November 3, 2015

Two Recent Events Trigger Memories of My Turnaround Six Months, 1977-78 (continued)

Event No. 2: The Palisades House Tour

My daughter and I took the Palisades House Tour a few weeks ago. I'm a member of the Palisades Village, which sponsors the event.

Daughter Ann and I agreed that the tour highlight was this Japanese-style house:

Many of us longtime Palisades residents refer to this house as the "McGovern House." I knew that the house had been built by Chief Judge David Bazelon of the U.S. Court of Appeals for DC. I didn't know until I read the tour guidebook that Judge Bazelon and his wife chose the Palisades because other local neighborhoods still maintained restrictive covenants that prohibited land sales to blacks and Jews.

Terry McGovern and Me
In 1968, the Bazelons sold the house to their friend George McGovern, then a young senator from South Dakota. The guidebook doesn't mention when the McGovern's sold the house. But I know it was after 1980. ?  I got sober in March, 1978 and began attending meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous almost every evening, In late 1978 or early 1979,  I became friends with Terry (Theresa) McGovern, the senator's daughter. She attended some of the same neighborhood AA meetings I did. She had a few dates with a young recovering alcoholic who was staying at my house at the time.

I'm not violating AA's anonymity precept by disclosing these details. Senator McGovern had already written a heartbreaking book, Terry, with the subtitle "My Daughter's Life-and–Death Struggle with Alcoholism." This photo gives you a sense of the Senator's love for Terry:

Teresa Jane Terry McGovern

Terry was intelligent, funny, generous, charismatic, tender. She also struggled with depression and alcoholism all her adult life.

I knew Terry only about a year. She had been living in Madison, Wisconsin but came to Washington at the her parents' urging after she had a breakdown there. While in Washington, a doctor recommended electric shock therapy to treat her depression. She followed this dubious therapy with a quart of booze that almost ended her life.

I knew Terry in the sober months she spent in Washington AA after that scare. But in  mid-1980, worried about a relapse, she returned to Wisconsin. She remained there, free of alcohol for eight years, entered into an initially stable relationship, and had two daughters.

When that relationship broke up in 1988, Terry's life became increasingly chaotic. It ended just before Christmas 1994, when she was found frozen to death in a snow bank in Madison. Terry had stumbled out of a bar and passed out.

After the house tour, I reread Senator McGovern's anguished account of Terry's unhappy life. He examined her diaries, interviewed her friends and doctors, sifted through medical records in his effort to better understand the troubled life of his beloved daughter. This passage appears toward the end of the book:
Why did it take her death to trigger this search for understanding of the affliction that scarred her troubled life and in the end brought her to an untimely grave? Why couldn't I have gained my present knowledge and understanding of my daughter and her disease in time to have helped her more effectively.

This is just one example of the  unusual honesty that pervades this book.  Few public figures have written a memoir this honest.

We Will Get Back To Me Tomorrow
I had initially intended to devote this post to the story of my getting sober in March, 1978. But I got off on a tangent that became the main event. Since I'm trying to apply my "less is more" mantra to these posts, I'll sign off now and return tomorrow to the main subject -- ME.

No comments: