I hate alcohol, but it never made me stop loving my dad

This First Person piece is by Andrea Landry, an Indigenous rights defender and freelance writer who lives on Poundmaker Cree Nation in Saskatchewan. For more information about CBC’s First Person stories, please see the FAQ.


My dad did the best he could in life. 

He did the best he could in my childhood. As we grew, he did the best he could in our teen and adult years. 

And sometimes, he struggled.

He was the type of dad who would load us up in the car when my mom’s rage got the best of her. He would take us to the beach to look for fish. The winding roads distracted us from the anger back home. He filled that car with love to override my mother’s rage.

He was a hard-working, quiet man. I think he carried a lot more than we ever knew, like many fathers.

And sometimes, he struggled. 

He was the type of dad who would follow me quietly on his bike as I went for long runs on the Trans-Canada Highway in my early 20s. “Too many bad things happen to women,” he would tell me, following from a distance. He knew how to make me feel safe.

He was the type who would buy food for someone who needed it, even if it meant he had no money left for himself.

And sometimes, he struggled.

Andre Landry holds a piece of an engine while wearing his military uniform. Andre was an aircraft mechanic until he retired from the military at 40. (Submitted by Andrea Landry)

His vice was alcohol.

He was sober for 20 years between my childhood and adult years. Then life happened.

Over the last few years, he would openly admit to me that he was drinking again and he was struggling. He would admit to having drinks before bed. And I would listen.

His honesty was heartbreaking, but it was beautiful.

He knew my stance on alcohol. He knew that I did not allow it in my life or my children’s lives because of the issues it caused in my childhood.

Even knowing that, he was still honest with me. Because he loved me.

Gratitude

When the struggle ceased, and he made amends with the chaos in his life, he told me his life plans. 

He wanted to move closer to me to watch his grand-babies grow up. He wanted to watch all of his grandchildren grow up. He wanted to be my handyman. He wanted to be close so that we would always have each other. 

“I’ll take care of you when you’re old and grey,” I told him on the phone. 

“I know,” he would laugh. 

We made countless plans for things we would do together. Life’s adventures. Then he hit another life bump. 

“I had a few drinks this weekend and life isn’t going well,” he would tell me. I heard the lingering shame in his tone. He sniffled. 

I took a deep breath and responded, “I love you, anyways.” 

He was silent for a few moments as he took in my words, then said, “I know. I can always count on you.”

He expressed more joy in the last few months of his life. He laughed a lot and shared more gratitude for the small, simple moments. He told me about new friends and how he was reviving relationships with his sister and the rest of his family. He told me how much he loved the people in his life, how much they helped him and meant to him. He told me he was hardly drinking anymore.

He was no longer telling me about the drinks he had. He was enjoying life.

Andrea Landry’s parents were photographed when they were young adults. Both parents have since died. (Submitted by Andrea Landry)

During one evening phone call, he paused in the middle of his updates.

“If there is anything you need to tell me that you’re still upset about from your childhood, you can tell me,” he said.

“I know,” I replied.

I think he worried that I was holding onto old wounds. But my old wounds would never override the love I had for him. 

As we spoke, I was outside with my daughter River-Jaxsen. We were looking for bugs. 

“I remember you girls doing that when you were small,” he reminisced. 

“I remember that too.” I smiled.

“I want you to know I love you so much. I love you so much,” he said. I remember so clearly that he said it twice. He usually only said it once. “You have a great evening. I’m going to eat my pizza and watch a movie tonight.”

Those were his last words. I was grateful he was happy and content.

Andre Landry stands outside in a jacket and hat. This photo was taken three weeks before he died. (Submitted by Andrea Landry)

Sometime that night, my dad had a freak accident on a staircase. He didn’t survive the fall. He was only 61.

He was working toward being fully sober. He was finally finding his joy. He was learning how to fall in love with life. He finally opened up to a beautiful, healthy, family-based support system. The life he deserved.

The grief hurts. The memories come flooding.

I hate alcohol, but it never made me stop loving my dad.

I’ll always remember a kind-hearted man who gave so much to others, who loved others so deeply, and who always knew how to take care of those he loved.

I’ll remember a man who was finally finding his joy and who was healing, in the months before he passed.

Forgiveness

My dad did the best he could in life, but he had his struggles.

Those struggles taught me a powerful lesson after he left.

Forgive your fathers, if you can and if it’s safe to do so.

Forgive them when they’re alive, if you can.

Forgive them if they’re gone, if you can.

Take care of them, if you can, in small and big ways.

Because our fathers did the best they possibly could. That’s the greatest gift I could ask for.

My dad did the best he could for as long as he could. My love for him will always soar.


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