Over the years, George McGovern followed a routine with his middle child, never ending a talk without joshingly ask her the same question: Who's ahead today, you or the demon?
It was their grim and tender private joke. Last week, Teresa McGovern gave her father the answer he'd long dreaded: She died in the snow, losing a 30-year battle against alcoholism."She had gone past the point where she could stop," said an older sister, Susan McGovern-Rowen. "She intended to go on with her life . . . to do all these things she was planning to do, but she couldn't defeat the alcohol."
It is a painful story that thousands can understand. Alcohol kills 100,000 Americans each year. Most die without headlines, without pictures in the paper.
But Teresa Jane McGovern, 45, was the daughter of a longtime South Dakota senator and one-time Democratic presidential nominee. She had not sought the spotlight in life; still, her death drew a search beacon.
Since her body was discovered Dec. 13, the McGovern family has spoken openly, tearfully and often eloquently of her battle.
"It's been a struggle most of her life," Susan said, noting her sister's drinking began as a teen. "She had every imaginable form of help and it just didn't work."
"She worked as hard to be sober as anybody can," said Dr. Brian Lochen, medical director at Tellurian UCAN, which operates a detoxification center for Dane County where Terry McGovern had been treated several times. "She did all the things people need to do to try to recover."
She was buried Saturday in Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington, D.C., and while friends and family mourned her death, they also celebrated her life.
They remembered the University of South Dakota sociology student with a passion for American Indian and women's issues, the gutsy political campaigner and the mother who cherished two young daughters but was rarely well enough to spend time with them.