Becoming His Father

When your biggest fear is turning out like your father, a mean, angry drunk, you pray. A lot. You pray very hard because you are always in fear that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Martin’s memories of his father include him (Martin) drying him out (his father), after a night of drinking and debauchery. Placing a bucket next to the bed so he could vomit into. So Martin didn’t have to clean up that mess from the floor and getting him a glass of water and whatever painkillers he could find around the house.

His father was a mean drunk. Martin figures he had always been mean, the alcohol just made it worse. When he was high, no one was safe. For a while his mother bore the brunt of his anger. The emotional abuse, then the physical abuse. Oh how quickly his open palms turned into fists. A slap simply wouldn't  do, not when he had to teach the woman never to question him. He is the man of the house after all. How dare she? Better punch that lesson into her. She’ll remember it better that way. He would blame the alcohol the next day. But Martin knew better. This man both craved and enjoyed violence. Alcohol was just a catalyst. “Dear God, I don’t want to be like him,” he would plead every night.

Martin’s mother wised up one morning. She up and left and never looked back leaving her only son, I guess she hadn’t wised up all that much. Martin stopped resenting her for it a long time ago.  How could he hold it against her, when if she had stayed, she’d have died. At least this way, she was safe, wherever she was he hoped she was safe.

Martin found it odd that even when his father was drunk, he had so much energy. His father punched like maybe he was a boxer in another life. One night, Martin found out how strong a drunk man could be when he had to spend the night at a nearby clinic having passed out from a punch.

But Martin grew up. He got stronger too and he realized he could fight. He was a man too. And when another man raises a hand to you, you defend yourself, regardless of the fact that he is your father. Screw honoring your parents. You can only be a punching bag for so long. He told his father that the next time he laid a hand on him, he’d better finish him off, because he was done.

His father didn’t listen. Martin defended himself and as his father lay bloody on the floor, face punched in, he could only think about how he had never wanted to be like him. Martin walked into the kitchen, pulled up a chair and took a swig from a bottle of gin.

As the twig is bent, so grows the tree and all that.

This article was first published in


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