SUNNY CAL JOURNAL - Go Rest High Cousin Janet, Alcoholism Plays No Favorites

By Bob Weaver 2009

Janet has died.

My cousin Janet was a bright and beautiful girl, curious and adventure seeking, who during her youth would come to Calhoun to visit her aunt Gladys Weaver Stump and her uncle, my dad, Gifford Weaver.

An Akron, Ohio city girl, she wanted to explore the hills and hollers around Hur and catch crawl-dads in the creek.

Janet had a flare for the imaginary, developing a dramatic talent, with an enormous appreciation for living things, both plant and animal.

No other human being loved their dogs, or relished growing fresh vegetables in their garden, as much.

When her favorite dogs passed on, Janet was angered they had to die, and plunged into depression.

In the late 1940s, My family went to Akron to visit her parents, Sheldon and Jean Weaver Weidel.

It was my first visit to a big city. In 1948 they had a small-screen black and white TV, a first viewing for me. I watched the Cleveland TV programs until the stations went off-the-air, however mundane the programming.

It was the first time I remember the joys of trick or treat, Janet took me by the hand to knock on dozens of doors, along busy city streets. We filled a large cloth sack with goodies, the most I had ever seen in one collection.

We went to the movies in a really big movie house, ten times bigger than the Little Kanawha screen in Grantsville.

A few years later we traveled to Akron to attend Janet's wedding to Wayne, a handsome young guy, who was so work-brittle that he rose to being a millionaire as an electrician and a collector of antiques.

Wayne and Janet, having no children, were always going to enjoy the fruits of his 14 hour work days when he retired, often saying they had plans to travel abroad. Wayne was cut down by cancer, short of retirement.

While Janet's drinking problem developed early in their married life, by the time she was 40, family members whispered about its' dire nature.

The problem certainly worsened following the death of her dad, a former Akron policeman and truck driver, followed by the passing of her husband Wayne.

Her behavior grew more erratic as the years went by and the drinking increased.

Her frequent rage against what she described as "my domineering mother" was a concern for my family, her Jekyll and Hyde telephone calls to West Virginia, sometimes rational, but generally drunken rants, punctuated by profane accusations against those who cared most about her.

On more than one occasion, I made feeble efforts to extend the possibility of recovery from alcoholism.

She adequately informed me and her living relatives, she wanted nothing to do with recovery or with them.

For years she has led a life of physical and emotional isolation, cutting off connections with the world.

When her mother died, she inherited her estate and with her own holdings to keep her going, she was beset by organic brain damage from drinking, unable to take care of herself, riddled with illness.

Several years ago, a widowed female cousin came to look after her, taking on the mantle of caregiver.

Bedridden for the past ten years, she was said to rise up and attempt to bite like a mad dog, those who came close to her bed.

It would be hard to imagine the turmoil experienced by the care-giving cousin, the only person left in her life.

Janet, in her mid-70's, her death at long last relief from from chronic alcoholism and a wasted life.

It is with sadness we have recalled her better days and a fate, that for the most part, ended her life many years ago.

Vince Gill's lyrics about his addicted brother come to mind for Janet, who surely deserves peace in death - "Go rest high on that mountain."

Addiction has taken a terrible toll on my family, some of the brightest and best.

For myself, as a recovering alcoholic of over 44 years, I must gratefully acknowledge, "There but for the grace of God, go I."