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Sep 01 2013

That kid was so lucky

This webcomic was just too sad, and it reminded me of my childhood a little bit. Only it wasn’t my father, but my grandfather. And he’d drive me over to the Eagles Club and tell me to wait there or play on the sidewalk while he had a few drinks.

But he never gave me a couple of dollars to get some pop while I waited. That kid was so lucky.

41 comments

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  1. 1
    george gonzalez

    Hmm, yeah, a few years back I saw a guy passed out in his pickup truck, at a park, and some young kids unattended nearby. Called that situation in and yep, it was grandpa, passed out drunk. While my parents were bizarre, they didn’t do this particular shenanigan.

  2. 2
    CaitieCat, getaway driver

    What an amazing use of the comic form. Thanks for that.

  3. 3
    Randomfactor

    My brother and I never got the money for sodas either, or so I recall.

    Lots of time in that parking lot, though…hours, and hours, and hours.

  4. 4
    DLC

    I didn’t play footie, and wasn’t allowed out after dark, and if I drank fizzy drink it was cola flavored and relegated to special occasions. Yet still, Dad’s bartender saw more of him than I did, and my mum came to more baseball games than he ever did. I could go on, but I’m not going to. I’ll just say that being left in the car in the cold would have been preferable.

  5. 5
    hellboundallee

    My folks left us alone for hours every Wednesday and Sunday. We were very young, but that kind of thing was not unheard of.

    They were at church choir practice and at church.

    It might as well have been a bar.

  6. 6
    Olav

    Boom. That was a bit too much for me.

  7. 7
    julial

    Makes me feel lots more lucky not to have been so treated.
    My Dad was just really so much cooler and I’m so much sadder he’s gone.

  8. 8
    Owlmirror

    And in contrast to the ending, there’s this:

    http://zenpencils.com/comic/128-bill-watterson-a-cartoonists-advice/

  9. 9
    Jackie

    A family member of mine recalled to me the times his mother would send him into the bar on pay day to stop his dad from drinking his pay check. He decided to never be so irresponsible as an adult and to his credit, he never was.

  10. 10
    ekwhite

    Oh my god that was so sad. This did not happen to me, but I saw it happen to my cousins. My uncle Grover died when he passed out with a lit cigarette in his mouth. His story was similar to that of the father in that story. I can still remember seeing Uncle Grover go through the DT’s as a child. It was the scariest thing I had ever seen. I was about ten at the time.

  11. 11
    unclefrogy

    thanks for posting that
    I have read other “comix” with similar autobiographic themes like them all.if interested try looking up John Callahan or Peter Blegvad (http://www.leviathan.co.uk/menu.html)

    uncle frogy

  12. 12
    elly

    My father managed to combine parenting and spending hours with his drinking buddies. The bar he hung out at was part of a private golf course/country club, and he was a well-known/liked member – so my presence was never challenged. My boredom was assuaged by a) money (I was in for 10% of whatever Dad won playing dice) and b) the Shirley Temples he and his buddies treated me to. I would often come home with $20+ jingling in my pockets (I got my percentage up front when he won, and never had to disgorge when he lost, so as bribes go, this was pretty satisfactory).

    In retrospect, I’m amazed that I survived my childhood without serious injuries. While dad didn’t get falling-down drunk during these weekly bouts (he saved this for home, most of the time), he got pretty merry – and it was a good 40 minute drive home. And it was the 1960′s – a “seatbelt optional” time. Yet, despite 3 DUI arrests, he was never in so much as a fender-bender. As a kid, it never even occurred to me that he was putting both of our lives (not to mention, the lives of others) at serious risk. I shudder when I think about it now.

  13. 13
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    And it was the 1960′s – a “seatbelt optional” time. Yet, despite 3 DUI arrests, he was never in so much as a fender-bender. As a kid, it never even occurred to me that he was putting both of our lives (not to mention, the lives of others) at serious risk. I shudder when I think about it now.

    Yeah, my granddad (and his younger brother, who was in the passenger seat), and great granddad weren’t so lucky; this is a large part of why I’ve never seen my dad have more than 2-3 beers at a time, and not if he’s going to be going anywhere.

  14. 14
    sbuh

    I consider myself extremely lucky that I can’t really relate to this. I can’t recall anyone in my family drinking when I was growing up. Actually I remember my grandmother gave me a lot of flack when I turned 21 because she said the reason my grandfather didn’t drink was that there was a history of alcoholism in his family, and she was worried for me if I started drinking.

  15. 15
    tashaturner

    I spent many a time in bar/pub/restaurants closing them down with dear old dad. He was a great con man so I’m pretty sure i got “fed and watered”. Because the place served food or we knew the owners us kids were allowed in. I never went anywhere without a book so it wasn’t too bad. I didn’t mind talking to strangers either about the fascinating lives they led before they turned to drinking. I drove for the 1st time at 12 (I think) in a snowstorm on a highway because dad decided I was big enough to do so & it might be safer for me to drive than him. Oh those were the good ‘ole days.

  16. 16
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    With all the things this week, this is the one that made me cry ’cause it hits home.

  17. 17
    Inaji

    Giliell:

    With all the things this week, this is the one that made me cry ’cause it hits home.

    This is the one thing I managed to escape as a child, this wasn’t an issue. I did have one great grandmother who seriously liked to drink, but she didn’t drive and did all her drinking at home. I am so sorry for everyone who did have to deal with this.

  18. 18
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Caine
    My mum used to drink at home, but the “promises of fun times together that never come”, the betrayal of trust, and the wasting away of a human being, that’s oh so familiar. I don’t know thw end of our comic yet, but it’s a very sad one, with lots of anger and pain.

  19. 19
    carlie

    I am so sorry for everyone who did have to deal with this.

    Me too. My grandfather was an alcoholic, but by the time I came along he was a mellow one. All I knew was that he always had a glass of beer around and he spent a lot of time down at the club, and that was more for socialization than for drinking. My mom is pretty tight-lipped about it, but the couple of comments she’s let slip indicate that in his earlier days, he was much more volatile and had a mean streak when drunk.

  20. 20
    Inaji

    Giliell:

    My mum used to drink at home, but the “promises of fun times together that never come”, the betrayal of trust, and the wasting away of a human being, that’s oh so familiar. I don’t know thw end of our comic yet, but it’s a very sad one, with lots of anger and pain.

    Yeah, and you had no choice when it came to coping with it all (and not enough choices now). I did, because my great-grandmother who drank lived across the street in her own house, so it wasn’t like I (or anyone else) had to deal with her if they didn’t want to.

  21. 21
    PZ Myers

    These stories can have a happy ending. My father was an alcoholic when I was very young — I’m still traumatized by the Christmas when he was picked up for DUI while we were heading home from Grandma’s and he spent Christmas in jail, and then there was the time my mother got fed up with him, separated, and threatened divorce. The whole family was going down the tubes over it.

    And he woke up, gave up drinking, reconciled with my mother, and I never saw him get even a little bit tipsy. And we all lived happily ever after.

  22. 22
    Inaji

    PZ:

    And he woke up, gave up drinking, reconciled with my mother, and I never saw him get even a little bit tipsy. And we all lived happily ever after.

    That’s nice. Really nice. We all need reminders that there is good, too, even in the middle of so much pain.

  23. 23
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    PZ
    I’m glad your story had a happy ending. I have little hope in our case. Sadly the alcohol washed away the nice parts of the person and only left the asshole ones, even when dry. Not to forget that she’s on the liver-transplant list…

    Caine
    No, there was little way out. And the hardest part was to admit to ourselves that oh fucking yes, she’s an alcoholic. Retrospectively we were like a child who’s trying to do a jigsaw puzzle: We had all the pieces, but we consistently managed not the get them together.

  24. 24
    Randomfactor

    Cue Claudia Black’s book title, “It’ll Never Happen To Me.” And it didn’t, not really.

    But I did go on to marry an alcoholic. Guess it was just familiar.

  25. 25
    David C Brayton

    I wouldn’t call the author “so lucky” because he got a soda whereas you didn’t. It is just not a word that is applicable to this situation. It seems like you are mocking him. (“I lived happily ever after. Too bad you didn’t.”)

    He, like most children of alcoholics, would probably have gladly foregone the soda for a parent that was more interested in parenting than drinking.

    I’m pretty sure you didn’t intend the meaning I took from your message. But that is the way I read it.

  26. 26
    carlie

    David – I’d say that wasn’t the intended meaning at all. It had nothing to do with happily ever after – it’s commiseration with the author of the comic, and a little dark humor.

  27. 27
    Inaji

    David:

    It seems like you are mocking him.

    It isn’t mockery. It’s empathy.

  28. 28
    greg hilliard

    PZ, how old were you when that happened?
    My dad would stop in at Nin Bruno’s with me and my younger brother when I was young. We would get an orange soda and chips while Dad sat at the bar for a beer or two. The one time he ticked me off by this was when I slipped at work at age 16 and cut my thigh. He came to get me for the trip to the hospital for stitches and a tetanus shot, but I waited in the car first while he had a couple of beers at the bar next door.

  29. 29
    Inaji

    Greg Hilliard:

    The one time he ticked me off by this was when I slipped at work at age 16 and cut my thigh. He came to get me for the trip to the hospital for stitches and a tetanus shot, but I waited in the car first while he had a couple of beers at the bar next door.

    Holy shit, that’s awful.

  30. 30
    David C Brayton

    @carlie #26. I don’t think PZ meant it as mockery.

    But PZ wrote “That kid was so lucky.” The reader would assume that statement is a comparison to PZ’s childhood.

    Then PZ comments that he woke up one day and all the bad stuff just (magically?) stopped “And we all lived happily ever after.” I realize that PZ is trying to say that sometimes it works out. But it can easily be read as: “Yeah for me! For you, too bad, so sad.”

    I’m pretty sure that PZ is trying to bring a bit of levity to the matter. But conveying sarcasm via the printed word is really hard to do because it often relies on tone and body language.

    Given that the comic’s author was conveying sad feelings, it would have been best dealt with without obscured meaning. On the other hand, no one should post anything on the internet unless that can handle incredibly rude, vile feedback. (Not that PZ’s comment is; but the internet can be vicious.)

  31. 31
    tiberiusbeauregard

    Actually, the kid was pretty lucky, considering that drunk folks often engage in other bad behaviour as well. Having been on the receiving end of that, it’s not melancholia that overcomes me when I think back, but the memory of liberation when my steady contributions to the old man’s early demise came to fruition. What a good day that was.

  32. 32
    Hank_Says

    Beautiful and sad. And so Aussie it made me flamin’ homesick – and I haven’t even left yet.

  33. 33
    pacal

    Me and my sisters were lucky. It would never have occured to my parents to leave us alone while young to go drinking.

  34. 34
    anthonyrosa

    My dad never did anything like that… because I spent most of my time with my mom instead. My dad probably would have, if he was forced to stay around me and thought he could get away with it. But he cared too strongly about me. It was almost petty, how much he loved me.

    No. When he was drunk, he just beat my mom.

  35. 35
    anthonyrosa

    *But no, I don’t think so, on second thought. He cared too strongly about me.

  36. 36
    Muz

    A great little story of someone who is a pretty seriously depressed alcoholic (and his son of course). But in a way its easier when the downward spiral is so obvious. I worry more sometimes about the more high functioning kind who seem to be able to “cope” and just go on and on and on.

    Maybe its a perspective thing. Alcohol is pretty vital to all of Western civilisation. But it’s the lifeblood of Australian culture (and you are the worst person in the world for pointing this out). I see a sad tale of a bit of disaster area like this and I think of the probably millions, male and female, who are more or less the same but can say “Well, I’m not that bad. I just like a drink with me mates. (every single chance I get. And no Mates and no Drink. Always together) Simple pleasures” etc etc

  37. 37
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Muz

    I worry more sometimes about the more high functioning kind who seem to be able to “cope” and just go on and on and on.

    My mum was one of them. Which didn’t only make it easier for her to pretend that everything was under control but for us as well.
    My mum and I were champions of preparing parties together. We would prepare salads, make cakes, 3 dozen kinds of snacks until there was a buffet that would usually have fed twice the amount of people. And we would start in the morning and my mum would start with a beer. And go on with a beer. And around noon she would say that her stomach is upset from all the tasting and drink a schnaps. And so on, and so on. And I would even remark on it. I would say that I think she drinks too much. I would say that I don’t think that starting the day with a beer as if it were a coffee was a good idea.
    And when the party came my mum would be sick. She wasn’t feeling well. She had overworked herself.
    And it was connect the dots with only two dots and I wouldn’t do it. I would feel sorry for her, she had worked so hard for the party and now she had caught a belly bug or something and couldn’t come. And even when everybody became annoyed by the fact that she would always be sick at the evening of a party, we didn’t draw the simple conclusion that she was just drunk.
    Because alcoholics were sad homeless people who begged for change. Alcoholics were unemployed and dirty and men and not an educated middle-class woman with an expensive hairstyle and a good job.

    Maybe its a perspective thing. Alcohol is pretty vital to all of Western civilisation. But it’s the lifeblood of Australian culture (and you are the worst person in the world for pointing this out).

    I’m German and we usually pride ourselves of being the country of beer. But I grew up with a very dysfunctional perspective on alcohol. This was dysfunctional long before my mum tumbled down into alcoholism. I grew up thinking that alcohol is what adults drink. Not something adults can drink. Not something adults occasionally drink. Beer was what my parents had for supper.

    Greg Hillard
    Shit that’s bad.

  38. 38
    =8)-DX

    I have a kind of odd mix of feelings here: I’ve never experienced alcoholic parents, while being both prone to alcohol consumption and a parent. As for my home life – it never occured to me to care what my Dad was doing.. I had three brothers and friends from school, freedom to explore the neighbourhood, a shared computer and LEGO. I was perfectly able to be completely bored on my own without needing my Dad to have anything to do with it and there were always books. The only remotely similar experience I have with my parents was church – unending boredom there.

    On the other hand – I see absolutely no problem with taking my kid to the pub/restaurants here – during the day – many have outside seating in summer and I can enjoy a beer while my daughter has her soft drink or ice-cream and plays on the playground. Yeah – I need to be careful not to be that Dad from the comic, but then I find inventing dice-based games with LEGOs and watching Disney or Japanese anime with my daughter too much fun to miss. Exchange MLP FiM for beer and my mates? NEVER!

  39. 39
    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened

    Damn. That’s just… wow.

    Stories like that, and a few in the comments, make me realise how lucky I am. Both my parents are “drinkers”, but are responsible with it, and me and my sister both seem to have picked that up from them.

  40. 40
    Alyosha

    It’s great and kind of sad, I suppose to see a kind of community of Australians emerging in appreciation of this comic. I don’t have an awful story to relate here, only that I hail from a lineage of Irish drunks who have performed the whole functioning-alcoholic act.
    My only ironic experience of alcoholism apart from my parents’ own (well they had to put up with each other!) is my own. I grew up in the tradition but tried to resist it.
    I failed but I don’t feel terrible about it. I have developed early alcoholism and am glad of receiving from my parents the self-awareness to realise my incipient (I still mislike the term) disease (but others use it so I don’t really want to risk minimising the issue here).
    I agree that PZ wasn’t trying to make it as if to seem he was unduly lucky or unlucky in life to receive or not receive the wherewithal to purchase a fizzy drink.
    All I know is that I was luckier myself than he was, and many millions of people are in having had the experience I had and not another.
    All we can do is help and understand each other.

  41. 41
    CaitieCat, getaway driver

    My mother’s second husband. Firefighter. Used to take my sister and I up to the Firefighters’ Club north of Steeles (in Toronto), and let us hang out all afternoon and early evening, swimming, watching stuff on giant TV screens, playing racquetball or squash, using weight machines…whatever.

    And then Mum would come and pick us all up, and they’d both be quiet for a while until after we got home, and then they’d go to another room and fight about it.

    (Content: domestic violence, abuse of child, somewhat graphic; there’s another note at the end of the bad section)

    It all stopped when they came home from a party one night, I was up late, heard them come in and her saying that it was really dangerous, and she should have driven. I was 13, maybe 4’6″ (late bloomer). When she came running up the stairs saying “Don’t!”, I charged out of my bedroom, met him at the top of the stairs, and told him to leave my mum alone!

    So he tossed me down the stairs. I’d been taking boxing lessons, so I’d no trouble to roll with it and got mostly bruised, but…it was enough for my mother. I remember lying at the bottom of the stairs and thinking, yeah, he really did it this time, he hit me when she’s here, now we’re out. And while I was thinking it, noticing a blood spatter on the wall of the front hallway, and a second one with my Mum’s handprint on it.

    (end content note about graphic stuff)

    We left that night, went to a shelter for the night, then slipped into a web of my mother’s friends, crashing successive nights at different places to stay ahead of him.

    Eventually they reconciled, and I left for the army a few years later, at 18, and counted myself glad to be out.

    To his credit, he’s never drunk a drop since, an obnoxious zealot of conversion. We had hoped that when he stopped drinking, he’d stop being such a drunken asshole. And he did.

    He stopped being drunk.

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