Interview with Ohana: “He wasn’t a mean drunk. Mostly, he just passed out.”

I love these stories from people twenty or more years my senior.  I hope they will keep coming. Ohana speaks openly about her father’s drinking problem and how that affected her family.  After losing her father at eighteen, Ohana had many years with her mother before her death.  Read her story below.
What’s your age?  
Are both of your parents living?   
No, both are deceased.  Daddy in 1963 and Mother in 2001.
What was their marital status?  
Married,  45 years.
How many siblings do you have? 
Four. Two brothers and two sisters.
What are some of the ways you spent time with your parents?
When they were alive, we were together every week. After my father passed away, I spent a great deal of time with Mother.  In her last 10 years, she needed a caregiver and then was in the nursing home.  I was very involved in her daily life and visited with her daily in the nursing home.
On a scale of one to ten, how much did you enjoy their company?
Eight for both.  Mother and Daddy had a very good sense of humor and a good connection to family.
Did spending time with them as a unit effect the dynamic of the visit? 
Absolutely. Conversations between my mother and I were different if Pop were in the room.
What are some of the positive aspects of your relationship with them?
The relationship with my mother was that of a friend more often than not.  Pop was definitely a “parent.”  But I was so young, 18, when he passed away; we never had the chance to develop a friendship.
What are some of the negative aspects of your relationship with them?
In Mother’s later years, I was more the adult and she the child.  When I was younger, Mother was so busy raising the five of us, there was little time for in individual relationship.  But, she certainly did the best she could. As for my father, he was an alcoholic, so times were very stressful. We never knew if Pop would come home sober or drunk.  Fortunately, even when he was drunk, he was not an angry or “mean” drunk.  Mostly, he just passed out.
Which is weightier, the positive or negative? 
Oh, the negative. Although I loved my father, I wish even today that he had not been an alcoholic.  It has made me a little over the edge about drinking.  My husband and I didn’t drink at all until our kids became adults.
What are some of the aspects that contributed to a fractured relationship as adults?
Because my father died so young, there was never the chance to develop a full relationship with him.  And, seeing the pain that his addiction caused, my siblings and I each made a heartfelt decision not to have alcohol an issue in our adult lives. Even with all the problems within our family caused by Pop’s drinking, my siblings and I pulled together as a family to see each other through the difficult times.
What do you appreciate most about their parenting? 
Their love for each other.  Even during the bad times (Pop’s binges), there was never any question that they loved each other. Whatever the problems were, they would handle them together.
What do you wish they had done differently? 
Obviously, I wish there had not been the alcohol issue with my father.  Because of his drinking, there was always a money issue.  I can remember Pop spending the last five dollars he and Mother had between them for some “stick-built” outdoor furniture as a gift to her. He thought he was doing something wonderful; she was a little more than pissed!  We ate a lot of rice and beans for the next week.  As far as Mother, I am not sure she could have done anything different. I fully believe she did the very best for us that she could have.
How well do you relate to your siblings? 
I am the youngest of the five.  We are all pretty close, but I have had several of them say that I am the “glue” that holds us together.  I don’t know if that is true. But if it is, not only is it a huge honor, it is also a pretty big weight on my shoulders.  One of my brothers probably would not be on my Facebook friend list if he were not my brother.  Although I love him, I really don’t have anything in common with him and quite frankly, don’t really like him and his family.  Yikes, I can’t believe I actually admitted that to someone.
Do you think they share the same reflections? 
I think the 3 sisters do, my older brother. . . not so much.  My other brother, I couldn’t really say.
Can you share a defining moment with your parents?
A defining moment with my father. . . when I was baptized.  I knew then that he loved me more than anything.  He was there with me and my mother was not.  That really hurt.  But when my husband and girls and I were in a head-on collision, Mother quit her job and moved us in with her so she could take care of us for 3 months.  I knew then that her love was unconditional.  She literally gave up her life to take care of us. I have always felt a great sense of appreciation for her sacrifice.
Has anything happened in recent history with them to change how you felt about them as a child? 
Not so much in recent history, but the chance to answer these questions has certainly made me remember some things in my life .  I do know that I always felt loved and was always taken care of to the best of their ability.

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