In my soul-searching over my dad’s slide into alcoholism, it seemed imperative that I talk to someone about my confusion and my questions as soon as possible.
Looking around at the people in my life, I beheld the merrymakers in the bars, my partying girlfriends, and the teachers I knew.
There were two women on the faculty who stood out.
When I expressed an interest in finding out more about her relationship with God, Raina*, who seemed like a very spiritual woman, invited me to dinner. After dessert she excitedly led me into a room where there were exhibited on a dresser top several small pictures depicting Mohammed, Krishna, Buddha, Jesus, and some other religious figures.
My sister, Marsha (born in 1948) and I (born in 1945) say that we had a Leave It to Beaver childhood.
Leave It to Beaver was a sitcom in the early 1960’s, in which the parents were hard workers (she at home, he at the office), loved their two sons, and took their parenting seriously. Rather than having all of the answers, Ward and June worked with their sons to figure things out. Their home was comfortable and all of their problems were manageable.
Marsha and I grew up in the security and innocence of the late 1940’s and the decade of the 1950’s knowing we were very loved. Connie (born in 1953) enjoyed a good start like we did, but by the time she got to middle school and high school society had changed a lot and life was more challenging for her than it had been for us.
Our parents loved each other and they loved us. We were their focus. Our home was very stable and happy. Our small house was kept clean and tidy; our clothes were washed and ironed. We ate every meal together at the kitchen table. For dinners our mom fixed meat and potatoes and vegetables and home-made desserts, and fish on Fridays.
When we were young, Mom, Grayce, enrolled us in dance lessons, swimming lessons, and gave us birthday parties. She made us Halloween costumes, and many church and school dresses. She bought us Sunday hats and gloves, and polished our white Easter shoes. After school, she had snacks ready for us and was excited to hear about our day.
Our Dad, George, was the rock of our family. He was a quiet man who went to work every day at 7:55 and was home every night (except for the Elk’s club meetings once a month) a few minutes after 5. He built us a playhouse, set up the tether ball pole, taught us to ride our bikes, and how to drive a car. He took us to church every Sunday and to confession every two or three months.
Daddy was more than a provider; he was a fan of his girls. We each knew that he and our mom loved us unconditionally. When he spanked us (because we deserved it), it truly hurt him more than it did us. We knew that there was a deep mercy inside him for each of us.
When troubles came, and they did, our nuclear family foundation was firm and our relationships were laced with love. Even in our extended family, love won–over and over again. Disclaimer: one woman who married into the family moved herself to the fringe of the group through her very critical spirit. We tried to keep a good attitude about her and kept welcoming her back, but she became embittered.
I mentioned that our parents were social drinkers and that it was always a positive part of our family life. At some point daddy began using alcohol as an escape from a troubled relationship with his brother, who was his business partner, and from the stress of being a small business owner and paying taxes every quarter. Daddy and Walt had carried on their father’s tractor sales and implement business. Uncle Walt was the office manager and daddy was the mechanic.
I’m sure daddy had also taken refuge in alcohol as an escape from the worries and sorrows that we three girls caused him as we were making our way into adulthood.