The first time my dad died, I was five. He was standing at the top of the staircase, proclaiming “the Chinaman kept giving me tequilas.” Then he fell flat on his face. The rest is haze: me in a room reading a Walt Disney activity book with “Kiki”, my Filipina nanny, while my Filipina mother, bawling, called the ambulance, and tall men in uniforms with stripes down their pant legs showed up to save the day.
My father didn’t actually die that night. In the end it was cancer, not directly alcohol-related, that brought him into the black. The years in-between are spotted with memories: him fighting with my mother on a night that she dumped out all of his expensive scotch; me, still a child, waking up to find out that he had driven our TransAm into a ditch. Our big alcoholic-and-son bonding moment was a night in Mexico. My mom took off after Dad refused to not drink x amounts of tequila. He ended up unable to walk, so I helped him back to the hotel room. It was Angela’s Ashes meets Wall Street, with Lionel Richie as the soundtrack. Luckily for all of us, Dad was a gentle drunk; our family didn’t have to deal with the trauma of physical abuse that so often haunts families with alcoholic parents.