I started sixth grade with every popular kid in the school in my class, but I played on fringes of cool land. Like any class, we had our share of major dip shits, the poor freckle-faced girl who picked her nose and ate it in front of us, just about killing us all. I was hard to ignore, being the tallest kid in the class, five foot-eight inches, shoulder length hair. Girl hair in the mid-sixties was in-between the singers Brenda Lee with the beehive and Cher’s straight long black mane.
I didn’t understand what was popular, so I distracted myself by shoving candy in my mouth with money I stole from my mother. I was a big shy, hefty gal, felt like ‘a bull in a china shop,’ who loved to sing with the school chorus, sang a solo in State competition and even won a medal. No one knew I still loved my dolls, too. My mother almost destroyed me by making me take accordian lessons in the days of Joan Baez and the acoustic guitar. I was forced to stand in front of everyone and play at a cool kids party. I was mortified because I only knew “the can-can,” so I barely survived the psychological dipshitness of that event.
Big drama in front of everybody the year before at the nearby recreation pool. My drunken dad in a blackout slipped on the deck and split open his elbow, blood all over. The morning afterward, outside on our patio, my daddy sat beside my mom, looked bloated and remorseful, with a gigantic white gauze bandage around his punctured elbow.
“I’m sorry,” he said without looking me in the face, as if that would fix anything. I hated him.
A few days later at the pool, as I dove into the deep end, I heard some lady loudly stagewhisper to her friend, “There goes the drunk man’s daughter.” I hit the water and never wanted to come out. I wanted to drown. I thought I would die from being Jack Brown, the drunk man’s daughter. I just couldn’t go back to the pool. I couldn’t.
I came home soon after and found my dad in his bedroom packing up a suitcase.
“Where are you going?” Not looking up at me, he leaned into the bed with both arms.
“I have a drinking problem, and I’m going to Napa State Hospital for awhile.”
I faced my unpredictable father, puffy, small and defeated, not the dashing man I once loved.
“Are you coming back?”
“ I don’t know when. It’ll be awhile.”
Sad man admitted he had a drinking problem. Something was majorly wrong with our family. What could I do? I tried to keep it locked-up, a secret. I tried to be the perfect daughter for my parents. My mom didn’t pretend that we didn’t have problems, but she had her own concerns, working and drinking on weekends.
It’s important to tell this family story because other people experienced the same type of alcoholic disease as my family. I want people to know they aren’t alone. No more secrets.