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by DeAnna Brooks
9/24/2006 / Christian Living
My father-in-law was an alcoholic.
Or so my husband was told.
He never really knew his father. Any memories he should have had lay covered in fog, burying remembrances he found too painful to expose to the light of day.
During the ten years of our marriage, my husband only shared one paternal remembrance with me his only one, or so he said. Maybe he could recall it because the memory shrouded itself in darkness, something he didnt have to see. Something only his ears knew. But hearing failed to safeguard that tender listening heart.
Many a night that small boy awakened to violent pounding, shattering, without warning, the stillness, the darkness, the safety of his sleep. Fists battering on a front door, locked against a fathers drunken stupor. The beating of flesh against wood reverberated through that little boys darkness, keeping rhythm with his fathers pleas. Angry, begging pleas. Pleas to leave the darkness, pleas to be let in. The door always remained closed. Maybe it was there an unseen door closed, tightly, allowing no admittance the door to my husbands heart.
When I met my husband, twenty years later, he was a stranger to alcohol. His tongue didnt know its taste. But he knew its anger. He knew all too well that residue of a cup too overflowing with selfs own pain to offer even a sip of love to others. It had become his own.
I wish Id understood that then. I didnt. I saw only the pain, and its untrusty sidekick anger. Hidden, so well, behind the most beautiful smile. But always, just below the surface, resided the anger, dressed, most frequently, in cold, steely silence. It erupted, when we were dating, from time to time, but always, it appeared, with just cause. And never toward me. I wouldnt realize the truth until much later. In my naivet, I failed to recognize it. I only knew this tugging at my heart to put joy where it was absent, happiness where emptiness dwelt.
Within a year of meeting, we were married.
Pandoras Box sprung wide open eighteen months later, when I had difficulty nursing my first child. I failed to see it let loose, or hear its haunting laughter. The key to the lock stretched forth in a doctors prescription, to me. I was to have a small glass of kosher wine, shortly before nursing my baby in the evening.
My husband was skeptical, wanting nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with alcohol, or its presence in our life. However, though never in our presence, in my home growing up, we knew our parents to sip a glass of wine, a few times a year. So thinking nothing of it, I complied with the doctors directive.
Being unfamiliar with alcoholisms venom, I didnt hear the hissing serpent, or see its tightly coiled body waiting, simply biding time.
A few months later, my husband received a phone call from his aunt, his fathers sister. He hadnt seen her in close to twenty years. The call held an invitation to come up and visit her and her husband. It held an additional staggering invitation. An invitation, of all things, to see his stepmother, now confined to a nursing home. A woman hed never met. Whose name he didnt even remember.
The second invitation disturbed him.
It was at that point he shared a dark secret, something he hadnt told me before. Something he hadnt talked about, with anyone. His father had taken his own life, a dozen years ago, or more. Or so hed heard years back, in conversations held behind closed doors. Taken his life by combining alcohol with medication, making certain failure didnt play its own hand.
I can never forget that journey my husband, baby son, and I took. It held too much of the unexpected. What on the surface to me appeared blessings, in the heart of that little boy who had already drunk the dregs of an alcoholics bitter brew, it would prove to be too much in the years to come.
The treasures my husband discovered on that trip ate away, and ate away, at his mind, at this heart. Feeding his anger. Perfecting the serpents aim. Bringing it within a heartbeat of striking.
The first treasure was the discovery, in visiting with his aunt, that throughout the younger years of my husbands childhood, after his parents divorced, his father would park his car at the end of the block, watching his children at play, while he wept within the close confines of his own private sentencing his utter undeservedness to be part of his childrens lives.
My husband couldnt take this truth in, couldnt bear loss pain, especially when he heard his fathers visits went on for several years. Reflecting back, he realized now hed actually seen his father on a few of those occasions. At the time, hed thought it only his deep, deep longing. He began to brood.
The serpent coiled tighter, rearing back its head.
The second treasure lay secreted in a sterile nursing home my husband finally agreed to visit. And a woman old, withered before her time, her own duel with alcohol wasting her away. Though we hadnt understood that, yet.
My husband walked down the hall with trepidation, but his heart needed confirmation, not just of the first treasure, but the second. The need of knowing propelled his steps.
The diminutive woman, this unknown stepmother, lost in the wasteland of a hospital bed, told the same story of a father who for several years watched his children at play from a car at the end of a quiet street. Then she confirmed the second treasure. Accidental death. Prescription medication, unwisely taken with alcohol, and a fall against the pointed corner of a bedside table. A father, alone, knocked unconscious, bleeding to death.
Something inside my husband, instead of mending, broke. The serpent, at last, struck.
What defines an alcoholic? I fear its true condition indefinable, mixed in a misty understanding of the human heart, and the desperate paths it travels, to hide. Too many tentacles, webbing their way in too many directions, into too many soils.
My husband never recovered from his fathers alcoholism, though those looking on would swear it never touched him. But alcoholism stole my husbands childhood, gave direction to his own destiny.
Alcohol births many children, most of them secreted away, unclaimed bastard children in a sense. But the wily serpent, at last, had struck. Within months of my husbands visit to painful truth, one whod abhorred drink, found it his bedtime companion. Eventually, it became his constant one.
Anger, no longer disguised or contained, drove my husband from his loving Fathers arms, a Father hed promised to serve, with his life, a Father longing to take the pain into Himself, yearning to set a captive free.
Our story didnt end with a prince and a princess discovering happily ever after. However, both of us, life-long children of the King, could have known that promise.
In writing these words, Ive come to know my husband better. My grief over alcohols protg deepens. My husbands life ended a haunting reflection of his fathers.
Cradled in his Heavenly Fathers bosom these past ten years, I pray my husband has come to know wholeness, at last.
There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man:but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able;*but will with the temptation also make a way to escape,that ye may be able to bear it.
Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee . . . . .
Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.
1 Corinthians 10:13
2 September 2006
DeAnna L. Brooks
DeAnna Brooks (December 5, 2007)
Having raised four children, I live now in Texas. Mostly my writing is a sojourn with God. I find myself ever planted in Eden, glorying in its abundant and rich communion with the Almighty. Or, I am looking back, with longing. And the sojourn continues.
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