Sunday, July 24, 2011
Alcohol and me
As a military family, I think alcohol and its pervasive presence in our lives was not unusual. It seemed that every one of my parents' friends drank, and some of them drank heavily. My parents would host gatherings in their home after a day of golf when we lived in Puerto Rico. (I lived there as a small child and then Daddy returned again to the same Air Base when I was a teenager. The bar came with us wherever we moved.) Most times when I would go to bed I would hear the party going strong. It was somehow comforting to hear my parents enjoying themselves so much. Of course, at the time I didn't know how much the alcohol contributed to their merriment.
Even when they were up late, Daddy never failed to get up with us and get us off to school. He was a morning person and was awake while Mama stayed in bed. She was definitely NOT a morning person but stayed awake long after Daddy had fallen asleep. I remember many nights at Windswept when the kids would come into their bedroom to talk to Mama, and Daddy was asleep next to her. She worked on her latest knitting project and counseled them about whatever was on their minds. Daddy snored away, the lights on and Mama and the kids talking at a normal volume. I had already grown up and left home, which is a natural consequence of having their six kids spread out over twenty years. As the oldest, the only time I lived at Windswept was when I was leaving a husband and trying to start my life over.
But as I grew older, I found that I did like a glass of wine, and when I started skydiving in my forties, the skydivers all drank beer after a day playing in the sky. When you accomplish something in skydiving the first time, it is your duty to buy a case of beer to share with all the other skydivers. This ensured that at the end of the day, we would all have plenty to drink. I bought so much beer as a newbie that I learned to drink it, too. And I enjoyed it as much as anybody.
It's interesting to me that none of my siblings drink to excess, although our parents did. Norma Jean and I have exactly the same amount of wine at the end of each day, and I only occasionally drink beer these days, since it tends to be more fattening than wine. One sister doesn't drink at all, and the rest of them imbibe at special occasions but not every day. I think Norma Jean and I are the only daily drinkers. None of us drink hard spirits like gin and vodka.
I asked Norma Jean the other day if she knew what happened to that bar, a particular focal point in our daily lives over many decades. She doesn't remember. When Daddy died, Mama moved out of the house on Windswept and built herself a home in Texoma. The bar wasn't there. In fact, if I didn't know better, I'd think perhaps it was cremated along with my father. In my mind, it stopped existing when he did. All those years of entertaining guests and sometimes watching my parents getting really tipsy, it just seemed normal to me.
I have overindulged in alcohol myself at parties and even sometimes in my own home. I don't do that any more, because I've found that when I drink more than my self-imposed allotment, I don't sleep well and I feel sick, hung over, the next day. It's just not worth it, and I've learned that a second glass of wine will NOT give me what I'm looking for.
These days, my contentment comes from many other sources, but the ghost of my parents laughing and singing along to their favorite melodies still echoes in the corridors of my mind. Perhaps it's the corridors of my heart.