Instead of returning in luxury, my father came home from Tiberius, on the Sea of Galilee, in a slatted shipping crate haphazardly plastered from top to bottom with “Port of Entry” stickers and official “Customs” stamps. Big block letters that had been exposed to rain during the transporting of cargo had leaked red ink into the cheap, porous wood. The large container had been proclaimed “free of communicable disease.”
But my father’s disease, while not a public health threat, is indeed a contagious and lasting one. Under the microscope the spiral threads of his DNA—the double helix of his verbal brilliance and leader traits—twist into the DNA of his black depression. His illness flows through my bloodlines, and, most importantly, his breakability has blighted my heart.
Nat Chadwick, my father, was a drunk who spent most of his weekday evenings in upscale bars, aided in his quest to be blotto by bartenders, maitre d’s, and his ever-faithful sycophants, barflies, and drunk cronies who benefited from his ferocious wit and drunken over-spending.
In one of the rare candid photos I have of him taken in the 1930s, when he was a labor organizer in the South, he is standing on a rickety porch with both arms draped around two boozy broads. He’s laughing. His man-in-the-moon, wide-faced smile and openness are what I loved most about him. There is a soft heart leaping out of those photos despite the fact that he’s wearing what’s now called a ‘wife-beater’.
For all of my father’s rough and gruff posturing, I never saw him do a mean thing to anyone. Though he came home drunk every night, I swooned when he sang “Melancholy Baby” off-key and wobbling. I was madly in love. Unfortunately, he ended many of his performances with a fast exit for a barfing trip to the bathroom.
During the day, Daddy presided over one of the most powerful trade unions in the country: International Brotherhood of Electrical Worker’s Union, Local 3 as well as chairing the Buildings and Construction Council of Greater New York. At the time of his death, he was on the short list for the cabinet post of secretary of labor. JFK had phoned a month before the assassination and told Daddy to get his drinking under control before the hearings. That was a tall order. Daddy needed alcohol to be comfortable.
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ABOUT INA CHADWICK
Ina Chadwick’s work has appeared in many places, including The Paris Review, The Antioch Review and The New York Times. She has more than 500 bylines and launched her internet career as regular columnist on careers for both AOL and CNBC.con.
She holds several first place awards in editing from the New England Press Association, along with first place awards for writing and design in newspapers, and has been a grant recipient for both poetry and literary magazine editing. In 1973 she co-founded a now defunct literary magazine that was hailed as “lively and energetic,” by the Library Journal.
From 1983 to 1995 she managed chaotic small and large corporate suburban newsrooms, scary news departments and slick 300 page trade magazines in Fairfield County Ct and Westchester County NY. She has been lauded by the Web Marketer’s Association for creative direction and copywriting for legal websites, proving that one can earn a really good living if they can explain, in writing, complex business principles.
Her 30 year career includes executive board positions for Women in Management, Adviser for the Women’s Campaign School at Yale and the Board of Directors Westport Arts Center.
She now conducts a statewide writing contest under the Writer’s Artists Collaborative @ Westport Arts Center in Westport, CT where she lives. In 2009, she moved to onstage programming, beginning a series of storytelling events in Fairfield County, under the moniker MouseMuse, with a program called “Awake After Dark (but home early enough in the suburbs)”.
To contact Ina go to: Mouse Muse Productions