i was five years old. that should be the age of innocence for a child. it's the age of toys, believing in santa clause, waiting for the easter bunny and hoping you lose a tooth so the tooth fairy will visit you. it's endless days of playing outside in your yard. it's the age of unconditional love toward your parents. it's the age of total trust in people around you. it's the age of being aware without becoming aware. it was a different time in a different world.
i remember hearing the gunshot. i remember a man running to our house and hurriedly talking with my mother. i remember my mother running out the door and thru the gate of the white picket fence around our house. i had never seen my mother run before. i had never seen her leave without telling me where she was going and when she'd return. i ran also. i was stopped and brought back into the house and told to wait for my mother to return...it would only be a few minutes.
the next four days are etched in my mind in bits and pieces. small fifteen second videos and snapshots retained by a five year old child. i remember being delivered to my aunt's house just up the street. i was abit confused but not really concerned. i loved staying at my aunt's house. but even at that young age i could tell something was wrong,something was different this time. i could also tell that my aunt and my uncle were doting over me more than usual. somewhere along the way in the next two days someone told me that my dad had died and was in heaven. i don't remember who...or the details, but i remember thinking about that while at the same time trying not to think about it. i remember the final viewing at the funeral home. i was spared the previous days, but was present briefly during the final viewing. i saw my dad lying in that casket. i didn't understand completely, but i knew he was dead...gone. i can recall bits and pieces of the funeral....the flowers...the people....my mother crying....my family crying....the heat and the pastor delivering the service. i was aware...but oblivious. i was sad...but unknowing.
my dad was an alcoholic. rehabs and treatments and all the current methods of identifying, rescuing, and treating alcoholics weren't prevalent in those days. leaving your husband because of alcoholism wasn't common. my mother wouldn't have left anyway unless i or my sisters were in danger. she loved my dad, more than any woman i've ever known to have loved a man. my dad was murdered. he didn't have the chance to die from drinking. he didn't have the chance to destroy himself with alcohol, slowly...but surely. he didn't have time for his health to deteriorate until he was a shell of the man that my mother knew. the nite he was shot he was drunk. the man that shot him was drunk. the man that killed my father with a shotgun was arguing with another man and intended to kill him. my father intervened and the man turned the gun on him. in a split second the man....and alcohol took my father from me at an age. an age when no child should lose a parent.
my mother never married again. she raised three of us alone. we weren't wealthy by any means but we never at any point in our life went without any of the basics and more. my mother was fiercely independent and guarded our well being and safety very closely. she worked for the same company for over forty years before retiring. all three of us went to college. my mother made sure that if we chose to, we had the opportunity to go. my father was a veteran. he served in a war which he survived but he didn't survive being an alcoholic. his life was cut short due to his addiction as surely as it was by the man who pulled the trigger on that gun. our family rose above this and survived and eventually thrived. my mother rarely spoke about my father's death to me and i didn't ask many questions. what i know i found out later in life thru reading, research and other relatives. i still don't speak much of it.
so you see, that's why i don't drink. that's why i have a high tolerance of and try to have an understanding of the alcoholic and addict. that's why i have a sympathy for the families i see enter a mission or shelter when they are forced to leave their home because of a spouse's addiction. that's why i'm tolerant of and advocate for the homeless who have addictions. that's one reason i support, advocate and try to have an understanding of the homeless, the poor and those with addictions. we were so close to being one of those families who become homeless thru no fault of their own. we were one of those families who fell victim to an addiction and the awful consequences of that addiction. we were close to being that family in the mission, that family who struggles to eat, that family who has no options, no choices and little hope. we so close to being one of those families who lose their home due to the loss of a husband and a father. looking back, my father's death, my illness that led to being homeless, my recovery, and the end to my being homeless has all led me to this point...tonite. it has led me to believe and have faith in the homeless and try to help them any way that i can. it has made me painfully aware of and painfully understanding of the homeless, the addicted, the mentally ill and the results and consequences to those around them and those who depend on them. it has given me an understanding that i couldn't have had if these two things had not happened in my life.
hopefully my father's death wasn't completely a waste and some good can still come out of it.
see you around town