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.