Not All Parents Went To Meetings
Updated: Jan 6
Ever have something you say or do be called into question? Something that was normal or accepted in your house but, as it turns out, not as widely embraced as you believed? For example, I had dinner at my in-laws and was asked if I was a "corn with" or "corn after" person. As in, corn with my dinner or corn after my dinner.
What? Why do I feel needy and crazy for thinking all the components of dinner should go together? Maybe my family has been eating corn wrong all this time. Turns out, my family has been eating it right all this time. (My wife read this and believes there is no "right" way to eat corn.)
I believe every family has these nuggets of family culture that are exclusive to them and their household. Some are harmless and others are deranged. My most famous of these is a lesson I learned prior to Y2K and that is not all parents go to meetings.
What kind of meetings? Great question.
Again in the 90’s, every Monday night my parents would go out to a meeting. At times, they would also go on Thursday or Friday night too. This seemed normal to me because it was normal for me.
A friend and I tried making arrangements for a playdate in elementary school. I explained to him the complexities of my availability due to my parents' schedule.
“What kind of meeting,” he asked.
“AA meeting,” I answered with an oblivious smile.
“Oh, your parents don’t do that?”
Soon after that interaction I learned what “anonymous” meant.
Attending AA meetings, picnics, camping trips, and everything in between was how I was raised. Walking through a cloud of smokers with questionable humor towards the basement of a church that smelled of store brand coffee was par for the course.
In high school, I attended a Catholic church with a friend. The nuances were an adjustment for my Baptist roots but one prayer was familiar. When everyone was reciting the "Our Father" I felt like a champ for participating. As the prayer ended, the congregation finished in harmonious unison… except for one misguided attendee. That would be me.
I ended with, "keep coming." It was loud, clear, and painfully noticeable. The phrase is ordinarily tacked on to the end of the prayer when recited... at an AA meaning.
Keep coming, as in stay strong, stay off the hooch, and keep attending meetings.
I’m not complaining about AA or my parents’ sobriety, the system worked for them. Well, one of them. More on that in another post.
My parents' home group was like a crowd of aunts and uncles for my family. We saw them all the time, from camping trips to holidays. They just all happen to go bat-shit-crazy if they ever drank. If we ever didn’t see them at a picnic we knew it meant that they didn’t “keep coming.”
This serves as a great example of the relativity of “normal.” I may have also outed my parents accidentally and alienated blossoming friendships at school.
Doing their thing, off the wagon, from the rooms, and saying hi to someone when they tell you they're an alcoholic are all cultural AA phrases I'm fluent in. Not that this has deterred my desire to engage in fermented libations.
One last AA bit is that everyone has a nickname and no one uses their last name. Most of the time it's an alliteration or description of a physical trait because that is where the effort and creativity stops. Transmit Tim, Barbecue Barbara, Tony Toothpaste, Big Sherri, Pops, and Jumpy.
When trying to coordinate another hangout with that same friend I had to decline. When asked why, I explained that I was going to visit Chicken Charlie. Who, to me, was like an uncle but to this unnamed friend of mine, Chicken Charlie sounded like someone who sprays you with the hose if you don’t put the lotion in the basket. Needless to say, I continued to learn.
A Corn-With person