Yes—the title is straight forward. But I want you, the reader, to know what you’re getting yourself into. This is not like my past posts: it is not a philosophical look at the word “meaning,” it is not musings on the amateur botany of Henry David Thoreau, nor is it an anecdote on my volunteer experience. No, but it does offer a lesson, one that fits neatly into the aim of this blog, and one for which it is worth continuing to read the post.
Still here? Good. My father was a savage alcoholic. It was commonplace for him to drink a half of a handle of hard alcohol a day. But he was extremely successful (in the sense that he made very good money as a real estate investor) he was responsible, and an overall fantastic father, notwithstanding his addiction.
He functioned this way for a while. I mean, basically functioned—I do remember him stumbling home drunk, falling down and taking railings with him; I remember alcohol being the topic of many fights. But he was OK.
Eventually, he decided to quit, cold turkey. And he followed through, not drinking for two years. Unfortunately, this did not salvage my parents’ relationship and they split. My father lost everything, all that he’d ever worked for—the cars, the clothes, the jewelry, the money; everything. As you’d imagine, he went back to the bottle, but with greater fervor than ever. I would often hear him complain, “I’m a loser. I have nothing. I live in a fucking in-law apartment. I used to have it all.” This period of heavy drinking and self-loathing went on for some time. He teetered in and out of periods of being suicidal. He was not OK.
I was in second period when I got the call. I was finishing up a design in my graphics class. “Your father is in a coma,” they said. There is no secret here. The title revealed all. He never came out. The cause? A potassium deficiency, the result of not eating and excessive drinking. This story is bleak, yes—but it is life, the reality for me and many others. But his death need not be in vain.
Here is the moral:
I firmly, with all of my heart, believe that my father would not have died if it had not been his attachment to the material—he found all of his fulfillment, all of his meaning, all of his self-worth in his things. He was a fundamentally materialistic person, a product of his little-league coaches, his teachers, his parents, who told him that he’d be nothing, that he’d forever be a loser after he’d dropped out of high school. This is something that he’d always echo to me, and he’d rebuttal with, “I’m a loser? Look at the house I live in. Look at me now.” When he lost it all, he lost a part of himself.
One thing we can answer fully with this story, one thing we never need to address again in our search for meaning, is whether or not we should find our meaning, our why-we’re-here, our purpose, in money. My father is a testament to that.