Wednesday, August 27, 2008

One of my fears....

I've been thinking about the whole alcohol issue lately. I guess that group of college presidents recommending that the legal age to drink be lowered to18 has me wondering about all the issues I have with alcohol.
I didn't grow up with an alcoholic parent, but my mother did and even though I did not see the effects directly, I have seen the effect it has had on my poor mother and I find myself cringing when I watch the next generation drinking the stuff.
I remember when I was a child hearing some of the horror stories of my mother's childhood. My grandfather had a good job in those Depression days, but he drank most of the money away. My mother would go to bed hungry at night because there wouldn't be enough to eat. She would tell stories of not having any meat to eat all week even though her father was part owner of a meat store.They drank weak coffee or tea instead of milk or juice because it was cheaper.
Her father would hit their mother sometimes when he came home drunk and she and her sisters would run to defend her. He didn't stop doing it until the girls were all big enough to physically pin him down. I always find myself imagining those sweet little girls trying to protect their mama. Makes me tear up just thinking about it.
Mom has talked about how they would look under the cushion of their father's favorite chair in the hopes that a coin or two would have fallen out of his pockets so they could use it to help pay the electric bill or such. My grandmother took in laundry to help out and my mother spent many hours of her childhood ironing shirts to help her. She was so thrilled the first time she earned a dollar for babysitting that she woke her mother up when she got home to show her.
There were never any Christmas presents or birthday presents. They were thrilled to get an orange and a piece of candy in their stocking.
My mother had to quit school after 8th grade and get a job as a housekeeper to help her mother out too.
But unfortunately, it still wasn't enough....their house was foreclosed upon when Mom was in her midteens and they had to move to an apartment.
All because my grandfather was an alcoholic.
When I was a child, my mother always taught us that we had to keep our dad happy. Everything at our house revolved around keeping Dad happy, even if Mom wasn't happy. She would always say that "He doesn't drink. He doesn't hit me. He always brings the money home."
And that was enough for her.
So much of my mother's personality was shaped by her father's alcoholism.

My grandfather did finally stop drinking when he was in his 50's. He never really told anyone what made him stop, but he did it suddenly.
And life became much better for my grandmother and for my mother and her siblings.
He had so many regrets. He would apologize for the misery he had inflicted on everyone. He would look at his grandchildren and realize all that he had missed with his own children.

My memories of him are hazy....he died just weeks after my 5th birthday and had been ill during most of my early childhood. My older siblings have good memories of a grandfather who would take them for ice cream and play with them.
The years of drinking had taken their toll. Even though he had stopped, the damage had been done. He died at the age of 66.

So I've always been a bit afraid of the alcohol...I've always been aware of the damage it could cause. I hate when I see young people with the attitude that it couldn't happen to them...they can control it.
I've always been aware of what it could do to someone and it kept me from ever drinking too much. I've always known that alcoholism could happen to me...that possibility has always been in the back of my mind.
And I realize that it could happen to anyone.

Many of the young people I know have not had to live with the effects of alcoholism, so I don't think they always realize the risks. They just think it's fun.
I become afraid for them, for their future spouses, for their future children.
I've seen the effects it can have. The damage it can do. The pain it can cause.
And I pray...

A blessed Wednesday to all....

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