I caught him in a particularly down day. He was feeling sorry for himself. His spirit was broken. He lost his biggest account with a supermarket.
“Just come in and we could help you, dad. All you have to do is show up.”
“But what about my business? Who will run the store?”
“Dad, you know that Uncle Milt will be more than willing to watch the store while you’re away for a few weeks.”
There was silence. My dad felt lower than any point in his life, even worse than the day my mother walked out on him. His shiny bald head reflected the harsh ceiling light; his blue eyes sparkled with tears. He knew that the bottle was destroying him from the inside out. He also knew that I was giving him an opportunity to get sober.
“I’ll do it,” he said.
“I looked in my schedule book. How about Monday afternoon at four. I’ll call the Good Samaritan Hospital and set up a bed for you. I have all the insurance information I need.”
My dad hugged me. I was rescuing my old man from a life of eternal hell. As he clung to me, I could feel his tears dampen my shoulder.
It was half-past four on Monday. I called my father on the phone, but there was no answer. The nurse soon called from detox. “Where is he?” she asked impatiently.
“I don’t know,” I said like a scared little boy.
“Well, he better get here soon. We can’t hold the bed much longer.”
I knew alcoholics, worked with them for the past several years. They were unpredictable. They make commitments that they never keep. It seemed that I had been fooled. I had hoped that what my dad promised me was true and that he would show up at the hospital and get himself clean.
The phone rang. Expecting that it was him, I quickly answered. No, it was only the mechanic at the dealership saying that my car was repaired and ready to be picked up. A feeling of deja vu came over me as I kept looking out the window for my dad’s silver Ford Bronco to pull into the parking lot.