I've just 'phoned my sister in law to find out what time we're meeting tonight to go to my niece's play. She said, 'We're picking up Uncle Tony and Aunty Wendy and we'll get there for 7.15.'
Now, if I'd known Aunty Wendy was going I might not have been so keen to go to the play and my first thought was, 'Shit, I need a drink to get through an evening with her,' but even as I thought those words, I challenged myself. Why did I need a drink to get through an evening with this particular Aunt - not a blood relative, merely married to my Dad's poor unfortunate hen-pecked brother.
The obvious reasons are that she is a mean-spirited, thoroughly nasty, opinionated, bitchy and lazy individual who has never done a day's work in her life and yet somehow cons my poor Uncle Tony into thinking that she is so busy all day.
But, being brutally honest, the reason I dislike her so much is fear: fear that I might turn into her. It's the great open secret in the family that Aunty Wendy is an alcoholic. It's an unspoken rule that no-one phones her before 10 in the morning because she has such trouble getting out of bed in the morning. No-one 'phones her between 3 - 5 in the afternoon because she's having a nap - due to the aperitifs and the lunchtime drinks. No-one 'phones her after 8pm because she's too far gone after pre-dinner, during dinner and after dinner drinks.
She's often been 'too unwell' to join family members at Christmas. She frequently cancels evening invitations at the last minute because she hasn't recovered sufficiently from the afternoon's drinking. Even now I wonder if she will be compos mentis enough to attend the play this evening. Everyone shakes their heads and shrugs and accepts the real reason for her frequent absences from family events is drink, whatever excuse she gives. The really sad thing is that no-one cares about her enough to help her, except my Uncle, and he's too scared of her to even mention that her drinking is out of hand.
I don't want to take her place and be the Aunt everyone shakes their heads about and shrugs over. I'm too aware of the dangers that lie ahead to ignore the signs. I know that cutting down to sensible levels may not be the solution for me but I have to try. If I can't cut down I will admit that I'm unable to control it, and I'll walk away from it completely.
Whatever happens, I will not become my generation's Aunty Wendy.