Delbert

Delbert

Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 58
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3420-5.ch003

Abstract

Delbert has battled the plague of alcoholism for most of his adult life. The death of his younger brother and faithful drinking partner to cirrhosis of the liver would have seemed to serve as a wake-up call. Not only did it not curtail his behavior, he showed up drunk at the funeral. Alcoholism has cost Delbert his family as well as an untold number of jobs. When the author first met him over 30 years ago, he had already abandoned his wife and three children and moved in with his mother. Although he has cohabitated intermittently with several girlfriends since, his primary place of residence remains his mother's house. Not surprisingly, Delbert has also struggled with chronic unemployment. The few odd jobs that he manages to find never last very long because he either quits or gets fired. Although he occasionally earns money through silversmithing, Delbert subsists day-to-day mainly through freeloading off of his mom and girlfriend(s). His desultory lifestyle is both exacerbated and fueled by a lack of hope. This chapter introduces Delbert.
Chapter Preview
Top

Profile

When I first met Delbert over thirty years ago, he had already abandoned his wife and three children and moved in with his mother. Although he has cohabitated intermittently with several girlfriends since, his primary place of residence remains his mother’s house. Not surprisingly, Delbert has also struggled with chronic unemployment. The few odd jobs which he manages to find never last very long because he either quits or gets fired. Although he occasionally earns money through silversmithing, Delbert subsists day-to-day mainly through freeloading off of his mom and girlfriend(s). His desultory lifestyle is both exacerbated and fueled by a lack of hope.

Nature of Relationship

By all accounts, Delbert is a very affable individual. Inebriation renders him particularly affectionate, when he is prone to giving hugs—often while dressed only in his underwear. Our friendship can be characterized as jocular, and we communicate like two guys in a locker room. We usually spend our time together trading jokes, the vast majority of which are sexual in nature. Although Delbert is almost twenty years my senior, he refers to me as his “brother.” Sometimes, this fictive kinship is expressed genuinely but is more often stated in the context of asking for a favor, as in “Can you give me a ride into town, brother?”

One day, Delbert decided that it was time to bequeath me with an “Indian” name—which I suspected was part of an effort to butter me up before making another request. The name he chose was “shinaai,” the Navajo word for “my older brother.” Perplexed, and a bit disappointed as I was expecting a more earthly moniker such as “Little Elk” or “Kicking Weasel,” I asked Delbert why he chose that particular title. His response was very revealing in terms of how he viewed our relationship. Delbert stated that although I am much younger than him in chronological years, he considers me to be his older brother because I am “smart.” However, he was not referring to my many years of schooling or perceived level of intelligence but to my pragmatic wisdom, evidenced by my unwillingness to become seduced by substance abuse or “dirty women.” As he so eloquently put it: “You have your shit together.” (Sure enough, this impromptu naming ceremony segued into a suggestion to go out to eat—on my dime, of course—to celebrate the occasion.)

Since I have known him, Delbert has expressed the desire to change his ways and get his “shit together.” As his friend, I have tried to help him in whatever capacity I can, whether it be “loaning” him money for “school supplies” or giving him a ride to a job interview. He has left me hanging every time. Other members of the Benally family call me foolish for being so gullible, as they have learned to take his pipe dreams with a heavy dosage of salt or even open contempt. Despite their warnings, I wanted to give Delbert the benefit of the doubt.

Inevitably, for one reason or another, his promises never come to fruition. I must confess to sharing others’ feelings of frustration, especially when he did not appear for our scheduled appointments. Since he is not reachable by telephone, it is virtually impossible to locate him. Word of mouth is equally ineffective because no one knows his whereabouts when he is “running around.” Whenever I finally did manage to track Delbert down, he would either be drunk or hung over. There have been numerous instances where I have decided to abort an interview rather than succumb to his extortionary tactics of purchasing alcohol for him so that he can get rid of his hangover.

Delbert was not one of my original choices for interview subjects but a last-minute replacement. Many times, I have regretted this decision and seriously considered dropping him as an informant. I am glad that I did not because Delbert turned out to be a great informant as well as a good friend—when he is sober.

Top

Transcript

  • HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT BEING INTERVIEWED?

This is not the first time that I went through something like this. Because we used to go on trips—arts and crafts trips—throughout the States. We had TV people coming around and interview us one by one about our culture and how we got started in arts and crafts, specifically silverwork. So we sat down with them and we talked on TV, radio, and what have you.

  • WHERE WERE SOME OF THE PLACES THAT YOU APPEARED ON TV?

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book:
Reset