Eventually, alcohol will kill you. Drink enough, for long enough, and you’ll die. It’s as simple as that.
Yesterday, my alcoholic cousin died. This isn’t a eulogy. I didn’t know him very well, and what I did know, didn’t endear him to me. He wasn’t much liked by anybody.
He was a liar, a cheat, an identity thief. No one wanted to know him. At my grandmother’s funeral nearly a decade ago, he blew in like human tumbleweed. Some remember him in a white jacket. I don’t. What I recall is a pin-thin man in what looked like hospital whites, his body lost in the bagginess of them. He looked about 70.
At some point during the ceremony he stood, wavering in the aisle at church. Then he shuffled quietly into a pew, remaining there until the mass ended before he got up, got into a car, and was driven away.
That was nearly 10 years ago. It was the last time I ever saw him.
I’m not upset.
He was not real to me in the way that so many in my family are. No, he was a story – a rumour. There were always stories about him: how he stole my aunt’s identity to open multiple credit accounts, how he took jewellery from another aunt’s home, how he would leave restaurants without paying. We talked about his escapades with a mixture of awe and disgust that, when cemented together, acquired the status of lore. But it was better than that because it was true. All of it was true.
No one talked about his drinking. Not because it was taboo, but because it was expected. His father had been an alcoholic – had died of it. It was inevitable that he should do so, too.
My cousin started drinking when he was 18. He drank until his liver packed up. In his latter days, he was virtually bed-ridden. His mother – my aunt – cared for him, enduring the burden of his demands and despairs, until she had a heart attack and died.
My cousin moved into a hospice for a while.. until they found out he was smuggling in drink. Kicked out, he took up residence elsewhere – at another hospice – where the rules were not as strict.
And then he died.
Mercifully, he had no family – no partner, no children.
He was 47.