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Grapevine : October 2011
That was in 1994. In the inter- vening years, I spent time in the state penitentiary, during which Ann re- lapsed and took her own tour of the Pennsylvania prison system. I lost more jobs and woke up in more jail cells than I can count. Our daughter, all of 12 years old when the world fell apart, stayed with some folks more stable than her parents, grew up, and had kids of her own (that her mother and father didn't even know about). Besides hard, daily drinking, the spec- ters of both homelessness and heroin raised their ugly heads. Though we had lost track of virtually everyone and everything we had ever known, loved, and treasured, Ann and I some- how managed to stay together. Then in the late summer of 2009, while I was yet again wasting time behind bars, two things happened that each, in their different ways, knocked me completely off my feet. First, through a series of unlikely events, our daughter had learned of my whereabouts, and came to visit me---with a brand new grandchild running around and another one on the way. And second, the jailhouse chaplain summoned me and said that my wife had been diagnosed with stage-four cancer and had been taken into surgery. My stay that time in jail was relatively short, and when I got out, I went straight to the hospital ... well, almost. I had to pour a pint of vodka down my throat on the way, of course. The next few months consisted of chemotherapy, another surgery and several hospital stays. I'd like tobeabletosaythatmywifeandI stayed sober during this time, but I'd be lying if I did. Somehow I managed to be at her side most of the time, though rarely, if ever, without at least a "buzz" on. To be honest, by this time in my alcoholic career I needed that buzz just to function. On May 30, 2010, this wonderful woman that for the past 27 years had been the better, stronger part of me passed into the next world. (Patriot and jokester that she was, she had been born on the Fourth of July and died on Memorial Day.) For the next few weeks I tried to detox myself from both alcohol and heroin, attempting to drink on a "controlled" basis and taking a few prescription painkillers each day. The results were less than satisfac- tory. I was physically, mentally, emo- tionally and spiritually depleted, and our daughter was unable to rouse me one morning, so I missed my wife's memorial. One more, to my mind, terrible, final betrayal. I need to live fully--- to accept and enjoy those people, places and things that bring peace and beauty to my life. aagrapevine.org 19