NaPoWritMo Day Three

I thought through the years it would work to write it out;

to immerse myself in the grief and  the shame

to face my self disgust that I could not help her.

Writing it out does not help. Not really.  Not significantly.

For all the advice and the study and information I sought,

nothing prevented her confusion, her panic, her anger, her shame

at being confused and panicked and uncontrollably angry.

Nothing prepared us, me, for her dependence, her total trust

that I would do what was needed; that her accommodations would be comfortable,

that she would be safe from abuse and obscenities and a crazy old woman

who defecated in the shoes of the man in the room next door and/or anywhere else

she felt like defecating, whenever.

Those in the caregiver support group that met every second Saturday morning

in a room with lace curtains that looked out on the “town center,” where she and all the

others gathered for piano recitals and play balloon volleyball and Mass on Sunday

mornings, they all told me to not use the word crazy; that the residents were not

crazy.  They were  ill, simply demented, not yet on the correct drug regimen.

But they were crazy, and she called them as she saw them – lunatics.

“Oh thank God,” she said the first Saturday I visited after she moved in,

“Thank God you have come to take me out of here!  There are lunatics here!

Don’t leave me here!  Don’t leave me here with these lunatics!”

and I said nothing, did nothing. I walked out, leaving her there…

with the lunatics…

I know she fought to get out.  The next day her wrists were bruised,

her speech slurred, her eyes half opened as we sat in the courtyard

eating a “nice” lunch together.    I did not ask them what they had done to her.

I was not her heroine.  I was afraid, afraid they would kick her out if I encouraged

her civil disobedience, though secretly I was proud that she made it difficult.

My feisty little mother who made it through so much in her eighty years, who traveled

the world, laughed freely, expected perfection of herself and her family,

who lost everything, then got up and moved on, again and again, and again,

aware of what people thought and said, but who ultimately made her lone decisions,

caring, perhaps, but wasting no time on regrets. My little mother put up a fight, while

I was paralyzed, had no clue what to do with the torments of dementia.


So it went for years and years, lifetimes and lifetimes it seemed.

Sometimes getting it right, sometimes getting it wrong,

sometimes laughing with her, listening to music, taking walks.

Sometimes bitterly wishing I could just TALK with her

just a full, normal conversation…

“What do you think, Mom?  What should we do?  What do YOU want to do?

Where do YOU want to be?  What do YOU want to eat, drink, wear?

Please, PLEASE, just  tell me, TELL ME!?”

I screamed it, one morning, when she thought an armchair was a toilet.


The caregivers saved her, took her to snacks, left me weeping in her room,

for hours,


They nodded, knowing they could really help neither her nor me.


Writing it out does not help. Not really.  Not significantly.

Writing it out rips off the scabs, tears at the scars,

rejuvenates the guilt and sadness as I relive events best left lying.

Writing it out proves nothing, but that I remember.  That I lived it,

So? what does that prove?  That I’m stuck… perhaps.


The truth of life is riding it out.

Finding the path of least resistance, sowing flowers as you go,

sweeping out the corners, organizing what’s left,

giving short schrift to wailing and gnashing of teeth,

holding your chin up despite the ugliness

and adding a bit of humor to each day…

“Oh, hello, Deah! Lovely day, isn’t it?  Why are you wasting it crying?”

“Oh, shut up, Ma!”

and we grin.


rJo Herman

“Riding It Out”









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