My parent’s got divorced when I was eight years old, and I was glad they did. My dad was rarely home, and when he was, there was always fighting or tension so strong you could feel the weight in the air. My father had wanted a divorce for years. He told me once he stayed married 9 years longer than he should have. Ouch.
The final straw for my mother was one night of drunken chaos. They had been fighting for hours. My mother came up from the basement, where he had built his workshop, and she was crying and covered in sawdust. She didn’t say anything, but it was obvious he had pushed her down. She finally convinced him to leave the house and locked the door behind him. He must have changed his mind and came pounding on the door to be let back in. She called the cops, but they didn’t arrive until after he had charged shoulder first through the glass side panel next to the front door. I was standing on the stairs right in his path. I was frozen staring at this craziness. Thankfully breaking through glass isn’t exactly a smooth process like it’s portrayed in the movies. I didn’t know who that person charging at the window was, but I will never forget him. So, the divorce was welcomed relief for us all.
I wasn’t, however, happy when my Dad decided to move to Iowa. It felt like abandonment, and it was. He took me out a couple times before he left. We played mini golf or went bowling, but he always seems tense and distracted. I didn’t know he was Bipolar at the time or that he was an alcoholic. My mother waited until I was older to tell me. At the time, all that I knew was she hated when he drank, and that he had left me to go start a life somewhere else.
My father did return to the Chicago suburbs briefly when I was ten-ish. Not for me, but for his good friend’s daughter. She was ten years younger than him, but that seemed to just be my father’s taste in women as my mom is nine years younger. He lived with her for about a year, not too far from where I lived with my mom.
During this time my dad got re-married, and so did his new wife’s brother; my ex-step-uncle. I had known him for a long time as my father’s friend while my parent’s were still married. He was the first person to put an electric guitar in my lap, but it was way to big and heavy for me to find any enjoyment in it. I got to video tape his wedding, and I remember very clearly sprinkling salt into my dad’s wine when he wasn’t looking so he would stop drinking it. It didn’t matter as it was an open bar, but I thought is was funny and might ease my mom’s worries, as she had been invited as well. Somehow my mother and I became my wasted father’s early ride home. I vividly remember how he opened the back door, swaying dangerously outside the car hollering “Aunt Clarice!” He then proceeded to pass out. Thankfully we were still in the parking lot, but my mother was visibly upset.
As far as his second wife goes, it was her 5th marriage, #2 for my Dad, and they seemed happy. At least they didn’t fight. Though, she never seemed at ease around me. I felt like an unwelcome invader at her house despite loving it there. They cooked and drank a lot, listened to good music, and I got to watch movies and play video games.
Then he convinced her to move back out to Iowa with him. My father is a very charismatic person at times, and could probably convince someone they didn’t really need both of their arms. They moved out to Perry, IA. Of course I was sad, and I don’t think they lasted 6 months out there.
He dropped of the face of the planet for months in a deep depression, until he found his girlfriend in Fort Dodge that summer. He would never get married again (false) he said, but brought me along to her house when he would visit. She had a daughter my age. We became instant best friends. We’d go see Titanic, too many times, or rent Romeo & Juliet so we could fawn of Leonardo DeCaprio. We went to the “mall” in Fort Dodge, ran around in lightening laden thunder storms, bought candy and Mountain Dew that we ate/drank until we got sick, and got quite the kick out of pretending to smoke our chocolate cigarettes in the bar in Perry when they would come down to visit.
It was a fun time; highly unsupervised. Our parents were always out somewhere and always came back in way too good of a mood. I didn’t know why nor did I care. I was having too much fun.
One particularly hot summer day up in Fort Dodge, I was playing the role of water girl; bringing my dad glasses of ice water as he dug up a giant pine tree out back. I was bored to tears, because my friend was spending time with her dad. I remember handing my Dad yet another glass of ice water and mustering up the courage to ask him if he still believed in God. I was in private school at the time, and the state of his soul concerned me. He thought about it briefly and simply replied “Yes.” That was enough to quell my worries of his afterlife. We went back to Perry later that day. Shortly after, I went home to Illinois to start public school for the first time. I’d never see my Fort Dodge best friend again.
I had another friend before that. She looked like my sister, blond hair, blue eyes and skinny as a stick. I would only get to see her on summers when her mom would ship her off to live with her dad, our neighbor. Her dad was a narcissistic, German, Kiss fan to the extreme who was ALWAYS sipping on a beer. He tanned and smoked too much and was a chronic bachelor. There wasn’t much supervision going on over there either. I only visited a handful of times. She would usually come to my house. But the one time I had been over there, her dad felt the need to let me know that some day I would like the taste of beer because I was 100% German like they were. I thought that was a ridiculous thought. I had tried a sip on my dad’s non-alcoholic beer and hated it. “I’ll never like beer,” I defiantly declared. He just rolled his eyes and said “[y]ou’ll see.” I shrugged him off. I wasn’t even going to have alcohol at my wedding (false). It was my wedding after all, and us Seventh-Day Adventists didn’t drink.
One of the last times I saw her was after the divorce and after we had moved to a more affordable condo. She showed up beyond freaked out, because her dad was drunk and fighting with his girlfriend. I think she got shipped back to live with her mom in Washington state. I never saw her again either.
Everyone, it seemed, left eventually, and my earliest memories of alcohol affecting me and people around me were primarily negative. I lost my best friend in high school for a while, because she had started drinking. I was appalled. Then life happened, and I found myself in her basement sipping on my first drinks. We are still friends today, but we rarely see each other.
So what’s the point of all this? I don’t know. It’s just funny the things I remember at different times and realize how they impacted me.