Alfred was an English man. He moved to the states when he was young with his mother, father and sister. His dad had taken a better paying job, one that had the potential to create a better life for him and his family. Whenever Alfred spoke with me about it, he seemed to not have an opinion one way or another. Moving on was a natural part of life.
We shared that history, since I myself am part British. And even though neither of us was Irish, we tended to enjoy our times together at a local Irish pub in San Jose in San Pedro Square. Perhaps it was the European connection. When you have rare opportunities to connect, you tend to grasp for the simple strands no matter how unfounded they are or what stretch of the imagination is required.
And St Patrick's day was the perfect cover for Alfred's drinking problems. He was the kind of alcoholic that was allowed by society. No one ever mentioned it or talked about it. He never passed out anywhere but his home. It was the self managed and self contained alcoholic. I mean as long as you don't hurt anyone and you continue to pull your weight, why say anything? As long as no one mentions the problem, it must not be a problem, right? That was Alfred. The socially acceptable alcoholic.
Close to my 30th birthday, Alfred's father passed away from a heart attack. Alfred was really close to his father and I remember several of our conversations after his father's passing. He started to question God's intentions. He wondered why God would leave his mother to fend for herself. Alfred felt it was too sudden. It really affected him since he wasn't prepared for it. It was sad because even Alfred had no real spiritual life before his father's death. And after, he seemed to be well planted in his position that God, if he did exist was cruel and did not deserve his time or worship.
I still remember that conversation to this day.
I thought about the irony of the situation. If Alfred's father was a terrible father, no one would curse God for his death. But he was a great father, so shouldn't that mean that Alfred should have thanked God for blessing him in such a wonderful way. And if death meant peace and returning his father to the God to whom he belonged, why wouldn't death be a wonderful thing? Is it that we are so limited in our thinking that we don't believe there are possibilities beyond our pain. Is our pain so great, that we cannot even consider what is best for the ones we love? What if God specifically placed Alfred's father in Alfred's life for a specific season to plant the seeds needed for future trials. The trials that would ultimately lead to growth, strength, character and a number of intentional purposes designed specifically for Alfred by the hand of God himself.
But I never opened my mouth. I just sat, listened and drank happily away. Perhaps the alcohol will one day cure our deep pains.