When I look at these white blossoms, I still smell Old Spice.

Photo by Sharon Auberle

Photo by Sharon Auberle

My memories of my father are quickened by two scents: Old Spice shaving lotion and booze. I think it was because he was always neat and shaven when he picked up mother and when they drove home, mother always managed  to pick up the scent of whatever daddy was drinking that night. She never drank herself, but smoked and daddy smoked too, so there was the sharp cut of mint in the shaving lotion, the suffocating aroma of gin martinis and the acrid, woodsy smell of cigarettes. I loved the way he smelled.

Daddy came home from the great war (WWII) with what they call today PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He had nightmares of being captured and killed, he was depressed (although, that wasn’t identified or talked about either) and had no motivation. He worked as a carpenter cabinet maker and was an artist in his craft––when he was sober. He was in his late 30s when the war ended and handled the booze fairly well, but as he aged, there was more missed work, jobs left sitting open in the rain, other workmen not able to do their jobs with the messes he left. In the winter, he had too much time on his hands. He tended bar but that was all he worked at. But he worked at drinking. He took my mother out on dates where they were dressed up and in a happy mood but those times began to thin out. Mostly he’d be late having had several drinks before or had been a practicing bartender who always took the free drinks. On holidays, he wouldn’t be on time for dinner or some times not show up at all.

He became the town drunk and would wander from bar to bar, staggering into cars or street lights, talking to himself, cloths disheveled. He lived at a rooming house and when mother wanted to speak to him, she would drive me over to the house and have me go upstairs and wake him up. Mrs. Shaw always clucked her teeth but let me in. When he was in the bar, mother would have me call and ask for him. The bar owner never had the heart o turn down a child’s tiny voice asking for her daddy. We went along like that from 1946 to 1950, when mother put her foot down and said she was through. Daddy was spirited away by some friends to the only treatment for alcoholics at that time, Mendota Hospital for the Insane. It was a big drying out center no treatment as we know it today.

While daddy was at Mendota,, Mother looked up her high school sweetheart and married him in three weeks, so that when daddy was given his sober freedom, he learned his “wife” had married somebody else. He went back into Mendota within a month. The second time worked and Daddy stayed sober for three or four years. Long enough to get married himself and move to Beloit. I don’t know when he started drinking again, but I drank with him now–I was over 18 and could buy beer. I would be drunk for the evening but the next day, I would go to work and back into my life of single mother and wage earner. He would be drunk for three weeks, I had pushed him into a binge.

But eventually he got sober and stayed that way for fourteen years. We got better acquainted during these years–I have joined AA and stopped drinking also, so we proceeded to get fat together. He and I had a good relationship. I wouldn’t see him for months, talking him on the phone, and this was just fine for both of us. He was no better at social amenities and small talk than I was.

When age and his liver caught up with him, he was 72 years old.  This was in 1985. He went back and forth to the hospital a few times with congestive heart failure, then he said No More! and drifted into the next world  on his own terms. We interred his ashes in a small cemetery in Galena Illinois a place he always loved.

Published in: Uncategorized on August 3, 2013 at 9:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

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