Sunday, August 02, 2009


My granddad has little in life at the moment that makes him happy.

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...


Tim Atkinson said...

What a difficult situation to be in Steve. Here's hoping your attempt at prohibition achieves a little more than the US version!

Steve said...

Dotterel: I'm seriously considering building a miniature version of Alcatraz in the backgarden...

Clippy Mat said...

oh dear. you can't mess around with alcohol addiction, it will only get worse. he does need some intervention. good luck!!

Steve said...

Clippy Mat: not sure it is fully fledged alcohol addiction yet (though that may be me trying to make light of the situation) but it is certainly alcohol abuse!

Savannah said...

First of all, you've popped up in my Reader which is brilliant.

But onto more serious matters...I don't envy you this situation. My husband's Nanna lived to the ripe old age of 96 but before she died she was getting quite depressed with her lot in life. She'd always been independant until she had a stroke and had to go into low level care. They told her if she drank normal fluids she would keep getting pneumonia and could possibly die. She told them at her age she would drink whatever the hell she liked (whiskey) and she did indeed succumb to the 4th bout of pneumonia.

My point is, sometimes it feels kinder to let them make their own choices even when it isn't in their best interests (in our opinion).

I know drinking all that alcohol isn't good for your Grandad and can't in all good conscience be condoned, but I think he'll find a way to get it no matter what you do. Good Luck. I feel for you.

French Fancy... said...

hurrah, I can monitor your blogging propertly now and feel very pleased that I am not bringing up the rear with my comments

As for your poor grandad -it's funny I don't think I could ever turn to drink to help console me. My weakness would be food and you would have to widen the doorways for me. If someone kept me from old-age cream cakes I would no doubt swing for them.

Without his crutch how is your grandad going to cope? He might be so miserable that his life will not be worth living anymore. I would just leave him to it but then easy to say when it is not your loved one

I don't envy you your part in this - difficult.

Steve said...

KayDee: I must admit part of me agrees with you - he's an adult and has the right to do what he likes in his own home. The problem is when hsi behaviour impinges unfairly on other family members or other friends who visit him. It's a tough call and it's been going on for long enough. It's time to give him some hard choices and let him decide how he wants to play it. But I have no doubt that whatever sanctions we place on his rum supplies, he'll find away to circumvent them. One thing he is not is stupid.

Steve said...

FF: I've never turned to alcohol either and remain, even at 39, very ambivalent as regards it's so called pleasurable effects. My crutch is and will always be chocolate - which is pretty safe really!

I don't think we can in all countenance deny him his rum altogether - that really would be far too draconian and, I suspect, completely counter productive. I think we need to encourage him to monitor his intake and to behave more sensibly. Easy said than done!

French Fancy... said...

p.s. I do like your telly photo on the banner

The Joined up Cook said...

Does he lead a full life when he's not drinking?

It's difficult one. I like alcohol and can imagine, in a similar situation, going down the same route.

In such a situation, if I could lead a decent life away from it I'd welcome, grudgingly, the intrusion of my family.

Maybe he feels unimportant.

If he had a task it might help.

You could ask him to start recording the family history; anecdotes for future generations to build on.

Something to make him feel worthy.

Steve said...

FF: thank you - graphics courtesy of the wife! ;-)

AWB: his main problem is that through macular degeneration he is 80 - 90 % blind which hampers a lot of the things that he could be doing. I've also noticed that he'd gradually giving up; not doing the little jobs around the house that he used to do, taking less interest in the world around him, repeating himself over and over. All in all not good signs but signs of someone who is really starting to feel their age. I think if he wasn't so blind and could get out more he'd drink far less. Solitary drinking is always far more dangerous than social drinking I find.

The Joined up Cook said...

Sorry to hear that Steve.

Why not a tape recorder for him to speak into; recounting his times?

Owen said...

No easy solution for you, but it doesn't sound like anyone would be doing him a favor by allowing continued access to the booze...

Good luck Steve !

Steve said...

AWB: it might be worth a try but I can already hear his complaints that he can't see it to work it properly. He's become very self defeatist of late.

Owen: it's a toughie. We have to do something but denying him the rum completely seems a contravention of his human rights. Limitation has to be the answer - but it relies on him to cooperate. And therein lies the problem!

skatey katie said...

firstly, so glad the dog has gone.
doggone dog gone.
oh dear i need coffee. just got off the back of a 3 hour uni stint.

secondly, i remember my great uncle art's funeral. he was 93. my dad's parents had died leaving three kids - so childless uncle/auntie adopted two teenagers and a seven year old in their forties - must've been a rude awakening.

my dad and his siblings loved uncle art to bits.

in the end the painful decision was made to put him in an old folk' home. my dad visited him every day, but he went downhill from there.

at his funeral, my uncle lew (the seven year old) said, "uncle art coped very well with Old Age, it was just Very Old Age he found difficult."

no easy answers - i'm not sure how i'll go with Very Old Age either if i make it to then... X

Steve said...

Katie: I think Very Old Age is what gets most old folk. When your senses and your mind start going life is really no fun at all.

Nota Bene said...

That's a shame, in the latter part of life to be unhappy. Hope you can put him back on the straight and narrow without too much pain


Steve said...

NB: alas, knowing my granddad, out of the carrot and stick it will be the stick that is most effective. Sad but true. ;-)

The Sagittarian said...

I agree, once the boozing affects others then something has to be done. You obviously care for him very much, so leaving him to it is not an option really is it?
Does Gramps live far away from would it be possible for you to perhaps get a roster" for visiting going with other rellies/friends?
Maybe there is a social service who could pick him up and take him out? Over here there is a sort of Oldies Day Care where people can drop their wrinklies off for the day, akin to childcare I guess perhaps you could find something along those lines? I guess (as Sir Cliff says "The miss you nights, they're the longest" and no matter what he's missing, that rum probably helps him sleep. Good luck, mate.

Steve said...

Amanda: to be honest a good visiting rota has long been established and he does have at least one person visit him most days. Twice now my mother has tried to arrange for social services to visit him on a daily basis and each time the old coot has refused / cancelled the arrangement at the last moment. He still has the power of veto - which is only right - but it does mean he does things sometimes that go against his best interests and we're powerless to intervene.

justme said...

Commenting late (as usual) here so its mostly all been said. I remember you blogging about this before, a while ago. Its a tricky one. I feel like you, that he should be able to make his own choices, but.....when you love someone and can see that they are hurting themselves...its hard not to intervene.
Getting old is crap!

Steve said...

Justme: getting old is crap - I think if you have all your faculties it's effects are lessened, but take away the ability to see or hear or walk and the crapness is overwhelming.

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Steve said...

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