Uncle AdamThere are a lot of alcoholics in my family, including my dad. But the first in our family to be recognised for this was my uncle, Adam. He was also the first to die because of it.
He had always been an alcoholic as long as I remember. He hadn't worked much in my lifetime and tended to be hidden away by my grandparents as the family's 'dirty little secret'. But I thought the world of him and we had always been close. He was very similar to me and we always felt like we could relate as the black sheep of the family.
I saw less and less of him as the years went by and he got worse. He had seizures, extreme memory lapses and his relationship with his two daughters (my cousins) deteriorated into almost nothing. Even as my dad realised he was an alcoholic and got clean, Adam could never shake the hold alcohol held over him. My dad tried to get him to come to AA meetings with him or to go into a detox programme, but to no avail. He just used to smile and say "I'm fine" - his motto.
My mum would sometimes bump into him in the street and say hello, but he never knew who she was. Out of the three brothers, Adam had been the most intelligent and shown amazing promise, but addiction had melded and warped his mind and his lighthearted personality into something unrecognisable. Doctors had told him that his brain cells were slowly dying off and his vital organs failing him. Years passed since anyone really managed to speak to him and then one day, my dad got a phone call.
I had always been close to Adam and so my dad asked me to come with him to the hospital. He said that if he went alone, he might not be able to take the pain. He needed someone there by his side and that could mean only one thing.
Adam's kidneys had shut down and when I saw him in the hospital bed, I knew without question that he was dying. Jaundice had set in, making his skin a patchy yellow and his skin hung from the bones like wet leaves on a branch. We talked and spent time catching up, nobody daring to say what we all knew would happen. When we asked him how he was feeling, he smiled and said "I'm fine". Two days later, he was gone. He died in November 2009 and his funeral was the day before my birthday. My grandfather made a speech at the service with a trembling voice and the church was filled with almost 300 people. People who had known and loved Adam for the warm, clever, funny person he was. I held my dad's hand as he shook and sobbed, fighting so desperately against his own demons. He has been siber now for 5 years.
We buried Adam in my hometown, midway between his parents and daughters. His headstone was a beautiful piece of black granite. We left it jagged and unrefined like a rock, raw and beautiful like he had been. On the headstone were his telltale words, "I'm fine". The words he always said with a smile, even as he lay dying.
Rest in peace, uncle Adam. I hope you find in the afterlife what you could not in the bottom of the bottle. We will always love you.