I finally knew my REAL dad

When Dad was sober , he was wonderful—bright, full of great ideas. He made us all smile and laugh. But when he drank, life with him was hell. He was physically and emotionally abusive. He couldn't hold a job, so we moved almost every year. And a lot of the time, we lived off the charity of others.

For much of my childhood, my dad had a drinking problem. He was a World War II veteran, carrying the weight of horrendous wartime memories. Later, when he lost a brother in a car accident, his pain was more than he could bear. Dad had grown up in an era when real men didn't cry. So he tried to dull his pain by drinking. Mother always told us that Dad was ill. Somehow that made it easier to forgive him.

The oldest of three children, I was close to and defensive of my mother, a sweet and faithful woman, with a loving heart. She understood Dad's suffering and desperately wanted to stay married. Because she loved him and hoped he could overcome his drinking, she stayed with him for more than 17 years. But as time went on, Dad's pain increased because of the guilt he felt for mistreating and neglecting his family.

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December 16, 2002

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