It is easy to think that that title is a joke, but I assure you that I am legitimately and wholeheartedly thankful that my dad is sitting in the county jail tonight. He has done nothing to me and in all likelihood he has probably not done anything too terrible to anyone else either. My gratitude is not because some awful man has been taken off the streets, but rather that a frail, unhealthy and stubborn man has a warm room and three square meals a day…plus he can’t get to any alcohol.
Don’t get me wrong, I wish more than anything that he were well enough that jail wasn’t the better alternative, but that just isn’t the case. The worse alternative is living on the fourth floor of a sketchy hotel when he can hardly walk. The worse alternative is having a choice to use the little money he has in his pocket to buy alcohol instead of food. The worse alternative is worrying that he’ll fall down outside and freeze to death overnight.
It is sad and tragic and a reason to be overcome with negative emotions, and I am probably going to have to seek help to figure out why I can’t help but to laugh about how ridiculous all of this still is to me.
I should explain that my dad has battled alcoholism for nearly 30 years. There have been days and weeks and months of sobriety, but for the most part, he has shuffled from VA hospitals, to shady apartments, to park benches, to emergency rooms, to jail cells, to sketchy hotels, to nursing homes and sometimes back to places he has already been. It is unbelievable to me that addiction can be so consuming, but I’ve seen firsthand what alcohol diminishes and what sobriety can reinstate.
My dad was put into guardianship of my uncle when it became apparent that he could not take care of himself. When sobriety cleared his brain, the brilliant lawyer in him realized that he could fight for his rights, and he won. The guardianship was revoked and he was free to live on his own again. It didn’t take long for the alcohol to cloud his judgment enough to land him back into a guardianship, but this time it was that same uncle accompanied by two more of his brothers, and me. The four of us were co-guardians for time enough that he got sober. The sober lawyer took us all to court, and the guardianship was revoked…again. There was a third guardianship put in place by the state, and the poor social worker assigned my dad’s case was not quite prepared for the fight she would have on her hands when he sobered up enough to take her to court and regain his independence, for a third time.
So it is no wonder that no one took on guardianship last year when he was found on death’s door in one of his shady hotel rooms. We all knew what would eventually happen when he got sober again, and we’ve learned the hard way that we can’t win the fight.
So,my brother, along with my uncles (one who is ex-SWAT and has a pulse on the police beat, and the other, a retired surgeon, who has an in with the emergency rooms)and the third brother who was the original guardian, take turns checking in on my dad and encouraging food and better living conditions. That’s all the family has been legally allowed to do. Those of us who live far away from my dad, well, we sit praying that he’ll just get locked up somewhere. At least when he is locked up, we know where he is and we know that he’s safe.
So, if anyone has suggestions about what can be done with an aging alcoholic who tests at genius level when sober and will fight your pants off if you try to help him…I know an entire family who is amazingly still willing to try anything.