Tuesday, April 25, 2006


What you need to know is that I am named for an uncle who drank himself to death—my father’s older brother, whom he adored and from whose shadow he never really emerged, and who, for whatever reason, set about at a relatively early age to destroy himself with alcohol.

I was on the phone with my Mom the other day. We were talking about a mutual acquaintance whose health is failing, and who seems determined to foil, through noncompliance and apathy, any outside effort to improve it. I mentioned the idea that the vast majority of human deaths are suicides, one way or another—passive, long-term suicides, most of them (an idea hardly original to me).

Sometimes, I said, all the fight goes out of you, and no matter how much concerned, quality care you’re getting, to keep breathing seems like too much goddam bother.

Mom:      Like your Uncle Jack. After the last time he got out of the
                 hospital, he knew he couldn’t drink any more. He’d been
                told. He knew what he had to do. But still...

Jack:       And yet, if you’re determined to give up...

Mom:      (sighs) You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t...
                (trails off)

Jack:       (snorts in disbelief)

Mom:      ...make him drink. Water.

My mom, she is a wise woman.

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