Monday, April 13, 2009

My father's friend Jimmy

Jimmy was a good friend of my dad's. He was his main fishing buddy. And he was a relapsing alcoholic.

Jimmy worked as a butcher in the local A & P. He would chop up meat into various cuts on the well worn butcher's block while standing on a saw dust floor.

He was from a community of watermen who lived near New Point Light in Virginia. And he had retained the accent of the watermen. He talked fast and laughed a lot. Jimmy had a number of funny sayings. If he got a big fish on the line and landed it, he would say "Whew, boy, that made me nervous as a whore in church." And if someone was especially talkative, he would say, "That ole fella could talk the legs off an iron pot."

Jimmy would wear an old plaid shirt with a tie when he fished. He would also wear hip boots with the tops turned down, in the style of the Virginia waterman. And he topped it all off with an old brown fedora. He and my father were gentlemanly rakish in their appearance, I thought.

My father cared about his friend. But he was also serious about fishing. A couple of times my dad would come back home after he had gone to pick up Jimmy. Jimmy would be drunk early in the morning and that was something that my father didn't want to deal with. He would go visit Jimmy after he got out of being "dried out". He would have hopes that Jimmy would kick the sauce and be okay.

Instead, Jimmy would be sober for a while and things would go well, but eventually, he would go back to drinking again. He was still drinking when he died. His wife stuck with him for the duration, although at what a cost to her I now wonder.

I also wonder whether my father was in denial about his own drinking. Maybe he thought that because he never lost a job, missed work, or went to detox that he didn't have a problem. For some reason, thinking about Jimmy, his quick humor and smiling eyes, makes me sad.


  1. Wow...this post gives me chills. I see both types in our AA mtgs. and it never fails to make me extremely grateful for the quality of my sobriety. I can't imagine how my husband stayed faithful to me for 32 years !!
    By the way, thanks for the tip about the planetarium in Chapel Hill. Faye's parents took her there when she was too young and it scared her. I will have to remind them to do it now and know that she will love it. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. the quick smile sometimes hides a helluva lot. my father's did...

    and you're right. michael... i sent him a message earlier, i hope he responds.

  3. Many (most?) of us alcoholics die with our true potential intact.

    A prayer for Jimmy and your dad...

    Thanx for the post...

  4. This story is so prevalent in my life. No one has been 'diagnosed' with alcoholism but it is rampant. The people I am referring to have never lost jobs - have pretty good jobs in fact, don't miss work because of hangovers, but alcohol is central to everything they do outside of work. I've become very unpopular recently because I have taken myself and my son out of some situations.

    I nominated you for a lemonade award because your blog inspires me. I know that my blog is not the type you list on yours and I am perfectly okay with that. Thanks for sharing your thoughts - it's brave and it helps people!

  5. So moving Syd -- I have lived for years around watermen, fishing and messing with boats and going out on commercial trawlers, doing oceanology research or working in docks.

    And denial is always complex and heartbreaking.

    xxMary LA

  6. That brought back memories.

    I remember visiting my Dad when he worked in the A&P in a blue collared mill town many, many years ago. The sawdust on the floor, the smell of fresh foods, nothing much was frozen back then.

    They found Dad's lung cancer (smoking?), when doing xrays for heart stuff (drinking?)...he also never lost a job, missed work or went to detox.

  7. We each make a connection with whoever we meet. Sometimes the reason for that connection is evident right away. Other times it can be years before we realise what we were witness too and how profound an effect it had on our life.

  8. Syd the story of Jimmy hits home and reminds me of so many people here in the South. Heck I suppose it scares me because it makes me think of me. Great post!

  9. thanks for this post Syd, like many other comments i too am taken aback, my daddy drank too, so did "Uncle Bobby". This was such a similar situation that it feels like a "God thing" to read.

  10. A community of watermen..I like these phrases. They evoke a real feeling of the South.

  11. Great story Syd! I love the fact that you question the effects on the wife! It reinforces the "family disease" aspect of this addiction! I had NO idea how flippin' sick I was until Al-Anon! I am sooo grateful for this program and the changes in my life! Blessings Dear Man! Lisa

  12. I come from a family of individuals who believe that they don't have problem simply because they get up and go to work each day. It never occurs to them that the quality of their life is being compromised with every drink that they take, regardless of their employment history.

    This is truly the "cunning, baffling, and powerful" that the program talks about. The insidiousness of this disease is undeniable. It will come up and smack you in the face when you least expect it (and those around us, too.)

    Thank you for sharing this.

  13. Syd...there's an award for you at my blog! Thanks for the HOPE you provide to all of us in recovery! You are one special soul! Hugs, Lisa

  14. There will always be Jimmys. And usually they will be passed over. No one wants to associate themselves with loss and pain. I hope Jimmy learned what he needed in this lifetime, and that his next gives him some relief.

  15. There are so many like this. You see them checking out late at the store with a bottle of vodka. When you finally find the freedom that recovery brings, it breaks your heart to see those that aren't ready or willing to give it up.

  16. Wow, what a post.....I will be back to read more of your blog.

    Hope you will stop by and visit me. I have a great give away for the month of April......

  17. Yes, my father who never went for help with his alcoholism died after being shot five times by his fourth wife. It was heartbreaking. My husband's father is an alcoholic that also never sought help. He is in his late 70's. He's lost everything and most of those who loved him. I am so grateful for AA and those that have the courage to begin the journey of recovery!


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