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Right From Wrong - Fathers Day

Story ID:2312
Written by:Michael Timothy Smith (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Family History
Writers Conference:$500 2007 Family Memories Writing Project
Location:Sambro Nova Scotia Canada
Person:My Dad
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Right From Wrong - Fathers Day

I wanted to write something good about my father,
but to be honest, I don't have a lot of good memories
of him.
My dad is on the right in the picture

Right From Wrong

I was the youngest of three boys. We lived in a four-room
house with our parents. Dad liked to say we had four rooms and
a path. He referred to the well-worn trail to our outhouse. We
didn't have hot-running water. We heated water in pots on an
oil stove, poured it into a bucket, grabbed a facecloth and towel
and washed in the privacy of our rooms. We washed our hair in
the kitchen sink

We were poor.

Dad had a job, but he spent most of the money on alcohol.
There were many nights when I would wake to loud voices. I'd
lay still and listen, aware it was Thursday night, and like every
Thursday, Dad had come home drunk. Thursday was payday for my
father. After work, he and his co-workers went to the tavern and
drink. It was the start of four days of hell. On Friday, he'd go
to work hung over and return in the evening drunk again. For the
rest of the weekend, he'd drink with his buddies.

He came home drunk one evening, got out of the car, lost his
balance, staggered twenty feet, and smashed his head into the
front porch. He was that drunk and somehow driven home.

Dad was nasty when he drank - not violent, just mean. He'd
yell at us for the smallest thing. Even though we tried not to
disturb him, he'd lash out with complaints about our behavior.
There was no pleasing the man. Four days of the week we cowered
from him.

I know more about him now, and can even understand his
bitterness toward the world. He was born out of wedlock, and
spent many years in a Catholic orphanage. The abuse he received
there - I don't want to think.

As the school week wound down, my stress increased. I knew
the weekend was coming. The drinking and arguing were near.

How did Mum tolerate him? It's mystery to me. She had no
where to go. Where would she be able to support three boys on
her own. She stayed for us. My biggest fear? She'd give up, walk
out, and leave us with our father.

I was in the first grade and sitting in my classroom one
morning. We had large windows. I could see my house and the store
across the street from it. We had a small bus service. It came
twice a day and took people to the city and back.

The bus pulled up. A lady with a red jacket boarded. My mom
had a red jacket! I started to cry in front of my classmates.
Mom was leaving!

The teacher calmed me. "Michael, your Mum wouldn't leave you.
She loves you."

I wasn't convinced. The lunch bell rang. I rushed home and
found Mum making my lunch. I ran up, clutched her around the
waist and cried.

Mum did everything for Dad. She made his lunches, cleaned,
cooked, and took care of us. Dad did little. He worked and in
the evening he sat.

If I needed his help, I refused to ask for it. If I asked,
I knew he would get angry at me for interrupting his TV time.
When he came home from work, he expected his dinner waiting and
complain about the lunch made for him that day.

I was afraid to ask him for anything.

The chain on my bike was loose and would fall off the sprocket.
It took me forever to figure out how to tighten it myself, but
I did it.

I learned to do things myself - the hard way.

My brothers grew older, got their driver's license, and were
blamed for every mark, dent, or scratch on the car. I got my
license and refused to drive Dad's car. I was not going to be
blamed for anything that happened. I walked or biked and gave Dad no
excuse to yell at me.

Christmas was bad. He'd be drunk on Christmas day and have
no patience for smalls boys enjoying new toys. There would be
more fighting than laughter from my parents. When my brothers
and I were older and slept late in on Christmas morning, Dad
would come to our room - drunk as usual - and wake us. He
expected us to be the kids he ignored. We'd groan and tell to
go sleep it off. He wanted to make up for what he missed out
on when we were younger, but the damage was done.

One night, when I was a teenager, he was sitting at the
kitchen table - drunk. The look in his eyes was a warning. They
were red and evil. "Why don't you go to bed? " He snarled.

I knew best. I went to bed.

I tried to sleep, but I heard the distinct sound of his
shotgun being loaded. I snuck from my room and saw him going
out the door with his gun.

I rushed up and grabbed the barrel, "Dad! No! Let me have
the gun. Go to bed."

"Son, let me do it." he said. "I'm no good."

"Dad, please! Go to bed."

He loosened his grip on the gun, allowed me to take it
from his hands, and staggered to the bedroom.

I learned a lot of things from my Dad. I learned how not
to treat my wife. I learned to make my own lunch and not expect
my wife to make it. I learned it's wrong for a man not to
complain about cooking and cleaning., cooking and cleaning are
a team efforts, and to give my children love and attention.

Dad didn't teach by example. He did it by making me aware
of what is wrong. His drinking caused a lot trouble, but all
three of his boys became better people because of his wrong.

Dad passed away in the early '90's. Mom, a strong and
beautiful woman, was freed from his abuse. My brothers and
I said, "Now Mum is free to enjoy her life."

I don't hate my Dad. He was my dad. He gave me life. I
can't hate him for that. However, I'm disappointed he never
experienced the good things a family can provide.

Dad, I love you. One day we will be able to meet again.
I will hug you and forgive you.

Michael T. Smith