‘Bungling Burglar, Ex-Lag, Gun-Threat Pensioner’. Let me introduce you to my dear old dad. Please know, however, these are not my descriptions of my dad, oh no. These are headlines taken from newspapers.
This is because my dad is famous. Well, infamous actually, at least within a certain local jurisdiction. The newspaper headlines might be a bit of a give-away as to the reasons for his ‘infamy’.
You see, my dad is an alcoholic who has spent the last four decades of his life serving prison sentences for a mind-boggling variety of alcohol-related crimes, living in halfway houses when released.
That ‘down-and-outer’ you may have seen staggering about aimlessly on the street muttering to himself, bottle in hand, looking dishevelled and unkempt? You could have been looking straight at my dad.
He has been at death’s door several times and his life has been spared just as many.
Last summer Dad went ‘AWOL’ after being released from yet another prison and, as always, I was concerned for his safety. One peaceful Sunday afternoon I received a call out of the blue from a hospital staff nurse. He had been admitted with a head injury after falling down, drunk, in the street. But Dad didn’t want me to be involved and the nurse had to respect his wishes to be discharged. I knew that the next time I would hear from him, or about him, would be when he committed his next crime. Or worse.
As always, all I could do was to hope and pray, at the very least, that he would be alright.
Some weeks later after my conversation with the nurse I still hadn’t heard from Dad so I googled his name, only to find out that he had, indeed been arrested again, this time for attempting to hold up a Post Office with a pretend weapon.
Oh Dad. What have you done?
Since it was an online newspaper, some people had posted comments about my dad’s actions so I wrote my own article in an effort to tell part of my dad’s story.
I pitched my article to Prima magazine but not before first discussing it with my family. Their support has been phenomenal. I felt I was on a mission, not to air the ‘family’s dirty laundry’, but to tell a story from the heart, to let people know who my dad once was before alcohol obliterated his life and that it wasn’t all ‘doom and gloom’.
When the deputy editor of Prima contacted me to say that she wanted to publish my story I was thrilled but there were some hurdles to cross first, not least of which I needed (and, in fact, wanted) my dad’s permission, and rightly so. More than that, I wanted his blessing.
My article was put to one side and I waited to hear from my dad. Summer grew to a close and one morning in September a letter arrived from him. Dad wanted to see me and quickly. Such is the way. I was, at last, able to tell him about my new writing career and, more importantly, about the story I had written about him and Prima’s interest in it. Dad was knocked sideways and back again. His pride in me was obvious, written all over his face (it still matters!). He said he wanted every success for me and it made him feel that he was ‘part of something’.
I have never been able to ask anything of my dad but after all these years he has been able to give me the one thing I really want – his blessing to write about him. I told him it was the best gift he could ever give me.
Some of you reading this may wonder why I’ve still ‘hung on in there’ with my dad. After all, I don’t mean to gloss over what my dad’s alcoholism has robbed him, me, our family of.
The pain has been raw, the anger palpable, the loss incalculable, of that there is no doubt.
But the simple answer is this: He is still my dad and I am still his daughter and that has never changed. Love is a powerful bond which has given my dad his atonement and given me back my dad.
The April edition of Prima magazine featuring my article about my dad is out now and is available wherever magazines are sold.