I was deeply moved by Josh Adams’ farewell column. My former editor wrote about his father, a Vietnam vet, who succumbed to alcoholism. Josh’s dad left when he was in third grade, and they had only a sporadic relationship until his father died last Christmas Eve.
Josh, however, was able to find a connection to his father through reading The Things They Carried and meeting its author, Tim O’Brien. I, too, read this book about the Vietnam war experience, and I’m still haunted by its dark humor and unimaginable atrocities.
Like Josh, I also had an alcoholic father who was a war veteran, though my experiences were quite different from his. That’s because my dad sobered up five years before I was born – otherwise I wouldn’t be here.
I can’t imagine having an absent father, like Josh did. So it might sound petty to complain that my dad wasn’t home much. He was usually working, attending AA meetings, or helping out a new guy in the program. This was way better than hanging out in bars, but we still missed him.
Not that he was always pleasant to be around. He was very moody during his early years of sobriety and could go weeks without talking. He kept working his 12-step program, though, and finally mellowed out. Relative peace reigned in our house, and he enjoyed some wonderful years with my mother.
My dad used to say that nothing was possible drunk and that anything was possible sober. His stated goals in life were to take care of my mother and to remain sober until they threw dirt on his coffin. He achieved both by the time he was laid to rest in 1994.
I miss my dad very much. I’m grateful, though, for all the good times we shared and the tapes of his wisdom that play inside my brain. I didn’t come across a connection to my late father in the pages of a book, but I think I know how Josh felt when he found that bond.
My dad wasn’t musical, but he did learn to play one song on the piano: “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.” He played it in grand style with chords and crescendos, his foot pumping the pedals.
I recently bought a book of old songs and “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” was among them. The first time I played it, emotion and memories of my dad came flooding back. The entrancing melody also showed his good taste in music. The more I play it, the closer I get to sounding like his version and the closer I feel to my father.
I’m happy that my former editor found solace in the pages of a book. And I’m determined to one day figure out how to pump the pedals.