No family can escape the reality of addiction. Yet, we all act embarrassed and struggle with shame when the truth is uncovered. Even today, with so much attention paid to addictions and the attempt to normalize it, it still remains the scarlet "A" of a family's identity.
Take a moment and think of the number of people that you know who either struggle with an addiction or have family members who do. Talk to your parents or grandparents and see how far back the history goes. If you pay attention, you will find it everywhere.
My mother's dad was an alcoholic in a small southern town. This was back in the 40's and 50's when the church was the center of social life for the majority of people. Forty some odd years later, she reflected upon that time in her life and her family's life. She captures the complexities and ambiguities in this poem written in 1985. I was visiting my parents and sister a month ago and my mom read this poem to me. She said that I could share it with you. Enjoy, ponder, weep, and be sobered as you wrestle with your own "addictions." Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy.
My mom knew the cadence
of my daddy’s hammering.
The ring of the hammer against steel
broke the hush of the summer day
and echoed over the valley
behind the Mills house,
down Church Street,
and up to the high porch
of the old Minkovitz duplex
where we lived on one side,
the Slappeys on the other.
“That’s Arrie hammering,”
she would say.
Anne Ria and I, sitting cross-legged
on the porch playing with paper dolls,
would stop and listen.
Later when I’d hear the sound,
“That’s my daddy hammering.”
That was before I became ashamed
he was my father.
Even now I recall that time,
hear the shrill peal of metal on metal,
see my dad striking the red hot tool on the anvil,
shaping, molding it expertly
as he was somehow unable to do with his own life,
sending a clear bell-like message across the town
while his voice was silent.
What hurt, what loss, what fears
was he trying to assuage with the pounding?
I didn’t always wonder.
Copyright © 2015 Timothy S. Lane
If you or someone you know struggles with an addiction, here are a few helpful resources.