Looking in the Ashes

For those of you that have been reading along, you know my father was less than perfect and was an alcoholic. His drinking started out much like a lot of people. He would have a few cold beers after work until they ran out. On the weekends he would have cold beer until he had no more left and started hitting the liquor, that’s when Dr. Jeckyll turned into Mr. Hyde. Usually, this wasn’t all seen throughout the course of the day, because he was cavorting somewhere he shouldn’t be, with someone he shouldn’t be with, trouble he ought not be in, so we didn’t see that part. Usually when he became intolerant, someone from wherever he may be would find one of my older brothers and tell them to come get him before he got rolled or hurt. That usually turned in to an altercation itself between he and my brothers, that lasted well into the night, before he finally passed out. There is a fine line crossed by some into a delusional land where they can no longer tell right from wrong. Most of the time any compassion they own turns inward and lets out hate. There is no return from that land until the person passes out on their own and is left alone. Many are the days in my young, formative years, I have seen my dad in this condition. I suppose many of these memories are what causes me to have such aversion to alcohol and rough housing.  I am not above anyone having a drink. If I want one, I will have it. If it is hot outside and I want a cold beer, I will have it. If I want a mixed-drink, maybe two, I’ll have them. I find nothing wrong with it. I have a very hard time at parties or social gatherings when people don’t know their limit. When ones personality starts to change into stupidity or aggression, innately it is time for me to leave. There was a  particular weekend, probably a year or so after my dads mother had died that is etched into my mind.  It was not a long time after my dad’s mother had passed. I think it was a Sunday. Usually, if he got drunk on Sunday he wanted us all to sing hymns or read him the bible. “Don’t ask me, it was a strange combination”.  By middle afternoon dad had gotten hold of the bottle and not a bottle of beer. Being this drunk always made my dad curious about things and very emotional, sometimes not in a good way. I do remember the most important mementos that dad had of his mothers were kept in the cellar. He would often go into the cellar to look at is mothers things. Her death had changed him. This day, we saw dad bringing things out of the cellar, in particular two camel back trunks that mom had wanted to use in the house, but dad couldn’t bear to open or look at them. You can imagine they must have been very nice, for my grandmother was born in 1880 and her things were well taken care of. After he dragged them from the cellar, he loosened the buckles that kept them closed. I could see he was on a mission. I can see the leather straps and the eyelets the buckle slipped through. He began going through them one item at a time, slowly, sort of like a hoarder looking at items they can’t throw away. He built a fire in the middle of the yard, a short way from the cellar. Each item he removed was held on tightly for just a second, whether it be a shoe, a beautiful hat with a feather in it, or her hand-sewn dresses. He would cry at the mention of his mother after many, many years. Anyway, as his grip would loosen on his object, he would throw it into the fire and watch it burn, burn completely, with tears rolling down his cheeks. Over and over, holding onto his possession as if breathing life out of it and again throwing it into the fire, watching it burn. This ritual went well into the evening. After he had both trunks empty and was reaching to heaven, wildly he took the beautiful banded trunks with beautiful locking buckles on the sides and cast them to the fire, watching them burn. Now, almost everything he had personally collected of his mothers was gone. I suppose in an odd way, he couldn’t move on without the separation of that dysfunctional attachment he had with his mother. After what seemed as an eternity, dad had drunk himself into a stupor and fell asleep on one of his mother’s old bed frames he kept under a group of shade trees, in an area we always called “the shade”, for there was no sunlight there. He slept there all night, as he had many nights just to wake up in a fog in never never land, not knowing what happened. He never remembered the day before, never! He would break his own heart every time this happened. I remember him looking in the ashes, finding buttons and buckles and the like, putting them in his pocket to do who knows what with. He had a saddened face and a look of abandonment that had been replaced by a different mood. He looked bewildered, and we loved him . There was no solace to find in his wife or his kids at this time, when he needed to cling on to who loved him, to give him peace and ambition to move forward, he didn’t know how. He loved us, I know he did. I believe he personally felt passed over in a time of grief. People say grief never ends for some, for others it takes a lifetime, but his closure never came for his mother. It was a terribly heart wrenching scene to play out when you are a child. A child without the tools or ability to use them if you had them to help someone out of the crisis he was in. His only solace was his self-medication of the bottle. We knew another round would start soon, it always did. Then some other inanimate object would be the reason for his cause, sometimes my mother, those were the worst. You wonder, “well, why didn’t she leave him”? Where is a woman to go with at least 7 children? There were no shelters, there was not enough room at her mom and dads and they lived in another town. There was no money. Even through the harshness of abuse, and my mothers own mental demons, there was too much pride to ask for help, even though there were cries for it. I suppose in his infinite wisdom, God gave my mother so many kids because he knew she would need us more into her older age than any other help he could possibly provide. We gladly loved, honored and helped my mother with all things that were possible. I continue to feel that pain my father must have felt, but it is only because I miss my mother and I understand we are only given one another for just a moment in his time. I have a few of my mothers keepsakes and they are proudly displayed. They feel more like trophy’s that she won and handed to me. I am blessed. In closing, I suppose there should be a heart of hate for my dad, but there is not. When my dad was good, he was the best. He was a troubled soul, born in a time when men weren’t supposed to be “weak” and did not share his feelings. Because of his addiction, I understand some of his dysfunction now, even if now doesn’t make then right.

Copyright @coffeewithcharles.blog (Charles D. Grant)

Author: coffeewithcharles58

Married for 33 years to a wonderful wife. I have 2 grown sons and a beautiful daughter n law. I love life, past and present.

3 thoughts on “Looking in the Ashes”

    1. So true Carrie. I’m hoping some of this comes through as therapy for myself as well as others. I loved my dad very much, but if I could have changed anything it would have been him. I had a lot of good times during childhood, but probably equally as bad. I would never go back to my childhood to relive it again. Time has humbled me, for I know I was not the only one.


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