Father’s Day

by Amie McGraham | Remembering the last weekend.

Father’s Day

We had plans to spend the weekend in Newport Beach with his father. Mine was in Boston, a coast away, and there was no real reason why we opted for his father and not mine other than distance and our jobs, I suppose, and vacation time and maybe because he was the son and it just made more sense in a weirdly traditional, patriarchal way. We usually drove when we visited his parents; it was only five hours, a straight shot across I-10, desert to beach. But for some reason, this time we flew, and unsurprisingly ended up at an airport bar—generic, basic, reeking of tequila and Budweiser and despair—because our flight was delayed. I say “unsurprisingly” because that was what we did. We drank. That was our MO, drinking. Drunk all weekend, drunk every night. Even when I swore, as I fell asleep Sunday, that I’d only drink on the weekend; when I swore, upon awakening on Monday, groggy and nauseous from the hard-charging weekend, that I’d make a fresh start this week; and then Monday afternoon would come and I’d think, well, maybe Wednesday, I’ll wait until Wednesday and have a couple glasses of chardonnay (I was a lady, after all, and wine was classy, not like the case of Coors he drank every night, so I couldn’t be an alcoholic), and by the time I left work, I’d convinced myself Mondays were OK, I’d worked nine hours straight, closed a couple of deals, and a glass of wine from the bottle of E. & J. Gallo (I’d actually met them, Ernest and Julio, in my previous advertising career, the doddering ancient vintners, gods in my eyes) Chablis I’d brought home from the dusty shelves of a charmless Circle K convenience store—a glass would be OK. The ice cubes tinkling in my wine glass, part of the set we’d gotten as a wedding gift from his father, the wine connoisseur whose wineglass was an extension of his hand, ice cubes because none of the wine in the Circle K was chilled: that place was all about beer coolers and Marlboros and Doritos and …  

The little apocalypse would repeat again and again, the needle stuck on the grooves of my life …  

I was so tired of it all, exhausted by the elaborate staging of this drinking life, planning and failing and planning and failing but I did not know another way, had no choice, like you hear on virtually every TV show or movie, I had no choice, and I could not not drink, could not imagine life without alcohol, and when I finally could not imagine life with alcohol anymore, a solution arrived in the form of a strawberry blonde employee, a sales rep I’d just hired, who asked after a work party, when I was drunk and sobbing on the cab ride home about how I just did not want to drink anymore, do you want to go to a meeting with me sometime, as casually as asking whether I’d watched the Raiders game last weekend and …  

That was a month before that Father’s Day in Newport, and all that month I still drank, because that was what I did, but I could not get drunk, I drank bottles of wine and beer and vodka and rum and it was just not working, the magic had worn off and so all I had was my own pathetic self, stripped bare, and it was not pretty, and then the magic returned in that airport bar the night before Father’s Day twenty-five years ago, and in the span of an hour I was thoroughly shitfaced, and I drank more on the forty-five minute plane hop to Orange County, poured myself out of the rental car and onto the thick white carpet of his father’s upscale townhome in the gated Newport Villas community, gulped down a few more “varietals” his father had “acquired” for the townhome’s basementless “wine cellar” during a recent trip to Napa, and when I woke up the next morning, the sunshine hurt and my soul ached and the only thing I remembered was the first drink in that airport bar, that drink as necessary as breath, yet another what-the-fuck-did-I-say-last-night moment pinned to the endless clothesline of alcoholic blackouts and that, friends, was the last time I ever had a drink and …  

Now my father is gone, his father is gone, and he is gone. 

Amie McGraham grew up on an island in Maine where she spends summers as curator of family ghosts and recipes. Winner of the 2022 Intrepid Times Travel Writing Competition, Amie’s writing has appeared in anthologies and literary magazines including Brevity, Hypertext Review, Maine Magazine, Wild Roof Journal, and Exposition Review. Her poem “lunaSea” was recently featured on Maine Public Radio. Currently cooking up new stories for her foodletter, Cook & Tell, Amie also produces a weekly 100-word newsletter, the Micro Mashup

This essay is a Short Reads original.

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