of the cigarette under his foot. Letting one last idea into the world before stepping inside I said, “Don’t worry, I believe you.”

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2 Comments

  1. William Lynn on October 7, 2018 at 3:45 pm

    Much admire your straight forwardness. Did he ever disclose to you why he’d started drinking?

  2. Alice Lynn on October 7, 2018 at 11:44 am

    So poignant and honest. And so beautifully described it was as though I was part of this meeting, this awkward moment shared.

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