Of Genes and Jamison's
About eighteen months after I stopped drinking with little moral support from friends (particularly my wife, who was losing her best drinking buddy), Deirdre asked me how I had done it on my own. I told her that I had no idea, and suggested that she go to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. She has attended meetings regularly ever since.
Deirdre didn't see her father much when she was growing up. He was a career politician who spent a lot of time bending elbows with the constituency while "running for exercise" as a Republican in the heavily Democratic Bronx County. His one business venture outside of the spoils of politics was part ownership of a bar. The trade ran in the family; Deirdre's great grandfather was a publican in the family's ancestral hometown, Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary, Ireland. The Clancy Brothers, whose music reeks of the fellowship of John Barleycorn, were cousins of his, and we'd visit them backstage when they came stateside. But Bill was not, as they say, behind the sticks in the Bronx. Predictably, the bar was a money loser. His drinking had tapered off considerably by the time I met him in 1975 — a beer or two now and then — but his older brother drank heavily all his life.
Deirdre's father's father came to live with her family for a while in the '60s but was asked to move out of concern that he would fall off the steep third-floor balcony while inebriated. He had been a motorman on the subway, and a Democratic ward leader.
Her father's mother's father, another boozer, left his wife and three kids and, in the Irish tradition, was never mentioned again.
Deirdre's mother, June, was questionable. Dry in her waning years, she would eat her dinner alone in the kitchen as Deirdre grew up, nipping from a bottle of vodka she kept under the sink. A classic narcissist, she was always in extreme denial. About everything.
When Deirdre was nineteen and gaining consciousness in the intensive care unit after ingesting a fistful of barbiturates, her mother's first question was: “How could you do this to us?”
Deirdre's father was, at the time, a judge known for his tough stance on murderers, rapists, and drug users. Pure luck separates his daughter from other men's daughters who wound up being sentenced to fifteen years in jail under New York's stiff Rockefeller Drug Laws, which were responsible for his appointment as an "Acting" Supreme Court Justice.