Sunday, August 02, 2009
His wife and youngest daughter dead, his eyesight all but gone he has little else to occupy his hours but the radio, the occasional visitor and a shot or two of rum.
Although when I say “shot” I actually mean “bottle”.
It wasn’t always like this. Initially he’d content himself with an admittedly over generous tot or two but that was as far as it went. But over the last twelve months, certainly since the death of my aunt last September, that tot has increased alarmingly both in volume and frequency.
Now suddenly, a bottle of rum, where it used to last a week, lasts no more than a day or two.
He must neck it back like a drain and not even touch the sides.
At first we, the family, let it go – we ignored it bar a couple of tellings off when he got so tipsy he ended up on his arse and had to call out the emergency service people to haul him back up into his favourite armchair. There was no real harm done. It was almost funny. And, to be honest, what else has he got in life to look forward to? Why shouldn’t he enjoy a drink? After a lifetime of hard graft he’s certainly earnt it.
But as time went on we found him more and more in his cups. A neighbour found him sprawled on the floor one day unable to get himself back up again. An ambulance got called out another time to assist him in a similar scenario... it was starting to become a problem for other people.
So we stepped in. The people who do his weekly shopping were instructed to lessen the rum quota. One bottle instead of two and a smaller capacity bottle at that.
Unfortunately we didn’t reckon with my granddad’s deviousness. We’ve just discovered that, rather slyly, he has been instructing other people to nip out to the shops for him and get him a bottle or two on a regular basis.
Where we’d been thinking he was only getting through one bottle a week we now estimate it’s been at least three.
If he could take it sensibly – eke it out – we wouldn’t have so much of a problem with it. The trouble is once he’s got it, he’s not happy until he’s finished the bottle.
Now I love him to bits and feel a lot of sympathy for him. He’s deeply unhappy and I suspect merely drinks to forget his pain and misery. He’s not an alcoholic as such – it’s just that, given the opportunity, he becomes a drunkard. A fine distinction maybe but it’s one I shall stick by.
However it’s now got out of hand. He gets himself so drunk he can’t stand, can’t eat properly without spilling it all over him and is at real risk of doing himself a serious injury. It’s a real shame. When the rum is gone and he sobers up he’s lovely – lively, reasonably alert and even good humoured. The rum just makes him maudlin and unintelligible and, worse still, drives his visitors away.
It’s time for serious action. It’s time to restrict the rum supplies – possibly right down to zero though I suspect he’ll still be allowed one small bottle a week as a sweetener. Everyone he has dealings with has got to be brought in on this and instructed to stand firm. I’ve volunteered to secretly check his recycling bin every time I visit to ensure that he’s not smuggling in bottles from elsewhere.
Suddenly it’s prohibition Chicago and I feel like I’m the leader of the Temperance Society.
It’s tempting to make a joke out of it but given his deviousness I wouldn’t put it past him to get a distillery going in the downstairs toilet or run a speakeasy from the garden shed.
If I’m honest, I feel uneasy about the whole situation. He’s a grown man and we’re having to treat him like a naughty child but, unfortunately, he’s proven that he just can’t behave sensibly where the rum is concerned.
He’s left us with no choice.
So it’s six of the best and sweeties confiscated for the time being.
That is, after all, the Chicago way...