Household alcohol did not have a role shaping my Maine farm childhood.
Not every Maine household was so lucky. You can find, see the scars, feel the deep hurt of black belt grade beer, wine, and hard stuff booze users.
Round the clock drinking was not the routine of the Maine home Dad and Mom raised their four boys in. Dad’s father, brother and one Aunt were alcoholics though. And we all know once your become a pickle, you can never go back to being a cucumber right? Even when you quit, the hard part is ahead in the day to day recovery. The family treatment for those around the alcoholic who become part of the sickness.
Dad spared our family the alcoholic destructive circle that suddenly descends on a happy home like the worst tornado, twister, lightning storm.
He was affected by what he witnessed though. The hollering, fighting, destructive drama with three family members testing positive for the alcoholism disease. But personally other than a trip to Paul Drew’s Houlton Maine store on the hottest day of the summer for two tall cold bottles of Narragansett beer, the four boys were spared the exposure to barley pop. Or harder spirits. Mom came from a family of no alcohol or nightmare substance abuse experiences.
Dad and Mom would sit in lawn chairs under a lilac tree around the 4th of July. Talking, cooling off in the shade together. Slowly nursing, sharing, enjoying one bottle of beer split between them. The twin to the pair picked up, brown bagged at Drews Store would sit lonely, neglected and ignored in the back of the refrigerator for months. I am not really sure when it would be taken on, bottle cap removed and consumed. On family picnics, reunions alcohol was missing too. It was not preached as evil or taught to be approached with moderation in consumption. It just wasn’t around.
Another time I saw alcohol would be at Christmas time.
Annually Everett Currie, an insurance salesman would drop in late in the afternoon around the Ho Ho holiday. And he and Dad would sample one whiskey and ginger ale each while catching up on world affairs. Events since a year ago’s visit. Then I can count on one hand the times that after church, at Sunday dinner on a holiday like Easter, a small glass of wine might be parked by my parents plate.
And that was it for alcohol useage by my parents. The household was not one of teetotalers. But alcohol was just missing. Only showed up, made a small cameo appearance a few times annually. I remember dark alcohol related stories though of when Mom and Dad lived at One Watson Avenue in Houlton Maine.
A very drunk, belligerent Aunt Beatrice would call and ask Dad to “get her a jug”.
Evidently there was a time woman could not go in to a liquor store and buy booze. And since Aunt Bea was my parent’s landlord, she would threaten to kick the entire famly out, have them evicted if the bottle was not bought, brought produced at once.
Another story that troubled my Dad deeply was getting a call from my Aunt Marie. “John, your brother Bud is harrassing us, won’t leave and can you come right down to intervene?” Upon arrival at the apartment where my eight cousins grew up and I remember trick or treating from as a base, Dad confronts a very surly, bad tempered, slobbering brother Bud. Dad told Uncle Bud you been asked to leave so go. Go now. Or a call to the cops will happen. Like a hungry growling dog with fear of loosing a hard earned juicy steak, Uncle Bud lunged, charged at my Dad.
Described with tears in his eyes years later Dad lamented having to hit his brother, knock him down to get him to go.
To leave Aunt Marie alone. The final blow that subdued the highly inebriated sibling caused Uncle Bud on the floor to look up. Grin and remark Dad’s jab reminded him a being kicked by a farm work horse. As he was picked up, supported and escorted from Aunt Marie’s kitchen just as a police cruiser rolled in to the yard.
Life is one big pond and we are the fish swimming in it.
And right on schedule ripples churn the once bottle glass like water surface. Pressures on families besides alcohol abuse strain, cause eddys in those once calm waters filled with schools of fish. Relationships where love is the most important thing in life can be threatened. Besides alcohol, busyness is a great enemy of loving relationships.
Time spent hustling jobs to pay the bills, carting kids to overbooked school and sporting activities all can threaten relationships. So can alcoholism, infidelity, and “none of this is my fault” apathy. I saw my parents struggle through difficult farm years, the damage and pain of alcoholism in Dad’s family. But fire water destruction was missing. As they developed a greater love. A deeper, not just on the surface, superficial connection between them obvious to the four boys who basked in the household sunshine. Conflict resolution is an important skill to staying together and to demonstrate what a loving relationship looks like to your children.