“Clear away the wreckage of your past,” AA tells us. My father’s presence in my life isn’t exactly wreckage, instead it’s a longing. I truly wish I could have gotten to know him.
Charles Lawrence, called Gunny, was a much wanted only child in 1906. His mother had severe postpartum depression, yet her focus was on him. She saved all the scraps of his life from babyhood to marriage,
He was a very bright and energetic kid. As his father moved from one university to another to teach, he came along. He played tennis with enthusiasm, chess at the Masters level, and had serious Learning Disabilities before they knew what they were. He attended UC, and UC Berkley, where his father started a fraternity focused on study. He was a very social person, and he was much loved by legions of friends. Best of all, he was a very funny man. He moved to the University of Arizona to get his Doctorate in Law just as WWII began.
He came home an alcoholic. His father was terribly ill at this point, yet my mother and grandmother would go out at night to find him. Once, they bailed him out, much to their embarrassment. Unable to hold a job, mother, who had colon cancer, invented one to bring in money. He became President of a printing company. He also wrote a self-published book on “How to Study” based on notes his father left before he died.
Through the early 60’s, he would get up, wake me, make coffee, and he and my mother would go to the shop. They would drive to a local bar and after a great many martinis, have a light lunch. After work, they would come home to more martinis, a simple dinner, then he would sleep in his chair with more martinis, and bed.
They took a cruise or two, and sometimes there was a nice dinner at the golf club. They gave their business to their daughter and husband. By the mid-sixties, Gunny was diagnosed with jaw and mouth cancer. After a vicious surgery and radiation, he died, with a scotch drip in his arm, in 1966. I wish I had been able to talk with him.