Today would have been my Dad’s 66th birthday. He died trying to quit drinking six years ago, after a lifetime of alcoholism.
He was the life of the party, a gifted musician and artist. Everything he tried, he would excel at, and do it effortlessly. Imagine someone like Billy Connolly… he was like that. Larger than life, a brilliant joke teller (my love of comedy didn’t come from nowhere). He should have been a comic, but comedy wasn’t an option like it is today. He was just… wired that way.
When he was sober, he’d work as a nurse. He loved the Psych ward night shift. I think he felt at home there, working the weekend nights so he couldn’t go out drinking, paid double time and a half to read a horror novel set in creepy hospitals, overseeing the craziest people in town who were currently in a blissful, drug-induced sleep. I think he felt an affinity for those who weren’t doing so great with the world, and the world not so great with them. He’d befriend those same crazies at the pub when he wasn’t sober, too. He’d go on benders and be a no-show at the hospital and disappear for days on end. And sometimes bring them home so often that I installed a padlock on my bedroom door.
He was always about the contrasts, the incongruities, the absurd.
Everyone loved Kev. Or, more correctly, everyone was always rooting for Kev whilst he burned through everyone’s love. My grandma always said he had nine lives, but by the end of her life, she’d given up on that too. I, of course, had a complicated relationship with Kev, because I was just like him. In every way. For better and for worse. “Her father’s daughter”… much to the chagrin of my mother, who never forgave me for it.
Kevin had one of those cursed minds – so nimble and adept that it freaks people out and you never quite fit in, are always on the outside looking in and see things others don’t. You walk through life operating on a specific frequency, and whilst that can be a strength with the right environment, it is mostly just tremendously lonely because not many people can be bothered tuning in. And you either self destruct from the spiral of self loathing and wishing you weren’t this way, or you try to find a way to harness it and tweak your signal so that people can hear it.
And try to go in a better direction than screaming from cirrhosis because you tried to quiet it all with booze.
He was a good man, but cursed with that self-destructive streak, that I too fight every day. Thankfully not with alcohol, but definitely with self-loathing and sabotage. I feel that isolation and disconnect every day, as I try to just… pretend to be normal.
As his alcoholism got worse, he became more selfish and even mean. My grandma said that my Dad would “die roaring”, and he did.
But he also died trying.
I always remember that he tried hard, every day. On, off, on, off. He’d be sober in 6 week or 3 month stints and then something would happen and he would fall off the wagon, over and over again. He’d start painting again, get it together, and then, the other foot would drop and we’d be left with a pile of unfinished paintings, empty bottles and come home to find the CDs you’d bought with the money you earned trying to support yourself through all of this… gone because he’d pawned them.
He really tried. But sometimes the world is too big and too much and too lonely for some people, and it envelops them. I was angry about the CDs, but I also understood that he had an addiction, and it wasn’t who he was. But even though I am like him, I was sure as shit I didn’t want to be like him.
We were close when I was younger, because we were kindred spirits, but I decided early on that I needed to go in a different direction. He saw those choices, and my refusal to enable him as a judgement of him. That I thought I was better than him. It wasn’t. It was because I am like him, and I just didn’t want to let the world get to me and make me implode the same way he did. I didn’t want to become a massive fireball of potential that never eventuates.
Of course, now I am in the same point in my life. The same age he was when his alcoholism went from “Kev is the life of the party” to “Kev, you’re not a kid anymore”. I have made different choices, but I am still a ball of failure and unfulfilled potential. I often wonder if he just knew how futile it was to try. I wonder if he knew, on some level, that we were never going to fit in, and just threw it all away to spite everyone. I often wonder if surrendering to that was actually the smarter move than sitting, sober, feeling all the pain, loneliness and frustration that comes with being different. I want to self-destruct a lot, and it all feels pointless …and hoo boy would I like to drink it all away.
But then I remember that he still died trying to quit.
So maybe that is the point… to keep trying, and to die trying?
Maybe the trying is the point.