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Grapevine : August 2010
W HEN I was growing up in Ohio my parents lived far away from their families back in Texas. So when my mother's sister and her husband, Aunt Iris and Uncle Richard, moved to Akron, we were so excited. Finally we had family to spend the holidays with! And that is what we did. We went there for Easter, they came to see us on Thanksgiving, and we made a lot of wonderful memories together. They really became so like the grand- parents that I never had. Uncle Rich- ard was always cracking jokes and laughing, and my aunt made wonder- ful homemade meals and desserts. Growing up I always felt differ- ent from everyone else. These times were long before my active drinking years, but not so for my uncle. When I was 12 years old I was accepted to study dance at a ballet youth program that was located in Akron. My parents were so much more willing to see me go off and study dance for the summer know- ing that Aunt Iris and Uncle Richard would be close by to keep an eye on me. I loved getting to know my sur- rogate grandparents even more. My aunt and uncle were farm kids who had met at a local dance held under a big tent in central Texas. My uncle had come riding up to the dance on his tractor and took my aunt's breath away. He drank, she took care of him, and thus it went for many years. I had years of my own, after these dance camps, where I found my independence and began drink- ing and doing all the things that accompany that lifestyle. I grew up quickly in those times. My family returned to Texas and my drinking really took off in high school. Five years later, after three psychiatric ward visits and a suicide attempt, I was at the lowest low I had ever known. I felt I had no one. I remem- ber sitting in a treatment center on Thanksgiving eating my turkey from a hospital tray and feeling totally alone in the world. No one came to see me that day because I had pushed them away while drinking. Shortly after that day, I received a letter from my Uncle Richard. It was pages and pages and he told me his story. He had gotten sober when I was 10 years old in Akron in 1984. During all those times growing up, I had never known that he was suf- fering from alcoholism. Many years later my aunt told me that he'd been concerned when he got sober and asked, "What will I tell the girls? My aunt told him, "Nothing; they will just see that change in you over the years." And I did. He asked me once, "So how are Grapevine 29