Goodnight Irene: Father’s favorite song

Published 2:59pm Friday, October 7, 2011

“Goodnight Irene” was the headline just after Hurricane Irene tore through the east coast, reaping havoc wherever she went. Seeing those words “Goodnight Irene’ brought back so many thoughts and memories that had nothing to do with the hurricane, yet had everything to do with the hurricane. I’ll try to explain.
“Goodnight Irene” was my father’s favorite song, and my father was a binge alcoholic. When he was on a drinking binge, he’d sing that song and want to dance with my mother, or me. Remembering him singing the song is a bittersweet memory. He sang it when he was happy, and he was happiest when he was drunk. As a teenager my father’s drinking habit was embarrassing at best, and I tried to distance myself from him in any way that I could.
But there’s a problem with that. I’m very much like my father. Although my mother was the steady personality that held our family together, my creativity and sense of purpose comes directly from my father.
Daddy was an idealist, a generous person who genuinely believed that all people can work hard and ‘get ahead’, regardless of color or social standing. He was smart, dependable and worked hard. The problem was that alcohol was his release when he got depressed and frustrated because life is not fair, and the hardest workers do not always get promoted, and it matters more whom you know than who you are. Most of the time the biggest liar gets the best job along with respect from society that goes with that high paying job. Alcohol was Daddy’s fatal escape.
Anyone who loves our natural world longs for an escape from reality at times too. Those who suck the life out of our planet seem to be making the most profit, and calling the shots.
Our politicians are all about job creation, regardless of what that job costs the environment. It’s all about the economy and money, with no mention of quality of life. Have you ever thought about the fact that the most profitable businesses today are those who are selling our natural resourses that were put on this earth for free?
The trees, oil, coal and natural gas were put on this earth for free, gifts from our creator; companies are simply paying themselves for extracting those gifts and selling them to us, at a huge profit. Real-estate investors make big profits cutting up and re-selling land. It’s all about getting as much as they can, with as little real work as possible, selling what was originally a gift.
And then there are the folks who buy a lot beside the river and clear down to the edge of the water, setting in motion an erosion problem that will have negative consequences for fish and people for years to come. These people, and the ‘big guys’ mean no harm; they simply don’t care about the bigger picture. They are thinking about themselves: the environment is not on their spread sheet, so to speak.
My entire adult life has been dedicated to conserving as much of our small little part of the world as possible, while the ‘big boys’ are out there making as much profit as possible with little regard for the environment or future life.
I am glad to not have my father’s addictive personality, so I can find comfort in nature rather than with gin, (although I do love a Guinness).
Yesterday I was taking one last swim in Lake Sheila before cold weather set in. I was doing the backstroke, watching the droplets of clean water drop from my hands as they came out of the water. No diamond could have sparkled more in the late afternoon sun. Those droplets were absolutely beautiful, sending me a message to not be discouraged, but to keep on keeping on, cherishing and protecting this little corner of God’s creation. It’s all that we can do, and it is enough.
“Irene good night Irene good night, Good night Irene Good night Irene, I’ll see you in my dreams.”

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