There was a neighborhood block party last night for Cathy, who has sold her house and is moving to South Carolina. Her husband, Peter, died of liver cancer a few years ago. I used to run into Peter when I'd walk the dog. He was in recovery, and told great stories, none of which come to mind. I think he was the sort of storyteller who "owns" his stories. As he'd reach the climax, his face would be red, he'd be gesticulating, and his words would tumble out like quarters from a slot. Even if I could remember one of his tales, it probably would fall flat if I were to try to write it up.
At the party, I ran into Anne, whose daughter Annemarie (Amber) died of liver disease a year and a half ago at 50. I have long planned to finish a chapter I'd started on Amber, but I wanted to talk to Teo, her husband, first. Anne told me that Teo would be eager to talk. Amber had been, too, but she had to cancel the interview we'd scheduled for the day after Thanksgiving in 2003 because she was too weary. She died a couple of weeks later, waiting for a liver transplant.
A few months earlier, Anne, Amber and I had an informal conversation and I got a taste of her quick wit.
"In this family, I know there's a weakness in the liver," Anne said.
"Well, there's also a weakness in the elbow," Amber shot back.
Anne told me that Teo died last week. He was 56. He had cleared up his Hep C a few years ago with chemo, but learned he had terminal liver cancer last February. Nothing could be done. He'd been given four to six months, and stretched it to the max.
Both Amber's and Teo's were drug-related deaths, although they had been clean and sober for many years.
There are many chapters to polish off and post, but I will make this one a priority. I know that Amber and Teo touched a lot of people in their recoveries and perhaps some of those friends and family will contribute to the story down the road.
The Elephant on Main Street © 2005, 2006, 2007 Thom Forbes