My dad was an alcoholic even before I was born. I remember my childhood being spent walking on egg shells, and keeping secrets. He wasn't abusive, he was just...drunk. Hiding his booze-breath under a big hunk of Bubbliscious gum.
I remember driving around looking for him at bars, in the backseat with my twin sister, as my mom cried in the front seat. He would disappear for days,and then show up with a goofy grin, acting like time had not passed at all.
My mom would anguish over leaving him. She would tell us that it's not our fault, and that he had a sickness that he couldn't control. As the years went by, the less I cared. I stepped away from him, stepped away from caring if he would get sober or not. We would visit him in mandated rehab, or in the county jail for drunk driving, and then I would go about my life, pretending that it was all okay.
When I was 25 my dad went to prison for drunk driving. I was married with a baby, and another on the way. He had the book thrown at him because of all the previous offences. I was so far removed from my parents at this point, that my husband was the one to tell me that my mom was FINALLY divorcing my dad. She was to afraid to tell me in my fragile state, teetering on the edge of sleepless nights, and desperately trying to potty train my son before his brother arrived in the world.
My mom had finally had enough, and was divorcing my dad while he sat in prison and sobered up.
The only thing my mom ever told me about the divorce was that she would never be financially ruined again by my dad. Going to prison is expensive. Who knew?
Years went by, my dad got out, sober, healthier... a stranger.
It took a few years, but my parents learned to love each other again...but never remarried.
My mom says that he is the man that she fell in love with all those years ago again. I am so proud of her. It may have taken a long time, but she never gave up on him completely. She removed herself from getting hurt, and only accepted him back into her life when he could prove that he would be the kind of partner that she deserved.
She taught me to only accept joy in my life, even if it means having to wait years to see the joy first hand. She taught me to work hard for my kids, but most importantly, she taught me to never give up.