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Hide the Booze

Updated: Nov 19, 2021

This past holiday weekend, my parents and I moved in together. More on that later, as many forthcoming posts will address this living arrangement.

For now, I just have to share the weirdest part of the experience so far. At age 52, I suddenly feel like a teenager again, but not at all for the reasons you might think.

I'm a drinker. Every evening after work I have a cocktail, or maybe a glass of wine with dinner, or maybe a cold beer on a hot summer evening on the patio. Whatever the poison, I partake in it, joyfully, unabashedly, adventurously, even, infusing various liquors and making new mixers from garden herbs.

But suddenly living with my parents has changed all this.

My father is a drinker too, though his history is different from mine. His father was an apostolic preacher, or as I like to describe it: speaking in tongues, no snakes. Of the many things this religion disavowed, alcohol was one of them. My father abandoned those rules at a young age, and he and his siblings were pretty rowdy. After all, they don't call them PKs for their piety, right?

He started dating my mother at age 15. Her mother was remarried after divorcing her biological father, who was an abusive alcoholic. Her childhood trauma made her against alcohol in every form. Some of my early childhood memories are when my dad would get rowdy with his brothers. She'd drive home from whatever family outing resulted in his inebriation and either wouldn't speak to him for a few days or would tell him, "I didn't marry a drunk!"

My dad adores my mother, so as a young married couple, he really did abstain (mostly). But as their children got older and abandoned their parental ways too, my dad got more liberal and open with his drinking habits, having a beer whenever he felt like it, sharing a bottle of wine with dinner, and my favorite: taking a bike ride to our favorite pub, sharing a pitcher of beer, and riding home.

As my dad's dementia has progressed, the more recent memories have left him entirely while older memories are fresh. So while he probably doesn't remember our bike rides or what he had for breakfast, he does indeed remember that his wife doesn't like him to drink.

But that's exactly how it gets complicated. He knows to hide that he's drinking from his wife, but he has no idea how many drinks he's had, since his short-term memory is shot. He tries to hide that he's drinking by stealing from any stash I have in the refrigerator, the wine rack, or the liquor stash. In just one evening, the new bottle of rye I had bought was one-third gone. Over the weekend, the twelve pack of beer I had bought was down to a singe can in the fridge. And the case of wine I had just moved from one house to another was now just 10 bottles.

His "secret" drinking wouldn't be so bad if it didn't change his behavior, make him more emotional, worsen his memory, and impair his movement. But it does all of those things while at the same time upsetting my mother, who doesn't like that her husband is a drinker, particularly a closeted one. If she asks him whether he's been drinking, the answer is always no, or "I had one beer," or something defensive that deflects her question.

While I haven't had a secret drinking habit since high school, this grown-ass woman now has to hide her daily happy hour from the parents. My mother has already once confiscated my bottle opener (!!!). I've also ordered a black mini-fridge to dress up like a cabinet for my bedroom, and one built-in cabinet is storing wine.

The other day my son came home to help me finish moving from the old house. We were going through each bottle in the liquor cabinet, deciding what to do with them -- give to him (any doubles or close-to-empties), trash (anything that tasted like campfire or licorice), or bring to the new house.

While we were sorting the stash, my parents suddenly walked in to the old house unannounced to give me some keys. My son and I stood frozen in the kitchen like we'd been busted getting into the liquor cabinet by our parents, and then quickly tried to hide what we were doing.

I was telling my mother later that evening over our secret glasses of wine that it felt so weird feeling like a teenager again. She thought it was my karmic punishment for my early years, and I didn't have a good counter argument. Punishment accepted.

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