The world came to a screeching halt.
Not for me and any readers obviously, but for my brother, who finally paid the ultimate price for his long love affair with alcohol. Richard was found dead Thursday morning (9/24). It appears that he’d had a seizure and asphyxiated. So it goes. We all knew the day was coming, and my other brother (Mike) and I marveled every time we got together that Richard was still alive. We expected him to last no longer than a year once we moved him into his house. In fact, he survived nearly three years.
Mike and I use to joke that we would put his ashes into an empty vodka bottle for burial. Now that the end has come, it’s not so funny to think about that. The memory of seeing my brother tip the vodka bottle and chug on it like he was drinking milk from a carton is something I can never forget. For the past year, his alcoholism became too difficult to manage. Drinking made him sick, but not drinking made him sicker. He withered away to a rack of bones, and this under-60 year old man walked and moved slower than my grandfather when he was 93.
I had to make phone calls to our parents to tell them the news. Nobody was surprised. Now I must write an obituary for him and plan a memorial service. Mike and I began cleaning out his house yesterday. We learned a lot about our brother in this unhappy process. Fortunately, it was all good things about him – things I wished I’d known before he died.
Richard never made the connection that he couldn’t keep a job or a girlfriend because of his drug and alcohol problems. He didn’t seem to comprehend that his health was affected by drinking so much. He refused to believe that his “friends” were taking advantage of him. That’s how denial works. Rehab was never an option. At one point about a year ago, after a very close-encounter with death and a long hospital stay, he told me he was finished drinking. We talked about AA and what changes he was willing to make to stay sober. He assured me that he would attend AA meetings and never drink before 3PM, and only beer, no more vodka. As I was leaving the hospital, I said good-bye to my brother in all the ways a person can say good-bye. I never saw him that sober again.
In the words of Cat Stevens, we’re all “only dancing on this earth for a short while.” Richard was ready to sit down. I wish we could have changed the music and had one more dance.
|in better days|