As a young man, Al was a skilled artist, a potter. He had a wife and two
fine sons. One night, his oldest son developed a severe stomachache.
Thinking it was only some common intestinal disorder, neither Al nor
his wife took the condition very seriously. But the malady was actually
acute appendicitis, and the boy died suddenly that night.
Knowing the death could have been prevented if he had only realized
the seriousness of the situation, Al's emotional health deteriorated under
the enormous burden of his guilt. To make matters worse his wife left
him a short time later, leaving him alone with his six-year-old younger
son. The hurt and pain of the two situations were more than Al could
handle, and he turned to alcohol to help him cope. In time Al became an
As the alcoholism progressed, Al began to lose everything he
possessed—his home, his land, his art objects, everything. Eventually
Al died alone in a San Francisco motel room.
When I heard of Al's death, I reacted with the same disdain the world
shows for one who ends his life with nothing material to show for it.
"What a complete failure!" I thought. "What a totally wasted life!"
As time went by, I began to re-evaluate my earlier harsh judgment. You
see, I knew Al's now adult son, Ernie. He is one of the kindest, most
caring, most loving men I have ever known. I watched Ernie with his
children and saw the free flow of love between them. I knew that
kindness and caring had to come from somewhere.
I hadn't heard Ernie talk much about his father. It is so hard to defend an
alcoholic. One day I worked up my courage to ask him. "I'm really
puzzled by something," I said. "I know your father was basically the
only one to raise you. What on earth did he do that you became such a
Ernie sat quietly and reflected for a few moments. Then he said, "From
my earliest memories as a child until I left home at 18, Al came into my
room every night, gave me a kiss and said, 'I love you, son.'"
Tears came to my eyes as I realized what a fool I had been to judge Al
as a failure. He had not left any material possessions behind. But he had
been a kind loving father, and he left behind one of the finest, most
giving men I have ever known.
Bobbie Gee Winning The Image Game