My dad’s 83rd birthday was last week. I called to wish him well and make sure he found his FedExed birthday gift at the front door. He hadn’t, so I got to listen to him (well, my mother for him) open it. Because he couldn’t celebrate his birthday at their cabin on Lake Superior this year, I sent a little of Lake Superior to him. On one of my recent trips up there, I had picked up a bona fide Lake Superior rock that an artist had cut and polished, and then painted a lovely little black bear on it. I’d been saving it for the right occasion, and this seemed like it.
My dad, presumably holding the rock, says, “Oh, a Lake Superior rock! That’s neat.”
“Turn it over, dad.”
I hear my brother say, “She gave him a rock?”
“Turn it over, dad,” I say.
My dad, presumably not having turned over the rock, says, “It’s a really nice rock from Canada.”
“Turn the rock over, dad.”
Eventually he puts my mother on the phone.
“Mom, turn the rock over.”
I hear my brother say, “Oh, there’s a bear on it!”
My dad, who now is back on the phone, says, “That’s a neat bear. Your brother wants to talk to you.”
And then my brother is on the phone. I haven’t spoken to him in months. I’ve found it difficult to talk with him knowing he’s drinking again.
He sounds intoxicated.
“Why haven’t you called me? I’ve been through chemo and radiation, and it’s been hell.”
I answer him, “After all that, after being given a second chance, why are you drinking again?”
“Second chance?” he says. “Hell, it’s my third.”
He’s right. He’s beaten mouth cancer twice now, and still he’s drinking. He did quit smoking with the first diagnosis.
“You should give sobriety a try. You might find you’re happier.”
“I tried it for two weeks,” he says. “It wasn’t any fun.”
I’m getting upset with him now. “Great, so you’re going to die like Mike did, and then dad’s going to die of cancer, mom’s going to die of a broken heart, and I’ll be left with our sister. You have to stop drinking.”
“So none of that will happen if I stop drinking?”
“Nope. None of it will happen. So you need to stop. It’s all on your shoulders.”
He laughs. It’s nice to hear.
I wish he could stop drinking. I’m guessing he does, too.