R.I.P. Ralph Griggs … it is belated, but no less heartfelt

R.I.P. Ralph Griggs … it is belated, but no less heartfelt

Originally published at NA Confidential on October 8, 2015.

R.I.P. Ralph Griggs … it is belated, but no less heartfeltAnd then you get sidetracked — and feel like crying.

30-odd years ago, when I was working nights at Scoreboard Liquors (razed in 1988), we’d rope off the parking lot during Harvest Homecoming and charge people $5 to park, unless they were paying customers.

The idea eventually arose among my friends to just leave our cars parked there, purchase some Stoli, Rose’s Lime Juice and plastic cups, and stroll the festival at our leisure. Thus was born the concept of Vodka-Thon, and one of those years (it was 1986), Ralph came along.

Ralph was a regular customer. He was a few years older than me, short of stature and heavily bearded, and if memory serves, he’d been in the army during the late Vietnam period and had been stationed in Germany.

He was intelligent, soft-spoken, and a tad eccentric; he actually read books, regretted not becoming an undertaker, and once gave me a textbook about mortuary science. I still have it somewhere.

How did I know these things?

Because Ralph came in a lot, at all hours of the day, and what I didn’t know — actually,  what I chose not to know — was that he was an alcoholic. Functional, perhaps, but still. Vodka-Thon was a lark for us, a one-shot deal now and then. It was everyday reality for Ralph.

Later in the 1980s, after the liquor store had moved to the corner of Spring and Beharell, we lost touch. I heard from a mutual acquaintance that things had gotten bad for Ralph in every respect. Evidently I did nothing to process this information. He had become one of those faces lost in the huge crowd of past lives.

Ralph at Vodka Thon, 1986.

This morning Vodka-Thon occurred to me, and Ralph’s face popped into my memory. I did some googling, and it appears he’s been dead for 15 years (in 2024, it’s almost 25 years; see above). This doesn’t surprise me. I believe he had children, and they may still be around, grown now. If so, and if they read this, please know that none of these ruminations are intended as flippant or disrespectful.

In fact, I feel awful.

I didn’t know then things I know better now, but that’s hardly an excuse for doing nothing when it was obvious something was wrong. Ralph seemed like a good fellow tormented by demons, at least one of which was the disease of alcoholism.

Ralph, I’ll always remember our chats about book and life. I’m sorry I was oblivious to the other part of it. I finally visited Idar-Oberstein in 1993, as you’d recommended from the start, and I thought about you that day. It is a matter of intense personal regret that we never had the opportunity to discuss tis charming city.

Rest in peace, sir.