I never saw much of Adam during school breaks. Over the summer, Adam and his family spent time at their lakeside cottage in Michigan. Over Christmas break, he was either closing the cottage or traveling to visit other family members.
From the outside, his family looked perfect. Adam’s dad worked for one of the largest companies in our city. His spent his 9 to 5 hours holed up in a gray cubicle, adorned with his degrees from Indiana University and Cornell. Adam’s mother, was thin blonde and very soft-spoken. She worked days, too but always cooked dinner for her family and cleared the table afterward. Adam had a sister, three years older. She went to graduate school in Oregon and was in a sorority. The family went to church as often as they could and kept in touch with neighbors.
When I visited their home, I always looked forward to talking with Adam’s parents. They always seemed happy and genuinely interested in what I had to say. Typically, they asked about school, the dance team, the school newspaper, and my plans for college. While they were cheerful and pleasant, I knew that really, if I were to blurt out something they really didn’t want to hear, they wouldn’t be so soft-spoken.
The more I got to know Adam, the darker side of his family came to light. Often, I’d stop by Adam’s during the weekend, usually on a Friday night. The usual group of guys would be there, gathered around a bong in Adam’s backyard or a case of Rolling Rock in his basement. Adam and most of his friends had been drinking since they were in 8th grade. Although I’d heard stories upon stories of their drunken antics, I hadn’t been a witness to many.
During one of these booze-induced evenings, Adam admitted to me one of the darkest secrets of his family. His mother was an alcoholic.
I couldn’t believe it. The perfect picket-fence-museum-religious-wealthy family was tearing at the seams. He told me about his mom getting help and how she often relapsed when his father went on business trips because she thought he was cheating. Trips to the cottage were sometimes hell because she packed her shampoo bottles with alcohol.
Over the years, Adam’s older sister served as a protector. Adam told me he remembered nights when he heard his parents fighting and Emily would sit with him in the dark.
One tradition for Adam’s family was “Italian Night.” It occurred every Monday and often involved a trip to the local Fazoli’s. If you’ve never been to Fazoli’s, it’s a step down from the Olive Garden—think of it as a fast food restaurant thats serves meatballs and lasagna. They are notorious for their breadsticks, which are unlimited with every meal and are served in a basket by someone making rounds at least 60 times during your meal saying, “breadstick?”
One lucky Monday night, I got invited to attend Italian night. I was a little nervous—I’d survived several evenings at Adam’s house, but I didn’t know if I’d last an entire meal putting on a fake smile while sucking down spaghetti.
When we arrived at Fazoli’s, we were warmly greeted with a framed picture of Adam’s family—they had won the Oscar of Fazoli’s awards, the Family of the Month Award.
Adam’s parents seemed delighted to see me; his mom even made a polite remark about how I was always so pleasant to visit with.
Although I was so close to Adam and even talked a lot with his family, the dinner was slightly uncomfortable. His mom was just getting over a death in her family and I wasn’t sure how to treat the situation.
His parents were always so pleasant to me and my friends; I still wondered what was beneath the surface. I wondered what they thought of me because I didn’t go to church, never went to a private school, and was more interested in liveral activities like newspaper and dance.
I soon found out.