Pop's Blue Ribbon

by Jennifer Jackson
(Pennsylvania)

Pop’s blue ribbon

I heard all the time, “ You can only help him if he want’s to be helped” and “ Alcoholism is a disease, your father can’t control himself.” I knew that there was truth in what people said. I would watch my father take comfort in the contents of his lifeless beer cans. I didn’t want to think that I, his child, was not enough to beat this “disease.” Even when my father said to me, “ You are my life!” I never felt I had won the hard, grueling battle over those cans of beer. Alcoholism affects not only the alcoholic, but it has a compelling affect on those around him.

Uncomfortably, I sat on the double lids of a cardboard box. Firmly built, it was one of many that haunted our apartment. If stacked properly, they would make chairs, tables, and even a functional television stand. These boxes were homes for shiny sixteen ounce cans that had a blue ribbon on the front of them. These cans were part of an extended family; they were my father’s best friends.

After high school, my father was offered tuition to completely pay for law school. Instead he chose a different path; alcohol. There wasn’t a somber night that passed when my father would not drink. I remember looking at his sorry blue eyes that were stained with red. Slumped over from the defeat of alcohol, he would talk to himself, slurring his words. Sometimes he would call me over to him. At two in the morning, he wanted to tell me of the horrors in life. On occasion he would forget my age. With fists tight in a ball, he wanted me to fight with him. I often wondered how far he would go. I feared my father. Often crying hysterically, I would beg for my father to stop. Stop the abuse to himself and to us. Most of the time he was so mad with drunkenness, he never heard me cry out. It wasn’t a rare occurrence to see the flashing of red and blue lights from police cars outside our door. The alcohol really brought out the rage in my father.

I once caught him choking my stepmother with a rifle. With the rifle placed across her neck, my father forced it upon her with his strong hands. She was nearly dead when the police arrived. Another time when he was ordered away from the house, I heard a chop, chop, chop at the door. It was my drunk and angry father attacking our front door with an ax. After time, however, the fear becomes sorrow. One night when I was running into the house to get something, I heard my father saying to his friend “Shoot the couch.” I stopped at the steps for a moment. In awe, I slowly turned toward the scene in the living room. I was not frightened by what might happen. Instead I had an ache in my heart. This man ridden with disease may never know my love. What ever became of my daddy?

As I write this story, I think of my father and tears come to my eyes. I feel that I have abandoned him. My father is alone. We don’t speak to each other very much. When I visit it is for a short while, because I can’t stand the dark, stale house. He defends his alcohol, saying it’s all he’s got. It’s kind of ironic. I think that I will remember him most by what he could have done, not what he has done.

I have cheated myself, ignored so much of what I wanted for my father. As time passes by, I feel like those cans. I feel empty drained and dented. I don’t shine anymore. I remember seeing The cases come and go, kind of like my memories. He was so wrapped up in his alcoholism and his sorrows that he didn’t even know he was sharing his sadness with others. He thought he was winning his battle of grief, receiving his reward. If only I could have felt more like that blue ribbon prize. I would feel that I was of importance to him, like I matter.

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