Imagine a thin little boy. Maybe he’s 60 pounds or so. And, as he hasn’t yet reached adolescence, he is still short.
Now, imagine a large black-haired man, who is roughly six feet tall. He usually walks around without a shirt on, so that you could see his massive belly stretched out over the belt of his pants. This mans weighs in at around 350 pounds.
Now…what if the little boy (being little) is naturally timid? It’s not that he’s fearful of life, exactly. It’s just that he hasn’t quite figured it all out yet. He still thinks that he is relatively safe and that life owes him a roof over his head and food. Most children think this way. It’s normal. It’s the way it should be.
And what if the big thick-waisted man happens to have a problem with anger? And what if this anger problem is augmented by a massive drinking problem?
The little boy (being little) has no where else to go, when the big guy loses his temper. Worse, the little boy (being little) has no idea what conditions need to be in place for the man to blow up. It could be a little thing: like a toy that wasn’t put away, that the man stepped on. It could be a glance that the little boy gave his father.
“Maybe” thinks the little boy “I’m just not good enough. Maybe I just need to try harder.”
At what, he has no idea. Still though – the nest is in an uproar, and it’s the responsibility of this little guy to take care of things. Make things right.
So he tries. He picks up his toys. He works hard at his schoolwork and brings home As and Bs.
Each weekend though, his father still drinks. And the boy watches, now in fear, as the ambience of the household grows dark with the imminent storm. Eventually, every weekend, the man lashes out in rage. Usually the boy finds a place to hide, while his mother, sometimes his grandmother, intervenes. Often, one or the other of them will be hit. Occasionally, the police are called. But they don’t take the man away. They just talk to him. Tell him to settle down.
The boy fails. He has no one to tell him that it’s impossible to win. There’s no counsellor who can point out that it doesn’t matter what he does, or doesn’t do – the man will get drunk and he will get angry. The boy is certain he has a part to play, and that if he just acts differently, maybe dad won’t bellow with rage.
The years go by. The weekend rage turns into daily storms. The man is drinking more.
The boy has grown into his teens. So he’s learned to stay away from home as much as possible. He hides out in the library, reading books.
Such wonderful books! It starts out with the Narnia series, and then moves to some of Mark Twain’s works. Then he discovers the worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien. Lord of the Rings.
The boy, now a teenager, is hooked. Fantasy and Science Fiction have wrapped their arms around him. For those few moments when he can enter those worlds, he can leave this one behind. The one with the anger, and chaos and the drinking. He doesn’t have to think about his behaviour and what’s going to set his father off.
He also discovers religion. Or it discovers him. He’s not sure. He only knows that once again, another world has opened up. One he wasn’t aware of, before. One that accepts him as he is; forgives him for his faults, unlike his dad. One that offers a Father who actually cares about him.
It’s all so wonderful. He has no inkling that any of it can be termed: “escape”.
Eventually the man stops drinking. He has to. His job was forfeit, otherwise.
The anger remains though. One of the things the man is angry about is why his oldest son doesn’t want to be around him. There comes a day when number one son cuts through his rage to tell him why he avoided him. “You were never a father to me”
It’s the one time when alcohol could not trump reality. That statement cuts through the man; stops him cold in his tracks. His rage seems to dwindle away as he stupidly stares at his son. Quizzical. Disappointed, perhaps with himself. The boy doesn’t know what his father thinks about what he said. He stands there, eyes wide, fully expecting to be beaten up for being so mouthy. He is surprised when his father looks down, turns away.
The years went by, and the father remains sober. There’s an awkwardness between them that remains, never to diminish.
The boy, now a man, continues with his escapism, not realizing that life is now better. He enjoys his books, and his religion, and adds to them, movies and TV. Anything that will give him a world different from the one he is in.
Eventually he adds prescription drugs. And wine. And other things.
It takes a while for him to realize some important things that the little boy was never told.
It wasn’t his fault that his dad was angry.
He could make his own decisions, and create his own reality. As much of it as he wanted.
Eventually, he sees what he is doing with the drugs, and the wine. And he stops. He stops drinking to escape, and now drinks for enjoyment only. He never gets drunk.
He still reads books, but now recognizes the difference between reality and the world of the book. He reads for enjoyment.
The hardest part was dropping religion. He still believes in God. He just doesn’t believe in the construct that religion put around Him. He holds his faith close to his heart, and doesn’t promote it to anyone. He believes in a Father who loves him. To believe anything less would be hurtful to himself. He knows this.
He wonders though.
How many other people are living lives of pure escape?