A son and his father

Those who know me very well, rarely if ever hear me talk about my father. However when I do I feel that my words convey how proud I am of most of the things that he has done in his life. To recap a little, he has always had a very strong work ethic, and probably should have been an early case study for work-a-holics. For many many years he worked for Hewlett Packard designing computer boards for medical equipment. Back when HP spun off its medical equipment he moved with that division when HP decided to focus primarily on desktop/office equipment.

Some thirtyish plus years ago before most people had even thought about having a home PC he and a good friend of his designed and made a desktop home computer and we had it at my house. It was my first real exposure to computers and I cannot tell you much about it. Looking back I think that it may have had an 8080 (2mhz) or 8085 (3mhz) processor but I can’t remember for sure. Both those chips were the right time period. I know that it wasn’t an 8088 (5mhz).

I remember that HP used to have a Family day back in that time period, where I would be able to go to work with my father and see the place he worked. They always had exhibits of technologies that they were working on, and other neat, fun and bizarre things. I remember plotters as large as a drafting desk, with a “robotic arm” that would pick up essentially a marker and draw huge images. I remember the Moon Landing simulator, and how horrible I was at it. And I remember computer reel to reels larger than two of the metal filing cabinets in my office now.

He always seemed to have the best adult toys. He owned a silver 1976 stringray corvette up until I got into a car accident my senior year in high school. He had two motorcycles, and a boat. He was and is in many ways how I gauge my success in life. He is also how I gauge my failures.

I never saw my father as a happy man. Especially after the affair he had which ruined his marriage around when I was 12 years old. It took me a very long time to forgive him for leaving us, and even longer to forgive myself for the role I played in the night he left. But he followed his heart [or so I like to tell myself] and did end up marrying his mistress and they got a house together. Although really he never had the time to use his toys being a workaholic. It makes me wonder if his father was the same way, and if it was a learned behavior.

I repeat, I never saw my father as a happy man. Especially after his own father passed away in 1992. A good friend at the time drove me to Maine to go to the wake. This was the first time that I had ever seen my father cry. I comforted him as best I could, then went home. Looking back, I honestly think that’s when he lost his hope. His second wife leaving him a few years after also probably sealed the coffin so to speak on any hope he had.

All of these things finally bring me to what causes me to write in the first place. You see, my father is an alcoholic. For many years he was a high functioning alcoholic, but an alcoholic is still an alcoholic. I’ve known since high school that he drank a lot. Keeping a keg on tap and more beers in the refrigerator than most people have probably even know exist. Not even a year ago he gave us a scare. He up and decided to stop drinking. Detox can be especially dangerous for older people who are also in poor health. Needless to say my step sister came home to find him collapsed and passed out wedged behind a chair next to the wall. She of course did the right thing and called 911, and they took him to the emergency room. He spent a few days there, and narrowly escaped the specter of death that loomed over him.

Before he was released he promised to get help. I contacted Keystone Hall and got him onto the wait list for entry into their alcohol rehab, and other support services. I gave him their number and told him to call them. He promised to get help, and maybe naively I was relieved that maybe some good would come of his brush with death. Once he was released I reminded him of his promise and made sure that he actually called. Later when I talked to him again, he informed me that he was not going to enter into a 20 day sobriety program that he didn’t need to. This was the behavior I was expecting even though I didn’t want to admit it. I told him that I didn’t agree with him, that everyone needs help from time to time. Of course he didn’t want to talk about it so after making my point I let it drop.

At 1am today, I received a message via FaceBook from my stepsister. Yes I still call her my stepsister even though my father and her mother divorced years ago. It read simply, “Your father is drinking again.” So I in turn sent out a slew of messages to make sure that the family knows. It is with a calm acceptance of the situation that I write these words. Maybe he will read them, maybe he won’t. But know this… I will not keep this a secret. When all is said and done, you have disappointed me by drinking. This is the second thing in your life that you have failed at with remarkable clarity. That being said, two things in 40 years must be some kind of record for a father and son relationship. Strangely enough I find that rather telling.