Saturday, August 11, 2018

Truth About Alcoholism

Before I was born my dad use to be a weightlifter and swim instructor. Before he met my mother he palled around with a few celebrities like Johnny Weissmuller out in California for a time. A Pennsylvania state senator and one or two notable military members. After he met my mother (his 3rd wife) they settled down and ran a successful bakery on Front street near the Tilghman street bridge. It was during this time he also hosted a health food program on WSAN when it was on N. 10th street. Eventually he became friends with many of Allentown's movers and shakers. He was the first to fly with a pilot of a biplane into New York bringing back a package of meat making it one of the first cargo flights ever into the old Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton airport (ABE). This led him to become quite popular even hosting parties at the house he and my mom built entirely with their own hands with dozens of local notables.

Eventually he became the life of the party setting up all the drinks at the various clubs once occupying our lower wards. Like many before he was living life too large and began sneaking money behind my mom's back at the bakery. Before she knew it he ran the business into the ground. Causing him to drink more. As is the case with many fair weather friends they began drifting off elsewhere.

Eventually he wound up in the Allentown Hospital on Hanover Avenue where they gave him shock treatments for his alcoholism. That's how they done things in those days. I remember when I was about 8 years old my mom ( who didn't drive) took me by bus and trolley every other week to visit him. I remember little. What I do remember is waiting in the mostly bare marble lobby for him to appear where mom & I would picnic with him for an hour or so on the front lawn. Then leave for home. After a few months when he got out he had no way of earning the kind living he once did. So he became a janitor acquiring about 15 accounts Mostly from the business leaders he once hobnobbed with.

Things went fairly well for about six of seven years until he started drinking again behind our backs. Eventually not being able to afford the home we once lived. He then became more and more physically aggressive until my mom decided to take my brother and I away to live at my grandmother's house. Three years later estranged from us and being unable to send support money he died of a heart attack Do I have regrets? Yes. I imagine he did too. Out of his other kids (some of them unknown to us at the time of his death) from previous marriages only one of his daughters arranged and attended his funeral.

Now that I'm older even after abusing us I would have done things differently. I was too young at the time to understand the man was suffering too. Back then I was resentful he threw away his life and ours over what could have been because of the bottle. We once were one of well known families. When he died we still were, but not for the reasons any of us would have liked.


If someone has a drinking problem get it fixed before it's too late. You never know when life will end. For him he was only 66. His disease not only hurt him but many others around him. That is one hellva burden he carried to his grave. I'm 100% convinced he suffered far more then I realized at the time.

The resentment I once felt has now turned to regret. The regret I wasn't old enough to be able to understand how much I could have helped if I only knew then what I know now about his alcoholism.

I should remember more then what the bottle stole from him. Times he left little doodles for us before he left for work in the morning. Teaching us to swim. Buying and paying my organ lessons. Trips to Dorney, Brooklyn, Coney Island (although he refused to take my mom on any of them). The tire swing, zipline, coaster and fort he built in the backyard. Introducing me to radio and quarter midget racing via Dopey Duncan. Paying for camp.

If you've got a drinking problem I recommend you take a look around at what it's doing to others if not yourself. Is this really the legacy you want to leave behind? Is this what you envisioned life to be for yourself? Don't gamble there will be another tomorrow. Do something now before it's too damn late.

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