A Wasted Life


I ran across this man when I was doing another story.

White man, mid-forties, never got out of grammar school (elementary or grade school if you prefer). That shortcoming led him to a life of labor jobs. Some might call them menial, but he was one of the hardest workers I ever saw. There was a certain pride in what he did, that if he were to do the job, it would be done to the best of his ability. Others around him might slack off, but not him.

He was a drinker, some might say an alcoholic. He drank when he went home, and on the weekends. He must have sweated out the alcohol at work, because I’ve never seen an alcoholic who could work like he did.

He lived in a rundown house, although it was out in a rural area, and sometimes those houses aren’t quite as run down as those in the city. The cooking stove was heated with sticks of wood, and the fireplace with logs of wood. That heating system does well in the room with the chimney, and sometimes radiates partially into another room or two. It was dangerous to keep the fire going at night while he and his wife were sleeping, and on a cold winter’s night into morning, he had to get up and start a fire, his feet on a very cold floor, and his body in a very cold room.

I’m sure his wife, as all good wives, tried to separate him from the bottle, but whatever her methods, they were not successful.

The alcohol had drawn some lines in his face, but he was still a handsome man, and I’m talking by Hollywood standards. Had he been in Tinseltown instead of an almost deserted rural town, he would have made it to the big screen, and how much different life would have been for him. He could have taken up where an aged Clark Gable left off. And I doubt the drinking would have even started, because the difficulties of his current living would have never existed.

His wife was beautiful, naturally beautiful, because she had no money to buy make-up. I wished I could tell her, because I’m not sure she had been told that before. Her face would have lighted up at the compliment, I’m quite certain. I couldn’t do that. It would have been inappropriate.

Although his education was limited, that did not make him a dumb person. He had a great deal of common sense.

I thought I might use that when I asked him why he drank. I knew his circumstances was why he drank, and not being able to do anything about them, but I was curious as to what his answer might be.

“Oh, you know,” he said.

There was no way to break the cycle he was in. He knew it. I knew it. His life would proceed without enough money to sufficiently live, even without drinking. Perhaps they were on some type of welfare, or government assistance for all I knew, but I didn’t ask. If that supplemented his pick-up day labor jobs, it still was not enough.

I reflected on the people I had known who came from much better circumstances than he did, and the opportunities were out there in front of them, and they screwed them up. Some took to drink; others didn’t. You might say their lives were wasted, but at least they had the chances, and to me that’s a different category of how they wound up where they were. Their lives did not have to be wasted.

With this man his fate was sealed when he was still in the crib. I didn’t ask about his parents, but I don’t think his father would have allowed his son to be in this hole, if he weren’t already in the same hole himself.

I often wonder about exactly how people wind up where they are. Some because they are not willing to work. Others, like this man, who would have been one of the best workers in any job, was never offered the job that he could excel at, and be noticed.

Life isn’t fair, but you do meet people sometimes that you wish life would have given them a small break, for you know that’s all that was necessary for them to reach their potential.

He died about ten years later. He was basically a good human being. Maybe he reached his potential up there. I hope so. It had to be awesome.

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