Years and years ago, probably in 1975, I learned a great lesson in parenting. We lived in a trailer near old Highway 68 (now 412), on 48th street, where Denny’s, Marketplace, and several large hotels now sit.
My mom and dad had been fighting at my Uncle Buck’s house. (One of the many times…) Mom forced me and another family member into her car to drive us home, a couple of miles away. Normally, I would have spent the night there with my cousin Jimmy. Why mom insisted on forcing me to go, I’m not sure.My best guess is that she did it is because it was the last place I wanted to be – with her, especially driving.
Mom was so intoxicated that I couldn’t imagine staying in the car. Because she hadn’t been able to fight with my dad and scratch that itch she would get when she wanted to fight, she took it out on me in the car. How we got anywhere without killing someone I’m not quite sure.
At one point mom hit something on the side of the road. I don’t know if it was a mailbox, a car or five innocent children. Since I had just listened to a presentation at school, I was now familiar with the word “alcoholic.” Mom was already slapping me and pulling my hair for crying, so I didn’t feel as scared as I normally would.
I called her an alcoholic.
(Hearing grownups at school talk about the evils of drinking made me think about it in a quite different way. People I didn’t know where standing in front of me telling me clearly what I knew to be true – that alcohol could be extremely destructive. It was a revelation.)
The car went silent. Mom’s face froze in a drunken flash of anger. She jumped out of the front of the car and started screaming, opening the back door on my side and yanking me out of the car by the hair. She told my sibling to get out, too. Before mom got back in the car screaming, she tried to kick me. She was so drunk that he foot hit me in the knee instead of my face.
She got in the car and drove off, leaving my sibling and I on the side of the road. It was about 9:30 at night. A few years ago, I talked to my Aunt Ardith about it to see if she would verify any of the story. She remembered it, as mom told her 444 times about the story of the first time any of her kids called her an alcoholic.
My sibling and I had to walk home, in the dark, on busy 68.
Regardless of what anyone might otherwise wish my mom to be known for, her addiction to alcohol will be the predominant memory defining her. Mom was quite capable of being a good person; her love of drinking, however, tarnished everything in her life. She wasn’t a person who occasionally suffered the effects of drinking – drinking was a constant force in her life.