Love: Thought and Father’s family Essay

Submitted By Lataisia1
Words: 1005
Pages: 5

Love: By Caroline Knapp A year after I quit drinking, I arranged to meet with a friend of my family,

Dave, the Psychologist who knew my parents well and who’d filled me in on some

details of my father’s family history. Driving to his office, I thought about

my father. How much alike we were, and how much I missed him. When I sat

down with Dave, I talked generally about some of the ways my life had changed, how I felt less

depressed and stuck than I used to. I then asked what I’d come to find out: “Do you think my

father was an alcoholic?” Dave looked surprised as he thought the answer was obvious, “Oh

yes,” he said, he thought so. He knew it, said Dave. I suppose I’d begun to think so too. Once I

understood my own relationship with alcohol more clearly. But hearing it articulated so blankly,

a simple statement of fact delivered by someone who knew, made it real for the first time. And I

felt a sharp stab of pain and horror for my father. It was the pain of understanding how deeply

our bond ran. And the pain of disloyalty, as though I’d been caught breaking a heavy family

pattern, a code of behavior. Dave said it took his father a long time to admit to his alcoholism

and even longer to say it out loud. When he found out he was dying, the feeling of horror came

in. I pictured my father’s past eleven months of his life and thought, this was the only time I

knew him when he didn’t drink. I wondered what it must have been like for him to see the

patterns of his life clearly, and to understand how deeply liquor had shaped and Page 2

constricted his relationships. All of this occurred while he was dying and he couldn’t change the

outcome. I felt so sad imaging that, and of course the first thing I thought of was: “God, I want to

drink.” I started to think back to earlier in my father’s illness. One night when we were alone

together at the dining-room table, my father looked at me and said, “I wonder if my death will be

liberating for you?” At the time I didn’t say a word, the comment seemed offensive to me. I

thought about it on my way back to my car after seeing Dave. I remembered walking along the

side walk, aware of the odd sensation that, in fact seemed like a kind of freedom. I felt like I was

on the verge of something away of seeing myself or living my life that no longer required such

entanglement with my father, a capacity for choice I’d never felt before. The clarity that comes

with sobriety may have had more to do with that feeling than my father’s death did. I wondered

if the two were related, if I would have been able to let go of alcohol without letting go of my

father first. Perhaps so, Perhaps not, heading along towards my car, I had the sense that I was

letting go of something. I felt a need to define myself first and foremost as my father’s daughter,

with all the dark complexity it entailed. A moment later I stopped at a traffic light, closed my

eyes and thought, “Please be proud of me.” I wondered if my father would have been proud to

see me acknowledge my own alcoholism, or if he would have seen my sobriety as an act of

abandonment. Somehow in a willful separation from alliance, I cried that night for the first time

in long while: I cried over my father’s life and death: I cried with a mixtures of sadness,

wonderment, and guilt, understanding for the first time that in getting sober, I was holding on to

the pieces of him I cherished his insight, his wisdom, his charm, but also leaving him behind in

some…