After several years of being urged by my family to watch the Showtime series Shameless, I finally took their advice.
For those that haven’t seen it, it’s about a completely dysfunctional family deeply entrenched in drug and alcohol abuse. The father of the family, Frank Gallagher played fabulously well by William H. Macy, has five kids. Absent any sense of responsibility by Frank, the kids did their best to raise themselves. If we’re looking for an example for feral kids, they fit.
Now, not to be overly tough on myself, I see a lot similarity between the Gallagher kids and my own six kids. I wasn’t nearly as derelict as Frank but dereliction comes in degrees. I struggled with drug and alcohol addiction for many years. My wife did, too. Both of us, however, cleaned up more than two decades ago. Thank God for that. The kids did pay a price, however, – the older kids in particular – assuming much of the duties of parenting as we misbehaved.
I don’t mean to dwell on what damage we may have or have not caused in the kids. There is some for sure. For the most part, though, they turned out respectably normal regardless of the fact that a few of them had their feral phases. My biggest fear as a parent was always the my kids would end up being receptacles for my cerebral trash. I think I dodged that bullet. Still, the family dynamic that imprinted itself on the kids is, I think, unique in some ways.
My oldest was and still is a mother hen to her younger sibling. She never lets any of the their doings go unnoticed and she’s the first to rally everyone when another needs help. Often the younger kids think she’s a bossy buttinsky. As the father of that motley crew, I’m glad to have a senior spy in place. And I know everything she does is for love of her siblings.
The thing I’m most pleased with is their fierce loyalty to one another. Sure, they fight between themselves but God have mercy on any outsider who might cross one them. They’re a goddamn force of nature! And if that happens to be a young man hurting one of my daughters, well, let’s say there is a rational fear of being turned into a gelding.
It’s that closeness that makes me think I did OK – that and the fact that no one has been convicted of a felony. They were the real motivation for us building our bunker (aka our summer place). They’re a pretty good team.
One thing is for sure. I have no idea what I’d be without them. I’m also sure I could have done a better job. But the kids are alright – and I at least did better than Frank Gallagher.