Uncle Peter sighed and nodded, "I think so, honestly, yeah."
"Did he owe the wrong kind of people some astronomical gambling debt?"
"No. And no more cable for you, it's distorting your world view."
"Stop it. No, I believe your father is dead because he loved his family with all his heart, and he would never, ever just take off and not come back. He would have moved Heaven and Earth to get to you, if he was able."
Sara leaned back on her arms and locked her elbows. She looked up at the ceiling as Uncle Peter wrapped the gauze around her toe and sighed, "I remember once, when I was little, you mentioned something about drugs and my father. Do you think Dad OD'd?"
"Did I say that? Jeez, I don't remember saying that. I shouldn't have said that to a grieving little girl."
"I remember EVERYTHING anyone has ever said about my dad, even in passing. It is important to me to know as much as possible about him, in case I never get to meet him."
Uncle Peter put his head down and appeared to nod off to sleep. Sara was going to prod him for information when he said, quietly, "It's possible -- even likely -- that drugs did in my brother, your father."
Sara said nothing, but when at last he met her eyes, she stared straight into him, imploring. He looked back through his mental catalog of anecdotes and biographies. He said, with an even and measured voice, "When I was about twelve, which meant your dad was around seventeen or so, he suddenly became a raging drunk. It was not a fad or 'One of Those Things,' and it certainly wasn't a slow progression. One minute he was valedictorian and the next he was skipping school altogether."
His eyes were focused on something unseen from his past, and though he spoke to Sara, it was as though he was somewhere (or some TIME) far away, "You see, my brother had a very addictive personality, and once he would glom onto something, he was like a pitbull. Unfortunately for him at seventeen, his addiction was alcohol."
Sara wasn't sure she liked this story, but bade her uncle to continue anyway.
"He quickly saw that drinking was going to be his ruin, so he replaced booze with learning as his addiction. He got a full scholarship to Northeastern University as a History major."
A smile slowly stretched across his face and he said, "And then, in his Sophomore year, his addiction changed."
Sara's expression changed to a quizzical one.
"His new addiction was..."