(8 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)
Those of you that read this regular series know that I am from Hackett, Arkansas, just a mile or so from the Oklahoma border, and just about 10 miles south of the Arkansas River. It was a rural sort of place that did not particularly appreciate education, and just zoom onto my previous posts to understand a bit about it.
I started the eighth grade at Saint Anne’s High School in Fort Smith, Arkansas when I was 13 years old. I sort of skipped the seventh grade, and the sisters at Saint Anne’s thought that I was OK to go directly to the eighth grade from the sixth.
I flourished there, and still have several of my friends there in contact. My very best male friend was from there, and we converse almost every night. We love each other as brothers do, and he is actually more of a brother to me than my own brother is in some respects.
But that is not the topic. After school, I would walk the few blocks from Saint Anne’s to my mum’s office to do homework and such until her day ended and we went home. This was very convenient for us, since it was about 15 miles from home to downtown Fort Smith.
Connie Boyd was a much more complicated person than I knew at the time. Connie was male, despite of his first name. He was not a large person, perhaps 5’4″. He hated being cold. He worked with my mum at the Employment Security Division in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and was good at his job at finding jobs for folks.
But Connie was a very hardcore alcoholic. He was what we now would call a functioning alcoholic. I always went to the breakroom at the facility after school, and Connie was often there. He was really funny, and told me lots of drinking stories. I think that he confused me being a freshman in high school with being a freshman in college, because I was always sort of big for age.
Connie, before his dismal decline into the end state of alcoholism, was really pretty funny. My mum loved him very much, and he loved her as a friend as well. In the break room, thinking that I was older, he told me lots of stuff about drinking.
Do you remember the little cream jars that the restaurants had for coffee years ago? Connie told me that when he was puked off from drinking, he would put booze in the little jar, put it in a coffee cup, and fill the coffee cup with cola or somesuch. Then he would be able to drink the booze in the little jar as the chaser hit at the same time. He said that after the first couple of drinks he did not need that setup. It did not register at the time, but I should have known that he was a very serious alcoholic.
He used to married, and addicts do not do well with relationships. He was also a pathological liar. I remember one time him telling me about his wife wanting to throw a party with seafood. He advised her to get what was almost unknown at the time, freshwater lobsters. He was always the one to blow up his descriptions of them, and it turned out that she ordered crayfish for her party! He laughed his ass off, unfortunately, cruelly. He could be a bastard, especially to her. Such activity takes its toll of relationships.
Another time, and he was a master bullshit artist, his wife needed some cocoa butter for a skin condition. She complained about how expensive it was after she had gotten some.
Connie explained to her that a “koko” was a very small animal that gave only a little of very rich milk, and that to get the butter from it took the milk from many animals, and lots of effort to get the milk, and the natives had to work for hours to get the butter from the cream that rose very slowly. That was all bullshit. He enjoyed bullshitting her.
His wife trusted him completely, and told her friend about both of the things that I mentioned before she found out the truth, and was absolutely both heartbroken and livid when she realized that he had just made all of it up from whole cloth. He just fed bullshit to her. It did embarrass her from time to time, but he was just teasing.
It was not the teasing that made her divorce him, it was his alcoholism. Alcohol addicts do not make good friends, and Connie was DEDICATED to booze. He lost everything over it, ultimately his life. It is interesting that they stayed married until he retired, and actually makes sense. Since he had to show up at work every day, he had to get sober every day except for the weekends. After he retired nothing held him back from drinking all of the time.
Years later, around 1985 or so, the former Mrs. Translator and I were visiting my parents and discovered that Connie lived in a little apartment only a couple of miles away. The drove a old Ford Maverick and I suppose had only his state pension and Social Security. I am sure that he had drunk up any savings that he might have had, what did not go to the divorce settlement.
We went to his apartment to say hello. He came to the door, and I said “Hello, Connie. This is David, Geraldine’s boy. Do you remember me?”
He did not. He looked like he was 90 years old. His memory was destroyed, and even though we had been close only a few years ago, he did not recognize me. I told him my mum’s name, and he sort of kinda remembered her, and me, but quickly forgot. He was drunk. He was always drunk.
I tried to talk to him, but he did not remember me at all. He told me to go away, since I had no booze to give him. I left, and told him my mum’s name again. For an instant he sort of remembered, but not for long.
He lost everything. His wife, his mind, and his friends. Even though she was a dear friend, my mum would not try to contact him because he was always completely wasted.
And then it happened.
Connie was driving drunk, as usual, and rolled his little car near the cemetery gate, just by his apartment. From what I have found, he died pretty much instantly during the crash.
I have learned a couple of things from Connie. First, addiction is bad for EVERYONE! Second, NEVER drive a car when under the influence. Third, give up substances in favor of people. He did the opposite.
I know that this has been sort of a short and cautionary tale, and it is all true. Seeing Connie deteriorate after only a few years from when he was sharp, witty (even though a little mean with it), and in control to a shell of a person who could not even remember his best friends made an impression on me, and I hope that does on others as well.
The biology behind the effects of terminal alcoholism is interesting, and perhaps thta might be a good topic for Pique the Geek in the weeks to come. Any thoughts about that would be appreciated.
Please feel free to include any recollections that you have about growing up, whether in a small town or not. I know that I enjoy your stories, and other readers do as well.
Doc, aka Dr. David W. Smith
Daily Kos, and