During the past week, I have spent more time than usual with my son. We had his senior pictures taken, we reviewed his college applications and talked about his essay. The prompt was to describe something that goes unnoticed but is important in his life. His first draft was good – very good – but as he struggled with the prompt, I encouraged him to think a little longer about his response. Could his truest answer be found somewhere in his experience as the son of an alcoholic? He said he didn’t think that mattered so we moved on to other ideas.
Days later at my desk, an email from him appeared in my inbox. A new essay. As it happens, growing up with an alcoholic parent does matter, and in 500 carefully chosen words, he described why.
It began with him sharing recollections that were among his earliest memories. He described his surprise at learning of his Dad’s alcoholism, and the heaviness he felt as the seriousness of it set in. His fear in not knowing what would become of him and our family. He reflected on the strength he drew upon to remain positive as he watched his world crumble. In the end, as the son of an alcoholic, he has come to understand that life is full of uncertainty. And filled with struggle.
In watching his dad seek sobriety that at times seems out of reach, he continues to believe that it is not. One day, he wrote, his dad will say he’s sober…and mean it. Until then, he will be as supportive as he can.
When he invited me to review his essay, I offered no critique. It was his story, in his words. And it was perfect.