I had been warned, and so I had come armed with a sandwich and coffee. My father greeted me at the door and invited me to his kitchen table. After following him upstairs and sitting, I suggested he eat something and have some coffee. He acquiesced and happily noted that I had traveled from California to the east coast to see him. I watched his shaking hands as they groped and grasped at the sandwich, like a child trying to hold a handful of sand. He moved in swaying yet shaky motions, a physical expression of the paradox of binge drinking, not only did his body shake from its withdrawal from far higher levels of alcohol, it also was completely uncoordinated because he was drop dead drunk. He had been drinking for over a week. And despite the seriousness of the situation, I momentarily basked in our reunion, over the kitchen table that had remained unmoved since my childhood. It stood in the same spot on the same unfinished floor, surrounded by the same unfinished walls, in a round house he had built for his family 30 years ago and I had not lived at in over 20 years. That feeling only lasted until I demanded that the vodka be poured out. Soon after that the alcohol started to leave his blood and the shakes took over and neither of us slept for three days.
After my dad returned to what could only be called a grouchy sobriety, I convinced him to return with me to California. After his wife told me that she had to hide his not only his keys, but his clothes, so he wouldn’t go out to get alcohol when she was at work, I realized my role was going to have to much more prison guard than I expected. The hardest part of which was asking my dad for his wallet when I went to work so I wouldn’t have to worry if he would sneak out to buy a drink. So after a few weeks, I was relieved when my brother and sister took my dad to their house to continue his detox.
But after two weeks there he decided to drive home, and he was gone before anyone knew he had started drinking again. He drove to Kansas before he gave up on trying to drive. He sat holed up in a hotel there for a week, until he fell down in the parking lot and couldn’t get up and while the hotel employees did load him on to a luggage carrier to get him to his room, they also called the cops, who then called an ambulance. He sobered up under a doctor’s care, but a couple hours after being discharged he combined his meds with vodka and crashed his car. Luckily no one was hurt in the crash.
I learned the some of these details, as I called hotels, hospitals, and police stations looking for him and learned most of the remaining details when he called me from a limo that he had hired to take him to the impound lot to pick up his clothes and his bottle of vodka.
I spent a long time thinking and talking about why my father drinks. My uncle says he is stuck in his ways. My mom and step mom both say it is not can’t help it. My dad says he simply loves drinking. He is proud that he lives on the land he was born on, so proud he plans on dying there. He enjoys that he drinks like his father drank and proud he remembers his father’s stories. He has chosen this life, and sticks to it with an intense willfulness. A willfulness that I can only gauge by the self-inflected pain he suffers every couple months when he goes cold turkey after a week or weeks of drinking, a withdraw with an intensity similar to the withdraw from heroin.
Even bearing witness to my father at his worst, my effort was worth the pain, for the chance to help, to hope, and at the very least I was able to revisit the circumstances that shaped who I am from a new perspective. I feel lucky to have neither the chemical dependency nor the co-dependence that has run in my family for at least 4 generations and are things which neither my sister nor brother were able to avoid. I feel proud that I was able to achieve financial and social independence, and be the first in my family to go to college. And when I think about how I did it, I think of the paradox of being my father’s son. Not only did he predispose me to dependency, I inherited a strong willfulness that is capable to overcome and achieve the goals I have set. Not that I want to be overly dramatic, but this summer I found a new kinship to the boy named sue whose absent dad asked him to give thanks for the gravel in the gut and the spit in the eye.
This one example of one influence in my life does not explain my desire to become a lawyer, but it does hint at the reason I grew up relying and acting on my own sense of fairness. And I hope you believe me when I say that it developed in to a deep sense and need to act on environmental issues. Now having studied and worked in biological sciences for 6 years and worked for 5 years dealing with the realities of compromise in environmental issues in politics I have more desire to continue to work and struggle for fair functional solutions on environmental issues. Law school represents a critical tool for developing my own understanding of the solutions and history of these issues.
(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
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