Laura's Epitaph

    Hypothermia is a condition categorized by : low body temperature, disorientation, hallucinations, and eventually death. This condition is usually caused by prolonged exposure to the elements coupled with a lack of proper nourishment. My Aunt Laura died of hypothermia lying in her bath tub, wrapped in a blanket. laura’s apartment had heat, but the multitude of empty wine bottles surrounding her led the investigating authorities to believe that her death was “alcohol related“. Laura was a good person who had a series of bad ideas that led to a tragic end. Alcoholism is a social problem affecting many Americans, including my self. laura’s passing caused me to pause and consider the implications of my own bad habits, and decide to change them.

    The first time I met Laura Jones was when my mother and step-father were married. At that point she was Laura Stien, cosmopolitan wife of Dr. Regi Stien. To the eyes of a child born and raised in Tallahatchaloochy Tennessee Aunty Laura was the epitome of sophistication and class. She was born and raised just down the road in Faitsville, she even graduated from Tallahatchaloosy High School. In those days Laura was her family’s little princess, she moved to Tacoma and married a doctor even. Laura’s life as a Washington princess had a promising start, but it would not have such a great end.

    Laura Jones had a rough time after divorcing her husband Regi, that period of tribulation is when her loved ones noticed she had a problem staying away from wine. Until the fall of 2008 she had managed to balance her addiction with her social and financial responsibilities. On Christmas Eve of that year, I noticed she had developed a severe tremor. I knew that the tremor was a telltale sign of alcohol withdrawal. That night I took Laura aside and told her that if she “didn’t stop drinking she would drown“. Two months later my mother called to tell me that those words were the last I would share with Laura. The funeral was a quiet affair, no one knew what to say about the little princess who grew up to be a premature corpse. I sat through the services and received the mourner’s condolences as politely as could be imagined, and quietly slipped out the back door as soon as I could.

    After the funeral I jumped in my old beater and left Faitsville in the rearview, I was headed to stay with some friends in knoxville for a few days. On the drive I guzzled the better part of a twelve pack of Budweiser. I spent that weekend thoroughly sauced, and returned home with a hangover as evidence of my binge. Upon returning home I took a long hot shower and sat down to organize my dizzily circling thoughts. Laura’s funeral was the last funeral I went to that year but it wasn’t the first. Some of the kids I went to high school with, lost hope, and every one of them looked for it at the bottom of a bottle(of booze or prescriptions). Sitting in my easy chair, with a fresh body and clear mind, I realized that my life didn’t look too different from theirs. It was at that moment I decided living fast and dying young was not a very appealing retirement plan.

    With no job and even less money, my escape from Tallahatchaloosy would not be a simple undertaking. The first step was to stop drinking, not easy to do five years into the addiction. My naturally hard head made the transition to sobriety much less difficult than I expected. With a clear mind, I had little trouble finding a job at a local gas station. A few paydays later I turned my red ink black, and began looking for my new hometown. During a day trip, to visit my friends in knoxville, I was offered a room in my friend’s new house. It was a few weeks before I made the decision to move, but as soon as I did, there was little trouble in getting set up in knoxville. Even though, I left my night life behind I still had trouble leaving the old me behind, during the following months I got scared of sobriety and took a few flying leaps off of the wagon.

    “You can take a tally boy away from his whiskey, but they always find their way back”~ Old Man Evans. A friend’s dad told me these words about the locals of my little corner of Tennessee before I moved to Knoxville. Those words may be true of “tally boys”, but fortunately I am a bit of a gypsy, and am not fated to be a slave to addiction for the rest of my life. A few hurdles along the path to sobriety, could not discourage me from continuing my struggles. In fact, those obstacles and the resulting problems strengthened my resolve to sober up. One of the friends that I was staying with had decided to get a higher education at the local college, and talked me into signing up . Escape from Tallahatchaloosy, booze, and sloth; a good start to a new me has been my mantra ever since then.

    It has been nearly a year since my Aunt Laura’s death, and I have gone from gutter trash to college student. Loosing Laura was very tragic, but I will always carry fond memories of her, not only for the kindness she showed me, but also for the lessons that her life taught me. Alcoholism is a problem that affects many lives, those who can’t stop their problem die, and those that are left behind wonder why. After being left behind I have decided to live my life so that no one will cry at my funeral. No, instead they will smile because they will know that I lived well.

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Novel / Novella
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"History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it" ~Winston Churchhill~
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one of John Drydin's many losses