I kept my eyes intent on the ground, kicking at the rocks. There was a movement in the bushes, and I laughed as a rabbit popped out its head. I swiped at the tears that threatened to fall. You big sissy, that’s what Dad would say,I could hear his voice in my head.
My father was admired for his dark, rugged good looks, most say I look like him.
He wasn’t so admirable when he decided it was time for a binge. I knew to find other places to be. It didn’t protect my Mom, but what good was a scrawny twelve years old against a giant of a father? The day will come, and I counted on that day coming.
“God, if you’re real. Why do you allow my family to be tormented? My Mom believes in you, she goes to church every Sunday, if my mean drunk of a father doesn’t stop her. I don’t understand.” I wiped my sweaty palms on my faded jeans.
The glow of twilight settled upon the town, the cooling breeze rattled the leaves. I
backtracked until I could see the lights of home. Torn screens were falling off the windows. The front door boasted two splintered holes, the size of my father’s fist.
Creeping in the back door I was greeted by singing, “All I have needed Thy hand hath provided, Great is Thy faithfulness.”1
“How can you sing those words, Mom?”
“Now, Ben, don’t you go laying blame on God for the choices others make.” She stirred the pot on the stove.”
“If He is so great…”
“Son, I couldn’t bear it if you let all this craziness cause you to not believe.” Mom pulled a bowl out of the cupboard and filled it with stew.
“Where is Dad?” I blew on my spoon to cool the soup.
“He’s sleeping, so be real quiet.”
“I know the drill. Tip toe around if he’s asleep, and beware if he’s awake.” I tore a piece of bread from the loaf.
“I’m sorry son.” Mom blotted her tears.
I went over and hugged her, we were almost the same size. Her blond hair hung like a halo around her face. “I didn’t mean to upset you.”
“I don’t know what to do. I’ve prayed and I’ve sought the Lord. When I see how it hurts you, it breaks my heart.”
“Someday, I’ll get a job and you won’t have to live like this. We’ll never have to lay eyes on him again.”
My father came into the kitchen. Sat down at the table and placed his head in his hands. “I’ve always heard tell that it takes a person losing it all before they will change their ways. I have been listening...”
“We didn’t mean any disrespect, Doug,” I watched my mom cower away.
“Don’t be frightened Ellie. Please, listen to me. You’ve painted a bleak picture of our lives, and also given me a glimpse into the future, a future where I lose it all. I don’t want to lose my family. I don’t know what to say, because sorry won’t hack it. I have taken my last drink. Yeah, I know you have heard that one before.” He turned to face me. “Son, if it takes me the rest of my life, I will become a father you can respect and be proud of.”
I got up and left the room, I couldn’t sit and listen to anymore of his lies. We would become millionaires sooner than my father would stop drinking. Something compelled me to continue listening from the next room.
“It wasn’t supposed to be like this. My father was a drunk until the day he died. I swore I would never follow in his footsteps. Ellie, I messed up big time. Before God, I promise no more. It stops here and it stops with me.”
Mom came and knelt down beside me. My father knelt beside my mom, “Ellie, sing the song you were singing earlier.”
With her arms around both of us, she sang, “…To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love…”
Memories rushed through my mind like a sudden gush of wind. I knelt and brushed the dirt away and read the words I had chosen for my father’s headstone, “Dad, I am proud to be called your son.” I raised my eyes toward heaven and blinking back the tears, I no longer harbored any doubts, “Yes, Lord great is thy faithfulness.”
1 Lyrics by Thomas Chisholm 1923
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