Every inch of the twenty-foot eucalyptus bending over the gully bottom was familiar. Too high to jump, I hugged that tree like it was family, scooting along limbs, petrified of making one deadly mistake that might break my neck. I crawl-walked monkey style, maneuvering my arms legs around the gnarled cross branch up to my safest nest, carrying my dolls in my teeth, like a wild orphan, looking down at my friend like a giant. Once I got a vertigo attack and couldn’t move, paralyzed in one of those awful moments up so high, and started crying for my father.
“Go get my dad!” Tracy was below, as I strangled the branch for all my life.
My father was sober that day, the exact grown-up to get me moving because he understood the nature of his children. He ran back up the path wearing tan shorts and sockless loafers, with Tracy trailing behind him. What relief.
“Okay, Honey, you’re going to get down.” Far below, looking tiny like a tiny elf, he talked me down, inch by inch.
“Come on, Sweetheart, easy, you can scoot, keep moving,” he purred. “Lift your right leg, good, and scooch a little over that branch.” When I put both feet on the ground, my father gave me the gigantic bear hug I craved.
Living with an alcoholic father blends craving and fear into a confusing emotional mix. I had a father who went to Napa State Hospital for alcoholism, and I had a father who ran up a dirt path to save his paralyzed daughter. The same man who loved me couldn’t recover from a deadly disease, and heartbreak lives like a constant companion in such a family.
I am trying to explain the crazy disease that passes through generations regardless of age, race, status or gender. I didn’t know I was also an alcoholic, but I ‘m certain my father would have felt similar heartbreak for me if he lived long enough to see the genetic proof.
Talking is the solution. Tell people what it was like, and break a silent shame people who live with alcoholics understand. Craving plays out in many different forms.