You know, when I was growing up, I never expected I’d be where I am now: my dad’s caretaker. Not the usual kind of caretaker, mind you. My dad’s far from being bedfast. He doesn’t even live in a home, let alone with me, though he sorely needs a caretaker.
My dad’s an alcoholic. Throughout his adult life, his drinking got him into trouble. Since he was quite beautiful in his day – much more than handsome, (I’ll post a pic as soon as I have the bunch I’ve found scanned in), he was also an unrepentant womanizer. He was quite, shall we say, quite “active”. He was, and remains, vain. He’s always been a flirt, and women couldn’t help but respond. Sometimes, he didn’t even have to make the first move, which is a little disconcerting when you’re a kid and watching things transpire. Needless to say, dad never stay married for long.
Before my dad retired, he sort of started to short-circuit. He worked for Fisher Body up in Lansing, Michigan. Fisher makes the bodies of General Motors cars. When it was its own entity, its logo, a stagecoach, was always emblazoned on the doorstep of every body. They even had a gorgeous garden in the shape and colors of the logo which was taken care of by an old gardener who was let go when GM took over. GM ripped up the garden. That’s neither here nor there, I guess, but dad was always a little sore over that deal.
Anyway, dad started to short-circuit. In his twenty-eight years at Fisher, he’d never missed a day. One day, though, he didn’t show up. After a couple more days, with dad nowhere in sight, his boss called me at my mom’s house. Dad always used his office phone to call me, so they had my number. I’d had lunch with dad several times when I was at Michigan State since it was so close to campus, so they knew who I was. Who else would they call?
I had no idea where he was, but I promised to do what I could to find him. Find him I did, though I can’t remember where I found him all these years later. I got him back to work, but he didn’t show up sober. He’d call me from the shop and laugh that he and the guys hid schnapps in the cushion room and would cover for each other as they took naps on the job.
Lovely. Just what I wanted to hear.
Regardless of dad’s previous record at work, Fisher had no intention of keeping someone in the powerhouse who couldn’t keep himself sober. Dad was a fireman, but not the regular kind. Firemen at Fisher loaded and raked coal for the furnaces that made electricity to run the General Motors plants One, Two, and Three. Dad ran a bulldozer, raked coal onto conveyor belts that lifted the coal into the coal rooms. He’d rake the coal into piles, throw the coal into huge furnaces, read the different meters that measured the smoke from smokestacks, and climbed the smokestacks up to the top to capture the steam to analyze. The steam had to be clean water vapor as far back as the ’70s and ’80s. With all those duties, Fisher needed people to not only be sober, they needed them to not be hung-over. Dad stopped making the grade.
I negotiated a deal with Fisher to get dad into rehab. The place was between Lansing and Eaton Rapids. Eaton Rapids is next to Springport, which is next to the Duck Lake area. Dad’s friends from all those areas would not only visit dad, they would stop by his room’s window to drop off get well gifts of six-packs and cigarettes. It’s no wonder he had two more 28-day vacations before Fisher decided to fire him.
When we found out that dad could lose not only his job, but his pension and benefits, my brother and step-dad set out to negotiate an early out that would allow dad to keep everything.
After dad “retired”, his life went downhill fast. He was constantly drunk . He got in trouble with the law. He got in trouble with his family. I had him committed for a time into Kalamazoo State Hospital where he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophenia and chronic alcoholism. He was released after three days as a result of a paperwork mix-up.
My life after his release, at first, turned into a nightmare, because dad was on a tear. He wanted my head, and he made no bones about it. I became a target. I left home. Lived out of my car for a few days, then moved in with my boyfriend and didn’t tell anyone where I lived – not even my family. For two years, I was in virtual hiding from a dad who wanted me dead, because it was my signature he saw on the committal papers. My folks, and from what I heard, my entire neighborhood, had a restraining order out on him.
Life with dad got very interesting. Frustrating, challenging, and interesting. It still is.
I think that’s all for now. Things have happened, and life continues. Let’s see what tomorrow brings us.
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