Dad needed to be needed. It was that simple.
He didn’t have any hobbies. He wasn’t into hunting or fishing, didn’t belong to a bowling team. He went to work every day and came straight home afterward. He didn’t go to a bar with the guys for a beer. If he wasn’t doing repairs around the house or yard work, after dinner he’d be watching TV.
The real problems began when he retired.
He didn’t want to retire, but the housing market went soft in the seventies–Dad worked in construction. He designed and built houses. He made the decision to retire reluctantly. He didn’t handle it well. He started to drink. In spite of his own childhood, his resentment of his own father’s drinking and abuse, he would start drinking early in the day and drink until he fell asleep. When he woke, he was fine…until the next day, when the cycle repeated. He was like Jekyll and Hyde. Beer turned him into the monster.
He was never physically abusive, but the emotional abuse was bad enough. Mom threatened to leave him more than once, but I knew she never would. He knew it, too.
The turning point came when I sold my first novel. He abruptly stopped drinking. No rehab, nothing. He just stopped. But he was like that. He could stop doing anything if he wanted to. He’d stopped smoking the same way. I think he wondered if we might abandon him once he no longer had that financial control he’d held over our heads.
That was when I started to change….