For most of my life my father has been a troubled alcoholic enigma. I know a little about his early years and I met his parents only a few times. I met his sister a couple of times. Like every family, his had its share of terrible dysfunction as well as mental illness. He sought the refuge of alcohol for many issues, and the combination of genetic biochemical imbalance and substance abuse took their toll. I have sympathy for him, and I can also respect the fact that he somehow managed to financially support a large family for many years. He was a high-functioning alcoholic. The upshot is I hardly knew him, I rarely exchanged any coherent thoughts with him, he was never my friend. But he was my chauffeur many times–on snowy pre-dawn Pennsylvania mornings when he would drive me to volleyball practice, on weekend ski trips, on countless trips to the beach, on school day mornings during my senior year of high school when I was habitually late and undoubtedly depressed with a scowl on my face.
When he retired, he was living on another continent, he had a new wife (my mother passed away many years ago), and he seemed to soften a little. He was still drinking but he was happy with his wife and his new life. He started to send me financial gifts with notes like “for your happiness.” Although he didn’t really know me or what made me happy, he still prayed for my happiness. I was old enough to appreciate the gift and the sentiment behind it. Forgive and forget.
Nothing lasts forever, and before long the gifts stopped. His innate sweet nature was lost again, this time to Alzheimer’s Disease.