I had my first taste of hard liquor when I was a toddler. I will wait for you to pick up your jaw off the floor now. Let me explain. My father believed that if you denied a child something, they would only want it more, so by giving them something freely that would keep it from being a mystery. In this way he could control our exposure and “they won’t burn the barn down”. Mother did not feel the same way. It wasn’t something they argued over at all. It simply was something about which they agreed to disagree. When my mother wasn’t looking, however, he would sneak me a sip of his whiskey or beer and it was a secret between us. So much for not making it something considered “off limits”. His theory, at least for me, worked. Invariably I’d scrunch up my nose at the awful tasting concoctions and wonder what anybody ever saw in it.
My grandmother, my mother’s mother, when she visited us, would sit with a coffee cup constantly before her and a bottle of whiskey in her purse at her feet. Nobody was ever asked to pour her another cup of coffee after the first one of the day. I don’t know who she thought she was fooling because by the time I was four or five I clearly understood that she spent the entire day drinking. After dinner, she and my step-grandfather, Herman, would sit and listen to the radio, she with her coffee and he with his shot and a beer. He would tell me all about his experiences in the wars, call me Patrick and consistently ramble on about the wonders of reversible belts. Weren’t they just a marvel of the modern world? Of course, Herman was more than half in the bag by that time of the evening and eventually the two of them would hobble off to bed in a near drunken stupor.
I didn’t see what they saw in the thrill or what anybody else saw in it either. Did it make them forget their woes? No. Did they have a great time while they were drinking? No. It didn’t taste good and it did nothing for them. I decided then and there it wasn’t for me. It seemed a terrible waste of time and money. My view on drinking hasn’t changed since. If it’s your thing, well, good for you. I won’t deny you your fill, but it’s just not for me. It’s done more to ruin people’s lives than it’s ever improved anyone’s, from what I can see. Within limits, I don’t see anything wrong with it. It impairs your senses for a small period of time and that’s it. When it’s over, you’re back to reality with a hangover. It’s stupid to attempt to operate machinery while within its affects. That’s just downright criminal.
I feel the same way about drugs. Again, I’ve seen them ruin more people’s lives than I can count. They’re a waste of time and money. Why would you want to block out your senses? That’s the only way we experience this one and only life we get. Why maim your efforts to see, touch and feel this world with something that’s fake and fleeting? You’ll only need more and more of it to keep up the farce. Eventually, it will come tumbling down around you and then you’ll be forced to see, touch and feel things anyway. Who are you hiding from but yourself? Isn’t it pretty stupid to attempt to hide from yourself? You’ll always be lurking, so you might as well face up to the world with all six senses burning strong and deal with today.
Maybe my father’s theory worked better than he thought, at least for me. It’s something to consider if you’re a parent. Then again, like most things in life, what’s true for one person isn’t always true for the next.