That picture up there–that might not seem that bad, at first. Maybe I just had a party.
Nope. Don’t do that. Not any more, not in a long time.
Nope, that–and all the dishes you can’t see, the ones on the counter behind me, the ones on the stove–those are about 90% of the dishes and utensils in my entire house, and, except for any I needed to use, they haven’t been washed for months. The smell from the bottom of the sink is astounding, by the way.
You see, the last time I washed all the dishes was a Saturday, and I was day drunk. I remember that clearly. I haven’t gotten so much as a buzz since before July 4th, so that means it’s been over three months since anyone in my household–me, my father, my brother–has washed the dishes.
Before you call me out for being a slob, I want to point out that for a year and a month prior to that July, with one solitary exception, I was the only person who washed dishes at all. And I did them regularly.
This was a test, for my family, and it was one they failed spectacularly, and frankly, I don’t have the time or the energy to put into it any more. I’m fatigued by the entire ordeal and I want nothing to do with it.
I’m going to air some dirty laundry. If this makes you bored (or uncomfortable,) or you know me personally and you’re just sick of hearing about this, feel free to close this browser tab. I won’t hold it against you.
Today my father–drunk, as usual–asked my brother and I if we’d like to get food with him, it being a Sunday night and none of us having worked or had plans.
I convince my brother to come with me up to the diner down the street, that I don’t want to order ahead of time, that I want to just sit somewhere that isn’t my house for a bit today. Neither of us want him driving, of course. Let it be said that my dad is remarkably decent at driving under the influence, but I am by no means encouraging or condoning that and if he’s going to do it I want nothing to do with it.
So, the two of us are at the diner. Our order is taking awhile. Finally, we get it, we go outside…and run into my father who’s on his way in. Apparently, we were taking so long that he got curious, and he decided to come to the diner to check up on everything.
In what fucking way would that possibly affect ANYTHING at all? What fucking point does that make, what sensibility is there to that? You’re drunk, dad. Stay home. In his defense (which is not a phrase I use with any agreement behind it; rather, it’s just a convenient set of words,) he wasn’t extremely drunk, he wasn’t instant car crash drunk. He rarely is. But that situation was an instant anxiety trigger, to say the least.
Look, I get it. The man’s wife died suddenly a year and a half ago. They were married for almost forty years. But that woman was also my mother, and I knew her my entire life, and I’m in a better state mentally, physically, and financially, than I ever have been before.
I’m not just getting by, I’m actually starting to thrive.
Remember that sink picture up there? This is a man who used to get angry if we left drips of water on the counter top.
My father had good intentions. He wanted to be a better parent than his father had been to him. And knowing that, and looking back, I can see where he tried. I can’t say he failed, but I also can’t say he succeeded; his father was not my father. I did not grow up in his world, in his family. But I can remember my mother telling me this in a sad voice.
I can remember when he did get extremely drunk. I can remember the yelling. I don’t want you to think that I’m speaking of abuse; I’m not. My father never laid a hand on me or my mother (outside of spankings I probably deserved,) and when they yelled, it was real, and my mother gave as good as she took.
I’m sure there were things I wasn’t aware of. Even if I was at the time, the young mind has a way of trying to protect itself.
There was a time when my dad took me to the store to buy Nintendo games. Both parents played video games so they were fairly generous when it came to such things, and I can’t remember the reason but this was a big deal because I got to pick out two. And, when I got home, I asked my mother why my dad had driven me there drunk. And she said “Oh honey, he hasn’t been drinking, it’s called being a dry drunk, it’s a side affect when addicts quit drinking some times.”
I know AA helped them. I know AA has helped a lot of people, but AA has its own brand of Kool-Aid it makes you drink.
I believed what my mother said for decades until it dawned on me one day that it didn’t make any goddamn sense. My dad was drunk that day. He was loud, he was happy, but he was drunk. “Dry drunk,” if it exists at all, is a mood. It’s a resentment. It’s not speeding and taking turns too fast and laughing.
If you’re still reading at this point, you may be wondering where the article title came from.
When I was a kid I never mowed the lawn. I never helped my dad fix the car or work around the house. I never washed the family’s cars. Hell, I never cleaned anything except my own room (and I was shit at that, to be fair.) My mother straight up told me it was because my father didn’t think I would do a good job. Rather than take the time to teach me, he avoided it altogether. I don’t think I touched a tool other than a screwdriver until middle school shop class, and that was probably only to open the battery compartment on one of my toys.
This carried over to other things, too. I either wasn’t ready, or my parents thought I wasn’t ready, to drive during high school, so I never took driver’s ed. I honestly can’t remember. Being overdosed on Ritalin for ADHD will do that to your brain.
In my mid twenties, though, after a protracted period of begging to be taught to drive, my father finally told him me had no intention of teaching me unless I bought my own car first.
Because I would crash his. Because I wasn’t good enough.
Why the fuck would I buy a car if I couldn’t drive it?
This led to an intense argument, an argument I tried to walk away from, was pulled back into and into the only physical altercation I’ve ever had with my father, and after panicking on my part and some incredibly sloppy police work, I was found to be at fault, and the few hundred meager dollars I’d saved up towards a car evaporated into court fees by the middle of the week.
Justice had been served.
My house smells. It smells like old rotten food and weed. I have to clean the stove periodically because no one else ever will and I’m afraid of the build-up catching on fire. I’ve stopped cooking anything complicated because there isn’t even room to wash the dishes I need. I have to check for toilet paper before I go to the bathroom because I’m the only person who ever remembers to buy it. Same with paper towel, dish soap, laundry soap, dryer sheets, toothpaste, shampoo, the list goes on.
I do the bills. ALL of them. My dad wants to take over; I typed out, step-by-step, how to do each one; he’s intimidated by it.
I’d do more, just for my own standard of living, but there’s only so much I have the will or the time for.
When my mom died, I set up the funeral, with help from my cousin. I worked through the paperwork to get the life insurance paid out. I wrote the checks to pay for the service.
Not good enough, my ass.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe there was ever any malice. But there was apathy, and that’s sometimes worse.
And yet I’m doing fine. I have a car. I’m driving. I have a new job that pays okay, and that will pay pretty well if I bust ass at it. The hours are long and I’m sad and exhausted a lot. But I have a book published, with another one on the way. I have some people that I’m very fond of in my life.
My dad was talking to me the other day, about how he’d like to spend (blow) his insurance money on moving to Birmingham, that maybe I could transfer out there.
My friends are here, my friends are down river. If I move, it won’t be for you, old man.
Blood of the covenant, and what have you.