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Right From Wrong

Story ID:3991
Written by:Michael Timothy Smith (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Family History
Location:Sambro Nova Scotia Canada
Year:1966
Person:My Father
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Right From Wrong


I was the youngest of three boys. We lived in a four-room house. Dad liked to say
we had four rooms and a path, when 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 woke to loud voices. I’d lay still and listen to my parents arguing. It was
Thursday night, and like every Thursday, Dad had come home drunk. It was his pay day
After work, he and his co-workers went to the tavern and drank. 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 night, got out of his car, lost his balance, staggered
twenty feet, and smashed his head into the front porch. He was that drunk and somehow
drove home.

Dad was nasty when he drank. He wasn't violent, just mean. He’d yell at us for the smallest things. 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 understand his bitterness. He was born out
of wedlock and spent many years in a Catholic orphanage. I don't want to think
about the abuse he received there.

The school week wound down. My stress increased. The weekend approached.
The drinking and arguing were near. I don't know how Mum tolerated it. She had no
where to go. She stayed for us. I feared she'd 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. There was a bus
that came once a day and took people to the city and back.

I saw it pull up. A lady with a red jacket boarded. My mom had a red jacket!
I cried 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 lunch, cleaned, cooked, and took
care of us. Dad did little. He worked and in the evening he sat.

I refused to ask for his help. If I asked, he would get angry 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 fell 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, learned to drive, 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 horrible. 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. My brothers and I grew older and slept late in on Christmas morning, Dad
came to our room – drunk as usual – and woke us. He expected us to be the kids the
he's ignored. We’d groan and tell him 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. Our respect for him
was gone.

I was 16. He sat 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 to complain about cooking and cleaning – to be thankful for what is given. I
learned to give my children love and attention.

Dad didn’t teach by example. In a sad way, he made me aware of wrong. His
drinking caused a lot trouble, but all three of us boys became better people because
of his transgressions.

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