You might remember from an earlier story that I gave the go-ahead for my mom’s amputation. It wasn’t THAT big a deal. It was only ONE foot. (She had two, for heaven sakes. People use prostheses all the time. No one chooses to die instead of getting a single little foot removed, right?)

My mother was always changing her mind. There are hundreds of stories about her changing her mind. How was I to know she wasn’t going to change her mind for the first time in her entire life?


In the ten years she lived either with us or a block from us, I took her shopping frequently. First to buy something, then to return it, then to buy it again and to return it all over again and, believe it or not, to drive back to buy it yet again. My mother even returned FOOD to the grocery store. Who returns food to the grocery store?

Once she bought a pair of pants from Talbot’s. She had them for months but decided that she no longer liked them. I drove her to return the pants. The saleslady opened the box and looked at the pants. My mother had shortened them. The saleslady looked at the cuffs and didn’t bat an eye. Talbot’s still took them back. Who knew you could alter clothes and still return them? She had shrunken to way less than five feet. Who could ever use them? A midget?

My mother was supposed to get a prosthesis. She was all set to go to physical therapy and I had hoped that she could adapt to the new “foot” with time. But regardless of what the therapist or the doctor or the nurses or I did, she refused to even try.

When this was happening, we got a postcard in the mail with a painting on the front from an Art Gallery. It was a painting by Seth Michael Forman. I brought it in to show Mom.


“Irene Marie! This is Daddy and me in heaven! And look! My FOOT gets to come!”



“You have to buy this painting!” she exclaimed. So I did. It’s hanging on the wall right now.

I brought the bottom three, Timothy, Lenore and Benjamin, to visit her because I was under the ridiculous delusion that she cared about her grandchildren in spite of how she behaved around them and what she said about them over the years. (The top two were away at school and couldn’t visit as often.)


During one visit, NANA addressed Tim:


“You have access to sharp objects, don’t you, Tim? Bring me some sharp scissors or a sharp paring knife so I can slit my throat, okay Tim?”


“Mom. This is not the way you speak to your grandchildren. Ask them about their day. What they did in school.”


“I don’t give a shit what they did in school, Irene Marie.”


“Kiss your Nana and we have to go home now.”


The next day I brought the bottom three back in, since obviously I was delusional. We brought store-bought get-well cards and homemade ones every day.

“Lenore, go under the sink. There are lots of poisons under the sink. Put them all in a bag and bring them to me, like a good girl. I need poisons to drink and they won’t give me any here, the bastards.”

“Kiss your Nana goodnight. We’ll visit her again soon but it’s time to go home now.”


The next day the bottom three brought more flowers for her bedside stand.


“We love you, Nana.”


“Benjamin, you’re the smart one. Find out Dr. Kevorkian’s phone number, write it down and give it to me tomorrow.”


“Nana, I don’t want to be a party to that. I know that you want me to do this so that he will help you to commit suicide with his death machine. I am not comfortable with being your accomplice in this endeavor.”

(Seriously, ask anyone, this is EXACTLY how Benjamin spoke as a little kid. Ben was practically born speaking like William Buckley. )

“Time to go home, kids, lots of homework to do tonight.”


Here’s a picture of Lenore and Benjamin with NANA. Tim was there but there was no more room on the bed.


I decided, long overdue, I’ll admit, that bringing the children was:

1. Hurting my children



2. Not helping NANA one bit.


So. From then on I went by myself.


I brought her fresh fruit every day. She loved fresh fruit. I cooked foods that she liked and brought her small portions most days because she said the food in the nursing home was intolerable. I fed her. I changed her clothes. I took her to the bathroom with her one foot. I bathed her. I washed her hair. I put rollers in her hair. I combed out her hair into a hairdo she always hated, I washed her false teeth. I tweezed the hairs that sprouted from her chin.

She was having a lot of problems in the nursing home. Her Evil Roommate was spying on her. The Evil Roommate was telling tales and making up lies. She needed to get rid of the Evil Roommate.


NANA had trouble telling time because recently the hands of the clock kept spinning. She needed a better clock. I brought her another clock. Oddly, that clock had the same problem with spinning hands. The hands of the clocks didn’t spin while I watched, but perhaps they spun when I wasn’t there. It was impossible for her to tell the time. It was a conspiracy against her!


People were stealing her clothes. All the good clothes were missing. Someone knew which of her clothes were expensive. She blamed the laundry. So I did her laundry from then on. After that, people were stealing her clean clothes from her closet while she slept.


Insects were crawling up the wall and over her bed. She rang the call button to complain day and night. The room was checked thoroughly and frequently, but no actual insects were found. She continued to see insects swarming everywhere. She saw them when I was with her. I swatted the wall with a towel and told her they were dead, but she continued to see them.


One particularly bad day, I came in and she asked for her lunch.


I went to fetch it.

She told me to take the damn tray away.

I did.

She told me she didn’t want that lunch.

She wanted cereal.

I went out and asked the nurse if there was any cereal. There was and I brought it back with a spoon and a bowl. She said that she could not be expected to eat her cereal without a damn tray.

I went to fetch the damn tray again.

When I returned she was pouring milk into the box.

“You don’t want to do that, MOM. Here, let me help you.”


I put the cereal in the bowl and poured the milk in the bowl for her.


She wanted more napkins, so I went to fetch them.

Then I returned.


She had put her false teeth in her cereal.

She was drinking the water out of her false teeth cup.


I took a deep breath.


I said, “Mom, you don’t want to be drinking that!”


I took her teeth out of the cereal and took the teeth cup from her hands.


I ran to the bathroom and rinsed them both off.


I ran back and in that short time she had poured the entire bowl of cereal and milk all over the nice clean clothes she had on.


Right on her lap.


“Now look what I’ve done! And this is an historic document!”


“Don’t you worry, Mom, I can clean that document as good as new.”


“Are you blind, Sara? This document is ruined!”


(Try to keep in mind that I am still, and have always been, Irene, and, I’m going to go out on a limb here, [pardon the pun], but I question the existence of the historic document on my mother’s lap.)


When NANA’S birthday came, I made an exception and brought the bottom three again. (It is obvious that I am learning disabled.)


It didn’t really matter, because she didn’t know who they were, thinking that Lenore was her sister-in-law, Betty, and Timothy was Tushar and Benjamin she just couldn’t recognize. I’m not sure she even saw him, hovering there trying to be helpful.


Not too many days after that I was just finishing up making dinner before I picked the kids up from school, when I got a call.


“Is this Irene Zion? This is your mother’s nursing home and you must come immediately to escort her to the hospital by ambulance.”


“Uh, why??”

My mother had put a plastic bag over her head and taped it around her neck with scotch tape.


Her roommate called the nurse on her.


“We don’t keep suicides here.”


“You can throw people out of a nursing home?”


The answer was an unqualified yes. (Who knew?)


I said I would get there as soon as I could. I still had three kids to pick up from school.


I brought the kids home and left them there, thinking that this was the lesser of the child abuse, leaving them alone, rather than taking them to the scene of Nana’s attempted suicide. Victor would be home in a couple of hours to watch them.


I drove to the nursing home. It turns out that the plastic bag my mom had placed over her head and scotch taped around her neck was one in which I had brought her fresh fruit. This would later be a bone of contention with my brother, Woody. He claimed, and still does, that her suicide attempt was entirely my fault for bringing her fruit every day in a plastic bag. I could have mentioned that I didn’t bring her the scotch tape, but I don’t think it would have helped.


My mom complained emphatically about her turncoat, no-good, hateful, Evil Roommate.


“How dare that bitch interfere with my plans! Who does she think she is anyway? She should rot in hell! Bitch has been taking notes and telling the nurses on me from the beginning!”


Once you try to kill yourself, no matter how ineptly, you must leave and go to the Looney Bin. So. To the Looney Bin we went.


When we arrived, the doctor at the admitting desk asked her some questions.


“What day is it?”


“Tuesday.” (It was not Tuesday.)


“Who is the President?”

“Hoover.” (Duh.)

“How old are you?”



“Who is this?” (Indicating me.)


“I have no idea.”


“Why do you think that you are here?”


“My Evil Roommate is a bitch.”


“How old are you again?”




“Would you do something for me? Subtract 7 from 100.”




“Can you try that again? Subtract 7 from 100.”




“Where do you live?”


“Baltimore.” (We were in Champaign, Illinois at the time.)


“How old are you?”




It went on like this interminably. She got not one single question correct. Finally, we were about to commit her to a short stay in the Looney Bin. It did seem that she required a bit of mental help.


My mother called me to her side.


“Here, you probably want this.”


She grinned a huge grin and pulled out a wadded-up fruit baggie from her pocket.


“You probably don’t want to leave this with me.”


She was giggling.




“I thought that they searched you when you came in, Mom.”


“Well I still have a few tricks up my sleeve.”


As we left her, NANA was giggling up a storm.



Comment by Ben Loory |Edit This
2009-06-18 14:36:17


Comment by Ben Loory |Edit This
2009-06-18 14:36:56

it was not the best comment but it was the best i could do.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-18 15:06:39

You sort of have to read two other stories first before this will make sense.
Then it will make sense.
You’re coming in late in the game here. Sort of playing with one blind eye, if you catch my drift.

Comment by Lenore |Edit This
2009-06-18 14:38:09

i hated nana.

thank you for publishing that awful photograph of me. thank you for providing evidence that i cannot behave appropriately in almost any situation.

i think i was high.

but ben’s dragon shirt is pretty sweet.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-18 15:10:49

I looked and looked and looked.
ALL of the photos of you with NANA are with you making horrible faces.
Every single one.
You were a teenager, so was Tim.
And later I was to learn that your, (and Tim’s) horrible behavior was due greatly to the massive use of drugs. I was a bit preoccupied at the time and totally failed at mothering.
I didn’t know you were stoned.
I thought you were reacting to a horrible situation with NANA.
I’m sorry.
I’ve tried to make up for it.
Ben’s dragon shirt was really great.

Comment by Marni Grossman |Edit This
2009-06-18 17:53:44

For a while I thought you were wearing a jean onesie in that photograph. And I was all set to laugh at you for it.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-19 16:12:00

Lenore has always had fashion sense. She did not get it from me. I humiliate her everywhere we appear together.

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Comment by Sara Zion |Edit This
2009-06-19 12:30:29

and btw,
lenore, you look vampire-ish in the photo. or like a cat hissing. i love it and don’t know why you’re complaining. ) really. you look fierce and surprising and, well, pretty cool.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-19 16:12:35

I agree, Sara!

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Comment by Tim |Edit This
2009-06-20 17:46:01

I thought that picture was pretty good. Matter of fact, I just turned to Ben and told him how much I liked it.

Lenore’s a jackass.

Comment by Lenore |Edit This
2009-06-18 14:42:32

also, that’s a nice new picture of you! i should know, i took it.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-18 15:12:04

You are a great photographer.
You are a great writer.
You are a great sister.
You are a great daughter.
Don’t be mad.
This one hurt.

Comment by Lenore |Edit This
2009-06-18 15:26:06

don’t worry, i’m not mad. i don’t even know what you’re worried i’d be mad about. uh, also, i don’t think that all the drugs i did make you a bad mom. they were fun. thanks for letting me do them.

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Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-18 15:30:58

Can we get ONE thing straight here?
I did NOT let you do them.
I was blind and stupid and so was your father.
We didn’t see what should have plain to us in front of our eyes.
Glad you had fun, but as in the scooter incident, you’re lucky to have come out alive.

Comment by Lenore |Edit This
2009-06-18 15:40:57

still, it was cool of you to give me the weekly allowance for my drugs. so thank you.

learn how to accept a compliment!

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-18 16:57:49

You’re welcome, creepy daughter.

Comment by Uche Ogbuji |Edit This
2009-06-19 08:46:13

I think Dostoievski is up on cloud 101, taking down every word of this exchange.

Comment by Uche Ogbuji |Edit This
2009-06-19 08:47:49

Strindberg, dammit! I meant Strindberg!

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-19 10:39:53

I’m afraid my ignorance is apparent here. I had to look Strindberg up.
(mea culpa, mea maxima culpa!)
The write-up about him said he palled around with Soren Kierkegaard, whom I studied and loved like crazy when I got my BA in Literature of Religion. He also hung out with Hans Christian Anderson. I have probably a larger collection of fairy tales than the library here.
That pitiful thing said, I have no idea what or how he writes, so now he’s on my list so I won’t feel so ignorant next time I hear of him. What do you suggest I read first? (I need help here.)

Comment by Uche Ogbuji |Edit This
2009-06-20 09:11:18

Err, none of them, Irene. I still shudder at my own experience. My Dad had Strindberg’s _Inferno_ sitting around his study, and I think I was about 15 when I made the mistake of reading it. Later on, one of my friends at the University of Nigeria had the crackpot idea of staging a sort of Amos Tutuola re-interpretation of _A Ghost Sonata_. When I expressed my terror of Strindberg, he made me read it, anyway, to give him my opinion. I think after reading it (against my better judgment) I told him to go to hell and to take his damfool play with him.

I still have never seen an Ibsen play or movie adaptation because my Dad told me once that Ibsen reminds him a lot of Strindberg.

Maybe the Cliffs Notes of Strindberg would be less bleak? This might be the only time in my life I’ve suggested to anyone the Cliffs Notes version of anything, to give you an indication.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-20 13:36:49

Thanks for the honesty, Uche, I might have toiled valiantly and yet failed at reading his work.
It feels really lightening to get off the hook!

Comment by keiko |Edit This
2009-06-18 14:44:42

I always wondered about that picture in the sitting room.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-18 15:13:11

Yeah, Keiko,

It’s the painting of my dad and my mom and her foot in heaven.
For real.

Comment by lonny |Edit This
2009-06-18 14:46:28

happy ending!

nana giggling – that is nice

you see everyone nana was all right – she was just misunderstood

i wonder where she was hiding the baggie?
such a trickster our nana …..

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-18 15:17:38

I saw where she was hiding it, Lonny.
She was literally hiding it up her sleeve!
Remember how she used to tuck kleenexes up her sleeve?
Like that.
This is something that old people do. I can’t begin to understand why, but it is a fact.
I see it every Wednesday when I take Brooklyn to the Old Folks Home.
All the women have stuff tucked up their sleeves.

She was nuts, Lonny.
This was NOT a happy ending.
Besides, it’s not the ending.
It will be some time before I can tackle the rest.
I’ll give you that she certainly was a trickster, though.
Oh, yes she was.

Comment by Sara Zion |Edit This
2009-06-18 15:57:32

Nana was also always warding off our overly-enthusiastic dogs with plastic baggies squirreled up her sleeves.

Boy, she was a weirdo, wasn’t she?

I remember having one visit in the NH. I remember she was confused and surprisingly toilet-mouthed (so to speak: see “hungry sara”), considering she wasn’t the cursing kind… I do remember her using the “c” word towards an orderly. A lot of times we medical folks describe patients as “pleasantly demented” when they’re confused but really nice and sort of goofy. Nana was not a pleasantly demented lady.

As an aside, remember when you told her that Tushar and I were engaged and she said to you, “Well, it’s about time he made an honest woman out of her!” I love that story. To me, that encapsulates my image of Nana right there! ) Hee hee hee… Good thing Tushar came along to *stop my lyin’!*

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Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-18 17:09:35

Oh, Sara,
I had totally forgotten her “dog-away.” She’d pull that plastic bag out and shake it in front of the dogs and they just hated the noise it made and backed off. She was an all-around hater, hated kids, dogs, cats, and the list goes on.
When NANA got demented she used truly HATEFUL words. Right out in the open. No holding back.
When I was growing up she was two people. When others were around, she was the image of respectability. When it was just me there, she vented every epithet imaginable. The neighbors were spying. My friends were just after my stuff or my homework, etc. It was exhausting.
She didn’t just become demented, you see. She just suddenly started showing her crazy to everyone instead of just to me. Funnily enough, I don’t think she did this turn-about in front of my Dad or my brother. Damn, I was SO special!
Remember Marcia’s Mom? When she got Alzheimers, she just got even sweeter. Everyone loved to be around her. I sure envied Marcia her mother.

Comment by Sara Zion |Edit This
2009-06-19 12:39:10

yup, marcia’s mom was pleasantly demented. )

on the other hand, talk about aiming low: if you’re gonna be envious of someone, why not be envious of someone with a NOT demented mom?

Comment by Marybear |Edit This
2009-06-18 14:51:21

Hey, I’ve been that cat !

when my brother was crazed on crack =)

I wish I was joking =(

*hugs Lenore’s mom*

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-18 15:19:08

Thanks, Marybear,

I’m pretty sure that it would look quite similar, crack and crazy.

I hope your brother’s okay now. I really, really do.

Comment by Marybear |Edit This
2009-06-19 04:27:12

No worries Irene ,

He’s good ,that was a decade ago .
He is clean ,healthy ,and a daddy of a sweet little girl who’s name is tattooed over his heart =)

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Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-19 06:59:48

That is such wonderful news and a relief to boot!
How did he get alright? Certainly not an easy thing.

Comment by Melissa |Edit This
2009-06-18 14:55:47

I’ve got nothing. Except my mom does bring food back to Publix.


Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-18 15:20:25

G_D Almighty, Melissa!

You are always surprising me.
here you are looking all normal and you have weirdo family members that don’t fit with you at all.
I’m mystified.

Comment by melissa (irene’s friend) |Edit This
2009-06-19 03:30:45

Oh yeah, I am so not normal, have you not figured that out yet?


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Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-19 03:38:05

An inkling, Melissa, just an inkling.

Comment by Melissa |Edit This
2009-06-19 17:14:20

One day I will tell you about Grandpa Harry. Ooooh boy.


Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-20 04:26:13

Don’t make me wait, Melissa!

Tell me now!

Comment by Melissa |Edit This
2009-06-21 10:28:36

Well you know he went to jail.

We would go to Miami Beach almost every Sunday to visit him. Most of the time his second wife would cook, she was a great cook. This one day however, he so wanted to try Swenson’s. For weeks he went on about it. Finally, we said ok. Grandpa was not too great in resturants. So we sit in a booth, my two oldest were very little at the time. We attemped to order. when Grandpa… says… THIS ICE CREAM IS MADE FROM PIG MILK… it is not kosher we need to leave NOW.
Shh.Shh. Grandpa no ice cream is made from pig milk.
No Grandpa no it is not.
IT IS… I READ IT IN THE JEWISH FLORIDIAN. Which was the only paper he read.

We all know there was no such article. but we tore out of there.

One of the many things that he read in that paper. It was all there. Only thing is he was the only one that ever saw what he said he did.

Comment by Irene Zion |Edit This
2009-06-22 15:04:16

Melissa, That is so incredible!


Pig milk ice cream. oh. sounds so Gooooood!

Now we hafta know why he went to jail!

Comment by Melissa |Edit This
2009-06-23 16:51:18

He did NOTHING, his brother set him up. They were in some sort of business together. No, no he did not embezzle any money. No one really knows for sure. No one remembers how long he was gone for, two months, six months, two year. You would think someone in the family would know.


Comment by Kate |Edit This
2009-06-18 14:58:54

Well. That’s unpleasant.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-18 15:22:34

Have you not been paying attention when we talk about NANA?
Maybe we NEVER talk about NANA.
Okay, you’re off the hook.
Yup. Unpleasant as hell.
Good call.

Comment by Kate |Edit This
2009-06-19 06:22:01

No, no, I’ve heard many of these stories before. But usually they’re told in short enough spurts to be funny. All together it was a little intense.

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Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-20 04:27:47

Parts of it were told in the family, but I never told anyone about the whole Looney Bin part before. Kids didn’t know that.

Comment by Zara |Edit This
2009-06-18 15:02:40

God, Irene, Livia Soprano should have taken lessons from your mother. How did you grow up to be so caring and kind? How hard is it to write this? I cannot imagine. I think you are so brave for sharing this with us all and you are so clever for writing something so awful in such an entertaining way. Cannot wait for the next installment, but I think I need to pour myself a stiff drink before you begin…

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-18 15:26:35

I’ve been writing about her about once every six months.
It takes that long to rearrange things enough to make SOMETHING funny in the horror.
Go up top to Ben Loory’s answer.
If you haven’t read the two before exclusively about NANA.
There are NANA parts in other stories, but these are full frontal NANA.
Go read.
It will be easier to understand.
I will never be finished telling it.
There will still be more I left out after I die.

Comment by Zara |Edit This
2009-06-18 15:50:39

I have read the other posts…and I cannot believe how terrible it must have been for you. The scissors and the cut finger story gives me nightmares…

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Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-18 17:12:17

It is almost inconceivable how much more material I have on my mother alone.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-19 03:39:52

I think Livia Soprano was my favorite character on the show. I identified so much with poor Tony in regards to his mother. She was pure evil.

Comment by Sara Zion |Edit This
2009-06-18 16:00:17

I gotta say, it might have been hard to write, but
I thought this was another funny one. You’re getting lots of doom and gloom reactions here, but if it were fiction, it’d *certainly* be funny–

Just sayin’…

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-18 17:14:47

That’s what I’m after.
I have to work on it a long time.
I try to twist things around in my mind enough so that when I tell the story, even though it is true, I can laugh at it instead of wanting to crawl into the closet and close the door.

2009-06-18 16:07:00


I’d say more than that, but this is yours.

my humblest admiration is yours, too.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-18 17:17:32

Thanks so much, Lance.

Ask my kids. That’s another thing she couldn’t do. Never hugged my dad. Never hugged my kids. Never hugged me.
She recoiled at the idea of being touched.

Comment by jmb |Edit This
2009-06-18 16:42:34

“I don’t give a shit what they did in school, Irene Marie.”

One of my all-time favorite TNB lines.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-18 17:19:37


It’s really funny. I kept on trying over and over, doing the same things. Isn’t that the sign of someone a bit nuts? Doing things over and over that obviously don’t work?

I KNEW she didn’t give a shit. I just WANTED her to give a shit.

Comment by jmb |Edit This
2009-06-18 16:43:50

I admire people who take traumatic situations and try to find some levity,
we have to laugh or else
we’d all have fruit bags over our heads.

I never worked geri psych but I hear
it was a hoot.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-18 17:22:36

Exactly, jmb,
laugh about it or you can just go ahead and get out the scotch tape and the fruit bag.

I volunteer with my therapy dog at a nursing home.
I have to say that I stay away from the mean ones.
It’s easy to do, cause the mean ones don’t want the dog around either.

Comment by jmb |Edit This
2009-06-19 08:11:03

Well you know what –
It wasnt a hoot.
It was incredibly sad and
and it really
really made you re-think
because it scared the
hell out of you to
think you might
one day be in
their shoes.


Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-19 11:03:47

One of my old folks had really sore feet when I last saw him, before my trip to Africa and my broken ankle. When I went back he had two above the knee amputations.
My favorite blind lady up and died. The one who had me keep checking to see if the photos of her with Brooklyn were still up on her wall.
One of my ladies is totally lucid and brilliant, but her body has just given up and she spends her days in a reclining wheel chair in the hall.
Not hootful. Not hootful in the least.

Everything you say is exactly right.
I’m scared to death.

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2009-06-18 16:45:12

Wow, so much going on there. It’s all so sad. And I’m sure it must have been hard to write about, as well. Dementia is such an awful thing to cope with.

I’m with Lance on this one. Hugs and admiration.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-18 17:24:24

Thanks, Simon,
You and Lance will make great sons-in-law.
I’m only giving Lenore up to the nicest people.

Comment by Jayne VanderVelde |Edit This
2009-06-18 17:16:51

I love your writing. You are so open and caring. What you have been through is amazing … you are amazing. Thank you so much for sharing your life with us.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-18 17:25:49

Hey, it’s nice to meet you, Jayne!
Welcome to my crazy world.
Come any time.

Comment by Mary Richert |Edit This
2009-06-18 17:29:58

What an incredible family. Irene, I really appreciate your willingness to lay it all out there. I love this story because even though it’s a hard one, it’s good, and you’re telling it beautifully. I love the honesty and everyone’s imperfections.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-18 17:46:05

We here at the Zion clan revel in our imperfections, Mary.
We have to, it’s where we excel.
No one’s more proud of our family lunacy than we!

2009-06-18 17:33:32

Your writing about NANA is like beautiful, perfect cotton candy…

… that’s spun from Owens-Corning Insulation.

My heart is all mangled and busted up about this one.

Boy howdy, I do love that painting, though.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-18 17:49:06

I KNOW! Right?

How in the world could that have arrived at our house just at that time?

I have NO idea what the painter had in mind, but the family knows what it really means.

(Damn, Kimberly,

“like beautiful, perfect cotton candy…

… that’s spun from Owens-Corning Insulation.”

That is great writing!)

Comment by Marni Grossman |Edit This
2009-06-18 17:58:37

Irene. It IS funny. In a gallows humor sort of way. But that’s the most effective writing, I think. Spinning tragedy into tragicomedy. It’s all the more poignant for it.

I appreciate tremendously the fact that you’re willing to share this with us! Much love-

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-19 03:50:12

Thanks, Marni,

Gallows humor is our specialty.
I imagine it couldn’t be any other way raised as I was by who I was.
My kids could have had 4 grandparents, but Victor’s dad died when Victor was 13 and his mom died before Lenore was born. My dad adored the kids, but he died more than ten years before my mother. My kids were dealt a bad hand in the grandparent department, left as they were with only NANA. Plus they had the added benefit of having her alternately living with us and living a block away, eating with us most nights and with us for every holiday.
I have to say that I resented every mother’s day because I wanted it to be MINE with MY kids, but it always about NANA. By the time she was finally gone, so were the kids, for the most part.
That still niggles at me. Mothers day was STOLEN from me by my mother.

(Seriously, Irene, suck up and let it go!) (Don’t listen, I’m lecturing myself here.)

Comment by Rachel Pollon |Edit This
2009-06-18 18:19:44

So much to say…

1) I thought this was very funny even though it was sad and horrifying underneath. I think you can and did make it funny because you had some time away from it. As they say — “tragedy plus time equals comedy.”

2) You are an inspiration. I, too, have many ick things to work with and to a large degree I shy away from them. I want my story to be funny, not sad! But only we can make them funny, right? So what the hell am I waiting for? Thanks for the inspiration!

3) Parents don’t know when their kids are doing drugs. Unless they’re doing drugs together. )

4) The whole getting old and yelling obscenities thing really freaks me out. I hope I don’t turn into that. It seems like a very scary, sad place to be.

5) The plastic bag up the sleeve, and then scaring dogs with it, cracks me up.

6) Lenore’s comment about the allowance money also does.

Okay, looking forward to more!

2009-06-18 18:27:54

Yeah – what the hell *are* you waiting for, Rachel? We haven’t seen anything from you in AGES!!!!!

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-19 11:57:32

Your new picture is HOT, Kimberly!

Kimberly the STAR!!!!!

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Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-19 04:04:55

Thanks so much, Rachel!
I can write about most of the kids’ stuff without batting an eye. My mother is another story. I need to start thinking about a little portion and let it rumble around in my head for a very long time before I can actually see that it was ridiculously funny. Then I can write about it.

Old people don’t always get like that. They really don’t. Most of them just get sweet and want to talk about their old memories. My friend Marcia’s Mom was always a nice person, but after she got Alzheimers, she actually got more sweet. Marcia’s kids would sit around and make up stories and ask her if she remembered them and she always did. It’s as though they were giving her a whole new stack of life stories.

I have a cousin from the invisible side of the family who has a mother with Alzheimers. She doesn’t know her husband has died. Every day she asks about him and my cousin tells her he’s dead again. I want to throttle her. Poor woman has to relive the moment of his death over and over. All she had to do was say that he’s at the hardware store. He just left to get a bite to eat and he’ll be right back. I don’t mind if people are idiots about themselves, but when it hurts others it gets my goat.

Next time you have a plastic grocery bag in your hand shake it around. It really makes an annoying noise. She invented “Dog-away.”

As far as drugs and kids go, if you haven’t read it, please read the first story I wrote here:
Let me know what you think.

Comment by Rachel Pollon |Edit This
2009-06-18 18:21:12

OH — and I love that painting!

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-19 04:08:22

You know, that painting gives me peace, Rachel.
I figure G_d has fixed up my mom so she’s not crazy and my dad finally gets to spent some time with someone nice for eternity.

Comment by Rachel Pollon |Edit This
2009-06-18 18:32:47

Thanks for the ass kicking, KMW!

2009-06-18 18:42:27

It’s only ’cause I luv ya… (and your writing…)

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-19 04:10:14

Being madly in love should make you want to write MORE! Get moving! I’m with Kimberly here.
(I’m sort of with Kimberly everywhere.)

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2009-06-19 08:35:26

And I can feel you with me, dear cyber-mameleh!

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-19 11:05:38

I am hovering above you right now, Kimberly.

(To be read in a spooky voice.)

Comment by Ursula |Edit This
2009-06-18 21:19:33

This is one of your more disturbing stories, real life events that had to be dealt with. You wrote a great “dark” comedy describing your mothers torturing needs.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-19 04:14:46


Thanks for saying the dark comedy part. I worried over whether I’d told it correctly, which in my mind, is to make people laugh at something quite horrible.

NANA was a really unsettling influence in our lives, but damn good material.

Comment by Yamona |Edit This
2009-06-18 22:01:19

I loved your piece. I laughed my head off and was torn inside at the same time. Strange ways.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-19 04:16:33


I love you forever!!!

That was JUST what I was going for!
Please come back to visit often, you are obviously good for my fragile ego.

2009-06-19 01:01:03

Irene, you are are so strong to have survived this mother with so much grace, humor and love. It’s constantly amazing to me how some people survive and some people don’t. You are a survivor. Thank you for being so brave as to share your painful memories AND lend an air of humor about them as well. That must be difficult. I admire you.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-19 04:21:20

That is very kind of you, Colleen,

The funny thing is that my brother was the GOLDEN CHILD for my mother. She doted on him and adored everything about him. I do not exaggerate when I say that my mother never wanted me. I know this because she told me repeatedly throughout my life. And yet, here I am doing just fine and it is as though my poor brother was just crushed under her heel. You just never know.

Comment by Henning Koch |Edit This
2009-06-19 02:18:24

Hi Irene,

You write with converted rage, that’s a great achievement, I sense massive effort there… philosophical work… NOTHING ever works to plan… does it?
Hollywood could not make this story, because there is no great ending… the ending can only be what we (you) make it… although you haven’t got to the end of this one yet.

I saw your post as I logged on to post my own… a rambling piece on Berlin… wish I had something more important to write about…


Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-19 04:28:32

I do have to admit that some stories just flow right out without a hitch and some I feel as though I am pulling endless strands of silk directly from my eyes writing as though I were a spider person. That was pretty dense. I’ll have to see if I can word that in English sometime.

I so look forward to your pieces, Henning. You ALWAYS make me laugh. You have a handle on the human condition that is unlike anyone else. I’m going to read yours as soon as I finish answering my comments. I hope you wrote a funny one this time. I could use a bit of levity.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-19 12:00:58

I’ve been thinking about what you said, that I write with converted rage.
I know in my heart that this is true, and yet no one but you has ever said anything like this.
You’re a pretty perceptive guy, Henning.

What are you doing in Berlin?
I liked your Italian stories so much!
Are you some kind of gypsy, or what?

Comment by D.R. Haney |Edit This
2009-06-19 02:34:27

Will you hate me if I say I was laughing hysterically at the beginning?

I now have to go back and catch the beginning segments of this story.

Both of my maternal grandparents had dementia. My grandmother’s especially destroyed me. I couldn’t visit her at the nursing home without tearing up. My brother, too. We both adored her.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-19 04:32:40

I LOVE you for saying you were laughing hysterically. I wish it were not just the beginning, though. I tried for funny all through it.
I’m sorry about your grandparents. It is by far more heartbreaking if you were loved by and you love the person who is vanishing before your eyes.
It’s all material, Duke. That’s how I look at it.

Comment by Irwin |Edit This
2009-06-19 05:32:09

I found it all hysterical. Sad too, but Irene, you are such an amazing storyteller, you pull of the tragedy and humour with an effortlessness that is pretty rare. I love your comic timing. Genius.

A friend of the family recently lost a parent to dementia. It strikes me as the most tragic disease. Death is final, there are goodbyes and usually its quick or you can prepare for it. Dementia slowly takes the person you love away from you leaving a confused shell that doesn’t know who you are, nor cares too much.

It’s all part of the experience, the ride. Ups and downs and all that… Irene is right, it is all material. All fiction is real, all life is fiction etc etc.

Dear lord, I hope this one lands…

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-19 06:18:39

You see, James,

You angered the ether in some way, but apparently now you have mollified it. Your comment appears!

Thanks for noticing the comic-tragic tone. That was what I was after, but sometimes you are too close to something to be able to see it clearly.

HBO just had a special on Dementia and Alzheimers. It was at least 5 hours long, but it scared the pants off me. The person you love disappears and is replaced by something else that you don’t know and yet you are still responsible to care for him. It can ruin the lives of the caretakers.

Thanks for hanging in there, james!

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Comment by Irwin |Edit This
2009-06-19 11:41:39

I’d never be able to write something like this, an inability to step back or strike a very fine balance.

Dementia terrifies me, the thought of it. I think my parents will be ok, my mum does all the things that are supposed to keep you mentally sharp.

Luckily its a disease that gets a lot of headlines over here, people are becoming aware of it and how you can try and keep yourself from succumbing.

I have immense respect for the people caring for their mentally diminished loved ones. I suspect I’d become angry, bitter and resentful after a time… I’m aware that its incredibly time consuming with and lacks all the rewarding that comes from physical caring.

It’s a bastard of a thing is dementia.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-19 12:06:17

You think you can’t only because you are too young to have experienced it. I’m sorry, but you’ll get there, whether you want to or not.

Are you under the impression that I did not get angry and bitter and resentful?
No no no.
I USED it.
I worked it like clay.
I worked it and I worked it until it became something else.

Not for the feint of heart.
Not for the feint of heart.

2009-06-19 05:19:08

wonderful post, irene.

and sure, lenore, go ahead and blame that photo on drugs. actually, i thought it was very sweet. if for no other reason, it further illustrates what a stone-cold fox you are these days.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-19 06:44:05

Thanks for reading, Rich.

As far as Lenore goes, that picture was the BEST one of her. She’s making even more horrible faces in the others.
“Stone-cold fox,” eh? Yup. That sounds about right.

Comment by Kate |Edit This
2009-06-19 06:24:14

Also, I do love that painting.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-19 06:44:45

For the same reason I do, Kate?

Comment by Uche Ogbuji |Edit This
2009-06-19 08:49:39

Rarely have I seen utter bathos told with such utter grace. The painting is a very affecting touch. I wonder with what meaning it invades you when your eyes unexpectedly fall on it.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-19 11:10:17

Wow, Uche, that really means a lot to me.
You are very kind.
When I see the painting, I choose to see my dad and my newly uncrazy mom and her foot all together in heaven.
Things don’t have to be true for me to believe them.

Comment by Marlene |Edit This
2009-06-19 09:10:21

Irene, should I conclude you don’t believe in assisted suicide? I do. At the end of life, the individual ought to have the possibility of choosing her ultimate destiny.
I’ll make sure Liam -my nine year old son- grants my death wishes if the time has come I feel Im not living a meaningful life. And celebrate my life in the process -if he chooses to.

Oops. here goes a picture from our trip to Cuba. Only in intention, don’t know how to attach it. It’s a mac.


Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-19 11:13:55

I firmly believe in assisted suicide.
I will handle things myself if I am lucid enough to see that I am about to become a burden on my loved ones.
If not, I hope someone, anyone, slips me a mickey, so I can go down for the count.

(E mail me the photo. It’s impossible to get a photo to appear here in the comment section.)

Comment by Marcia (former next-door neighbor in Illinois and frequent visitor to Florida) |Edit This
2009-06-19 09:16:14

It must have taken a huge effort her whole life to try to keep the craziness somewhat under control until dementia took over and she couldn’t control it any more. I wonder why she chose you to reveal it to when you were growing up. I don’t understand why people do these things to their children.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-19 11:21:57

I don’t think my mother could hold herself together if she couldn’t vent her crazy somehow.
I was there. I was helpless. I thought everyone grew up like that.
My dad and brother knew she was sensitive and wanted to be left alone all the time and that she frequently lost her temper and threw things.
But, again. My brother thought that was what was normal.
My dad was barely ever there and when he was he just wanted peace at any cost.
When the crazy broke out of it’s boundaries, it was all over for her.

Comment by Megan DiLullo |Edit This
2009-06-19 09:51:59

Thanks for writing this Mama Zion. You are a great example of bravery and a extremely kind-hearted person.

Big love to you.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-19 11:25:22

Don’t be fooled.
I kill ants with a vengeance.
I stomp on cockroaches.
I throw snails in the ocean.
I yell invectives at drivers who annoy me, from the safety of my closed car.
I’m not so good.

(But thanks for the love. I can always use love.)

Comment by Erika Rae |Edit This
2009-06-19 10:29:06

First – great new pic. Love it.

Second – SUCH a sad story. I am so sorry you had to go through that.

Third – Why is it that old people think other people are stealing their clothes in those places? My grandma went through this exact same paranoia. Why would ANYONE want to steal clothes that smell of incontinence? It makes no sense whatsoever.

Fourth – Lenore was definitely high in that pic. No doubt in my mind.

( :

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-19 11:36:22

Erika Rae,

That picture was my life for a very long time. (shudders all around)
It’s not only my sad story. Thousands, (millions?) of people go through living with crazy all the time. It leaves a heaviness in your chest that never goes away.

I DON’T KNOW! She was adamant that her stupid size less than zero clothes were being stolen and sold on some black market.
She would complain to the nurses that I hadn’t visited in months when I had just left her room an hour before.
and on and on and on.
G_d will it be good to finally get this all out of my head and on paper, so to speak.

Yeah. I know. Tim was too. ALL the time. In school, during school, at home. Victor and I were total idiots. We can see it now, but except as a cautionary tale for other parents, what good does that do?

Thankfully, in spite of us, they turned out just fine.
Miracles happen.
My only explanation.

Comment by George |Edit This
2009-06-19 12:43:09

I was not a witness to all of this but to some of it, and it was true. Sadly, growing old is not for sissies.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-19 16:16:21

Taking care of a demented parent did not spare you, either, did it, George?
You did it with a grace I don’t think I could have managed.
You are a good guy.

Comment by Ben |Edit This
2009-06-20 17:27:44

I didn’t hate Nana, but I hated most of the time I spent with her.

She always had those horrid chocolates that looked like smashed, white or green, hersey’s kisses. Seeing as how candy was all that mattered, I judged people by the candy they provided. Nana wasn’t much good on that level.

I never knew hot nuts she was, though. I never paid much attention, though, so it is almost certainly my fault.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-21 04:33:45

She DID have horrible taste in candy. I couldn’t eat it either.
I never thought about it before, but it makes total sense that you would have judged people by the candy they provided.
(And, that, kiddo, is a very strange thing.)
You mean to say that you didn’t know she was nuts because you didn’t pay any attention to her, right? If that’s what you meant, I’m really glad. You escaped the worst then.

Comment by Tim |Edit This
2009-06-20 18:15:13

I remember this being a creepy time. Having to visit as often as we did was not cool, Mom.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-21 04:50:08

In hindsight, Tim, I completely agree with you. It was creepy and it was not fair to subject you and Lenore and Ben to her craziness. I feel really bad about it.
I even felt bad about it at the time, but I was under the illusion that seeing you three would lift her spirits.
I was beside myself, virtually. I felt so much responsibility to make her want to live that I pulled out all the stops. You three were not stops I should have pulled out. I should have realized that it wouldn’t help her and would hurt you. I should have. I know that.
But I didn’t up to this point.
The part that follows this you know nothing about. At least you can allow me that. I’m a slow learner, but I did learn eventually.
I can only say I’m sorry.
I wish there were more I could offer.

Comment by josie |Edit This
2009-06-21 10:03:07

No regrets, mama…. no regrets.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-21 14:47:06

Oh Josie. How do you do the no regrets thing?

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Comment by josie |Edit This
2009-06-21 10:01:35

That was painful to read.
It really hurt to giggle.
But the raw truth is radiantly beautiful.

Thanks for writing these stories Irene. What you give here on the page is like a tonic for the souls of many…

And I like the grape flavor.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-21 14:50:06


If it helps anyone I would be pleased.
It is certainly raw truth.
My soul has been coughing a dry burning cough for years.

Comment by ksw |Edit This
2009-06-22 02:46:10

midget is perjorative.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-22 05:36:23


Don’t I know it.
I’ve given up on being politically correct. it’s too exhausting to keep up with the rules.

Comment by Amy |Edit This
2009-06-22 09:28:11

Life is usually more interesting than fiction. You have proven that over and over again with the stories you have shared about your life and family. Keep writting!

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-22 12:31:11

Thanks, Amy.
Non-fiction rocks!

Comment by Yamona |Edit This
2009-06-22 21:01:27

I work for an Indian newspaper actually. I wish we had more writers like you. I guess the good ones here escape into writing novels and fiction. I’m quite enjoying the comments between your family, the conversations really. It feels like voyeurism though, snooping into your ‘family matters’. But then again, this is a public forum. I love the painting too. Somehow, the quirkiness makes me think this should be a short film. It scared me though, this short story. I’ll visit again, for sure, not just to fluff your fragile ego, but for my own amusement.

Comment by Irene Zion |Edit This
2009-06-23 02:47:49

Thanks, Yamona!

To really get a taste of the family chronicle you should read my stories from the first on, which, oddly, means the last one upwards.

I have to say that I really enjoy the comments also. They’re half the fun.
(And none of us would be writing if we didn’t want it to be read. Therefore not voyeurism.)

My grandhildren are half Indian. Maybe I can write for your newspaper.

Comment by Pat Gray |Edit This
2009-06-23 18:23:23

I always get such a kick out of your stories. I always thought my family was nuts but yours always seems to top any of our stories. Great story! Great writing! Great imagination – but I am not sure you imagined any of it (all true)! Keep it up! It is always so much fun to read!!

Comment by Irene Zion |Edit This
2009-06-24 05:09:44

Well, Pat, although I think I do have a fair to middling imagination, this here stuff is 100% true.
Crazy-ass true.
Certifiable true.
My life in words.

Comment by the kayak lady |Edit This
2009-06-24 14:30:00


you are getting braver to write about NANA and all the craziness. it is an entertaining and disturbing story. makes me think my mother is way normal and that i am a fortunate girl to be born into the family i picked to be born into this time around.

keep me linked for more stories…..

mary )

Comment by Irene Zion |Edit This
2009-06-24 15:47:49

Heck, Kayak lady,
How did you get to PICK?
That is totally not fair.
Plus you live to be a million years old and still lucid and feisty in your family.
I want some of that!

Comment by Aaron Dietz |Edit This
2009-06-24 18:15:33

Awesome stories / dialogue / everything!

I’m ready for round 2.

Also, I’m going to have some fresh fruit, sans baggie.

Comment by Irene Zion |Edit This
2009-06-25 06:55:22


The bags are good for lots of things though, like packaging up messy garbage and picking up poopy when you walk your dog, etc.

I think the danger lies in the scotch tape.

I think there should be a warning on scotch tape:

WARNING: Do not use scotch tape to tape a fruit baggie around your neck for the purpose of suicide. This could result in suicide.

Comment by Ruthie |Edit This
2009-06-30 12:29:37

I was exhausted just reading about all the care you gave your mother. It is too, too bad that she was too looney to appreciate any of it. And to have to hear such a mean comment from your brother, ugh! and double ugh! You get a gold star from me for being an incredible daughter.

Comment by Irene Zion |Edit This
2009-07-03 13:03:16

It is so easy to see why I love you, Ruthie!

Paranoid Mode

By Irene Zion


There are actually two stories involved in Sara refusing to ever help us out again. They both involve the infamous NANA, of nail scissor fame.

In the first, we asked Sara, who was in college, but on summer break, to please come home for a weekend to watch the animals, and be home for my mother just in case something untoward would happen. My mother lived with us and I took care of her for ten interminable years. My mother at this time was living one block away in a Retirement Village. She tended to have “incidents.”

The bottom three kids: Tim, Lenore and Ben were in summer camp and it was Parents’ Weekend. (Lonny was in Cambridge, England, I think, studying something artsy.) We were gone for four days, what with the driving up to and back from the wilds of Wisconsin, land of fudge and lakes. This was, (are you young ones even aware of this?) a time before cell phones and computers. She agreed to come. We left for Wisconsin. (FOUR FRIGGING DAYS!)

My father had actually pulled me aside when he was alive, (I know that seems obvious, but we are a strange family,) to ask me to promise that we would never ever, ever, under any circumstances, take my Mom into my house or my town, no matter what. I promised. Then my mother had a heart attack in Brooklyn and was left on a gurney in the hospital where she worked as an RN for umpteen years, for an entire weekend. Then on Monday a doctor saw her and told her that she had had a heart attack. How could I keep my promise to my father when my mother spent the weekend on a gurney in the hall of a hospital and wasn’t seen by a doctor for three days when she had actually had a heart attack and didn’t find out for three days? We moved my toxic mother to Champaign. I had to break my promise to my Dad. They were planning a retirement home a block away. She was one of the first to sign up for an apartment. She could have had any apartment she wanted. She lived with us until it was built a couple of years later, then after she moved in she hated it and moved to a different apartment. She hated that one too.

If you want to drive in Illinois, you must get an Illinois drivers license. That means a written test and also a driving test.. My mother wanted to drive in Illinois. My Mother failed the driving part it in the huge metropolis of Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, so her friends told her to go to a small town nearby and take the test there. She passed. In my thinking that meant that she really only had a license to drive in a tiny small town with no traffic whatsoever. But, what do I know? Logic does not seem to be the driving force in the machinery of Government.

In this tiny four day interval in time, when we went to Wisconsin and asked Sara to be there, my mother got into her first and only car accident. It was massive. Her car was totaled, and, because she was old and befuddled, the Police gave HER the ticket, when, seriously, it was not her fault. (I would be the FIRST person to tell you if it had been, trust me on this.) So Sara had to deal with my mother and the Police and it was assuredly not pleasant. On the other hand, no one was hurt. Things could have been worse. Sara did not see it this way. She was very angry with us.

But it turns out that that was just a practice run for Sara.

The next time we asked Sara to watch the animals was when we had a chance to finally go somewhere. There was a retinal meeting in Israel. We had FIVE children. We never had time to go ANYWHERE. It was only ten days. Across the entire world, for TEN FRIGGING DAYS. (I’m sorry, I think I’m shouting. I apologize.) Tim and Lenore were at regular camp and Ben was, naturally, at Science camp. I believe that Lonny was at NYU doing something artsy. The only place we ever went was Wisconsin for Parents’ Weekend. I really wanted to go somewhere exotic where the economy was not dependent on fudge. Israel was genuinely unconventional and they were not into fudge. Sara agreed, reluctantly, but she agreed. Ten days in our house watching the animals with the slight but inescapable possibility of another “incident” with NANA.

We flew two million miles to get to Israel. We flew El Al. Those people really know how to keep people safe. They separated Victor and me and asked us questions to make sure we were not terrorists. This was fine with us, since we were not terrorists, rather we were tourists and we were realty hoping to fly on a flight that was entirely full of tourists and terrorist-free. Some woman on the flight got sick and had to get off after we had boarded, so we had to wait for them to find her baggage and remove it, since her baggage might very well have been C-4 in a suitcase. We felt so safe.

When we finally arrived in Israel, it was hours before the room would be ready. We had had no sleep and Warren Christopher, the Secretary of State at the time, was staying at our hotel. There was a lot of security. There were dogs everywhere. I said to Victor:

“Look, honey, we could have brought our dogs! This is a really dog-friendly country.”

Victor then explained that they were bomb-sniffing dogs and our dogs would probably not qualify. Oddly, this came as a huge surprise to me. I was not in paranoid mode yet. We discovered that every time we got on an elevator a very huge burly man with a big bulge on his hip accompanied us. None of these burly men ever got off on our floor. They just escorted us. Victor had to explain that to me too. I was still not in paranoid mode.

Victor and I visited all the requisite sites for tourists and were having the time of our lives. I loved seeing the teenagers in uniform walking around with uzis. We were never afraid for one minute the whole time we were there.

Halfway into our visit we ate somewhere where it was unwise to eat. We were very open-minded. (Did I say we were not in paranoid mode yet?) We got a case of food poisoning the likes of which we have, gratefully, never seen again. To be delicate, let’s just say that we needed a two-bathroom hotel room. The both of us were very, very sick for four days.

We were in Israel, in our hotel room, alternately running to the bathroom all day and all night. In the middle of the night at about the third day of our poisoning,


This was Israel. We didn’t know anyone, and yet the phone rang. That was when I switched into paranoid mode.

“Mom, is that you?” asked Sara.

“Uh, yup, it’s me,” I answered, “ What are you doing calling Israel in the middle of the night?”

“I am never doing anything for you and Daddy for the rest of my life,” she said.

“Uh huh, and why is that?” I asked.



“Uh huh,” I said. “What exactly do you mean?” I asked, needing to make a run to the bathroom.

“Here!” she said. “Talk to the doctor!” She handed the phone to a surgeon.

“Your mother has no circulation to her right foot and gangrene has set in,” the disembodied voice said.

“If we amputate now, we can get a below-the-knee, which is, naturally, far superior to an above-the-knee.” The voice said.

In the background, I heard my mother yelling:


The disembodied, apparently medical voice said:

“Your mother does not want the amputation. She says she wants to die. This is precisely what will happen if she does not get the amputation immediately.”


Then my mother got on the phone.

“If you interfere with this I will never forgive you,” she said.

“It is none of your business,” she said.

“I want to die NOW,” she said.

“This has nothing to do with you!” she said.

“If you hadn’t left me in the lurch none of this would have happened!” she said.

“This is all your fault!” she said.

“I will never forgive you!” she repeated.

I said: ”Mom, the doctor said that you will die without the surgery. Your foot has gangrene. You need to have the surgery right away or you will be left with the far harder above-the-knee prosthesis, or, what’s even worse, you will absolutely permanently die!” I pleaded.

“I damn you to hell, Irene!” she said to me.

”I hope you die in a plane crash!” she said.

“I always hated you and knew you would ruin my life,” she said.

“Mom, please let me talk to the doctor again,” I asked.

The doctor told me that she would die an appallingly horrific death without the amputation and that time was of the essence as she already had gangrene and sepsis was likely to set in very soon and death would surely result and it would be a painful death.

“Your mother does not appear to be of sound mind and it is up to you to decide,” the doctor said.

“But there was nothing wrong with her when we left.” I protested.

”Well, there’s certainly something wrong now and she will die if you don’t decide to save her right now,” said the doctor.

“Amputate her foot,” I said.

Sara got back on the phone and said:

“I will never forgive you.” (If you are counting, that made two people in my family who said they would never forgive me inside of a few minutes while I was on vacation, sick as a dog, two million miles away.)

“But Sara, Nana was fine when we left,” I said. “We had no way to know this would happen”

“You will never get me to do anything for you for the rest of your lives!” Sara said.

“You are acting as if I planned this to happen, Sara. She was perfectly fine when we left,” I reiterated.

“I may never speak to you again,” she said, and hung up the phone.

I ran to the bathroom.

Victor was already in the bathroom.

“I need to use that toilet you are on,” I said

“”So do I,” he said, “That’s why I’m on it.”

“I just told some surgeon to amputate Mom’s foot, against her will,” I said. “It was gangrenous and she would have died of sepsis in the most horrible way, the doc said, so I gave my permission because he said she was nuts and only I could save her life.”

“She’s really going to be pissed,” he said.

“How long are you going to be on there?” I asked.

“Not long,” he said.  “Why didn’t you just let her make the decision?”

“The doc said she could get a great prosthesis below the knee and she’d be just like new,” I explained.  “If we waited at all she’d need an above the knee and that’s way harder to get used to, and if we waited any longer then she would die of sepsis.”

“Are you done yet?” I asked.

“Not yet,” he answered.

“So?” he said.  “Why do you want to get in the middle of this? She’s made her decision.”

“Because my mother will die if I don’t,” I answered. If I knew then what I know now, I would have just let Mom die. It would have been better than what followed, but how was I to know that then?

When we were well enough to travel, we flew back to Champaign. Sara was still very angry, as though we had set the whole thing up just to trap her. My mother alternated screaming at me that I had ruined her chance to see my father, (my father was already 10 years in the ground at this time,) and turning her face to the wall to shun me. She only had one foot.

The saga of my mother does continue, but this is as far as I’m going to go this time. It is remarkably draining.


Comment by John P |Edit This
2008-11-05 18:08:14


Did they amputate with nail scissors, or did they use proper doctory-like tools?

I’m drained just from reading that.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-11-05 19:25:26

Well, John P, I was not there, since I was a million miles away, but I’m pretty sure that the surgeons did the operation and not my mother, since she was pretty much set against having it. Surgeons tend to l like their toys and they are shiny and clean. Had it been her idea, I would’ve gone with the nail scissors as a guess.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-11-06 10:17:15

Are there two John Ps or do you have two pictures that look nothing like each other?

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Comment by Pamela Norinsky |Edit This
2009-04-02 04:20:48

OMG what a disturbing story! I remember you telling me how life was with your mother but I never imagined her to be as evil as you had related to me. My deepest sympathies to you for having to endure your mother’s craziness. I thought my mother was crazy but now realize yours had a monopoly on crazy.

My mother had at one point also refused to have bypass surgery for her leg and wanted to die instead. My brother, Aaron told her he would commit her and I cried my eyes out until she decided it would be best for all concerned if she had the bypass. She is now 84 and I believe thankful she had the surgery!

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Comment by lonny |Edit This
2008-11-06 02:46:17

i agree with this person

i thought i was going to read a light hearted story
about police or drunken pigs or some such thing

but when it was about nana i knew it was going to be draining
perhaps someone should charge my mom
for the time i mean

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-11-06 05:08:02

Not every story is milk and honey and puppy dogs.

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Comment by Josie |Edit This
2008-11-06 11:10:40

Watch out for the mile and honey and puppy dogs… That’s how she lures you back again!!!


Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-11-06 17:20:31

Josie! You are giving my secrets away! Bad, bad Josie!

Comment by Melissa |Edit This
2008-11-05 19:15:30

Ok I am dumfounded. no words.

Woah…….and that is about it.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-11-05 19:26:42

Oh, but Melissa, there is so much more. I’ll need to scatter this story among the really funny stuff so I can get through it with some semblance of sanity.

Comment by Melissa (Irene’s friend) |Edit This
2008-11-07 14:10:45

Funny,,,,,,,,I thought it was going to be a story like when my grandpa ran into a bus bench with his car. Then went to court and told the judge he was nuts, he was never in an accident and they were just out to get him.

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Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-11-07 15:56:27

Just because a person is old does not make an accident his fault. All these evil people will become old themselves and it will come back to haunt them!
Poor Grandpa!

Comment by keiko |Edit This
2008-11-05 19:22:00

that was intense. that’s it for me.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-11-05 19:27:29

Keiko, you work with weird stuff every day. You are stronger than that! Give it another shot.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-11-06 06:30:03

What a bunch of wusses. (Can you say that anymore?) Okay, what a bunch of Pansies. (Oh. Can you say that anymore?) How about Namby-Pamby? I know! You are a bunch of yellow-bellies! (Wait. That can be insulting too.) I’ll just call you sissies. I’m not sure you can say that either, though. God, I NEED a new rule book!

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-11-07 15:58:10

Keiko, you are a chickenshit.
(But I love you anyway.)

Comment by Lenore |Edit This
2008-11-05 19:42:46

i believe i’ve mentioned my theory about those so-called vitreous society meetings….

anyway, nana was crazy and mean. at least she was more interesting to look at after the amputation. i never liked her.

i bet i become her.


sara didn’t mean it…she was young and she probably thought nana sucked, too.

Comment by lonny |Edit This
2008-11-06 02:57:44

nana was always nice to me

she used to always bring me cashews – which i like a lot
tim or lenore would ask ‘why dont we get anything’

nana would say ‘no i only brought something for lonny’
hell yeah – i rule

i have nothing but fond memories of her cookies and getting us chinese food
oh and when we used to go to red lobster and all she ate was hush puppies
and she would put half eaten ones in her purse wrapped in napkins
the hush puppies i mean
she didnt wrap her purse in napkins – that would be silly

im not defending some of the horrible things nana thought it necessary to say to my mom
in fact just found out while reading this delightful little story

it was a typical upbringing
you know baskets full of potpourri, paintings of barns and lakes, lots of mayonnaise….

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-11-06 05:35:25

Oh Lonny, I know. You had something in you that made her just adore you. She actively disliked the other four children. This caused problems for them and for me, but you were the perfect child for her. At least she loved one of you. The sun rose and set in your eyes for her. It was good for you and good for her to have someone to love so completely and unquestioningly. Grandmothers are supposed to be this way, but they usually love all the grandchildren. Nana had a bit of a glitch there.

I forgot about the pilfering. She’d take anything, wrap it up in a napkin and go home. Back in the old days when they gave you silverware and plates on airplanes, she’d take those too. Her bag was always full of packets of sugar and sometimes she’d unscrew the tops of salt and pepper shakers and put in some piece of napkin and screw the tops back on and then put them in her purse.

She always seemed to need more. She didn’t need any of this stuff. She had plenty, but she had this hole she couldn’t fill.

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Comment by John P |Edit This
2008-11-06 12:12:47

We would go to Yosemite National Park on Christmas day every year when I was growing up in Fresno. Sometimes we ate lunch at the Ahwahnee hotel and my mom would steal their fancy silverware. Only one piece at a time, but we ended up with a couple of complete sets by the time I left for college.
I think the similarity between my mom and your mom stop there. Although I think her mom (my grandmother) had some of those crazy mean spirited tendancies, but she died when I was very young so I don’t remember.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-11-06 12:56:34

What is it that makes certain mothers steal stuff they don’t need right in front of their kids? I think it’s a very peculiar thing. Also curious is that it happens so much.

I’m glad your Mom was nice. You should tell her how you feel. I’m probably sounding like a broken record here, but if you wrote her a short note and mailed it to her she would clutch it to her breast and treasure it the rest of her life. Promise, John P!

Comment by John P |Edit This
2008-11-10 10:19:52

I wish I could. She committed suicide in ‘98. I was only 22 and had just started grad school. I sure didn’t call or write enough when I had the chance.

Irene is right everyone – call your mothers and tell them how wonderful they are and how much you appreciate them while you still can. (Unless they are like her mom, then I’m not sure what you should do).

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-11-10 12:02:13

Oh John, I am so sorry!
No one thinks to call or write enough until they get old enough to wish people would call or write. You’re just a normal person. I’m sure she knew how you felt. Mothers always do, they just enjoy hearing it. I’m sorry that your Mom was in that much pain. I’m sorry that you have to carry that on your back for the rest of your life. That’s a heavy load at a young age.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-11-06 05:11:38

Sara was wonderful! She took on two jobs that were supposed to be easy breezy and ended up with the twilight zone. She’s probably gets a twinge every time she agrees to do something seemingly simple, all these years later.

Sometime I’ll go into why Nana was how she was. You’d forgive her. She didn’t mean it either. You can’t help it when you’re nuts.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-11-06 05:44:07

Lenore, can you imagine how hard it was for Sara, who is so GOOD, to do everything she could to please Nana and to be rebuffed? The rest of you took it in stride, but Sara always CARED so much. It broke my heart. (And she’s the one who got stuck with the “incidents!”) If you read this, Sara, I am unreservedly sorry!

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Comment by Christine |Edit This
2008-11-05 21:10:04

Good gravy! Your mom sounds like my mom during her “bad menopausal years,” only your mom was always in Mach 10 Bitch mode.

You are the polar opposite of that Irene…and I love ya!

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-11-06 05:14:56

When I was raising my kids and I started to become frustrated I would always stop and take a breath and say to myself: “You are NOT your mother. You have patience. Relax and enjoy your wild beautiful children.” It worked pretty well, the fear of becoming my mother.

Comment by George |Edit This
2008-11-05 21:28:58

When your mother lost her foot, did you change her name from Rose to Ilene (i lean!!).

Comment by George |Edit This
2008-11-05 21:28:58

When your mother lost her foot, did you change her name from Rose to Ilene (i lean!!).

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-11-06 05:16:03

OUCH! George, that is such a lame joke!

Comment by ` |Edit This
2008-11-05 22:09:31

I really wanted to go somewhere exotic where the economy was not dependent on fudge.

Priceless, that one.

I, for one, am incredibly entertained by this story. My grandma got pretty mean at the end, too – only NANA has her beat by a landslide. I wonder if I will be mean and what horse froth I will spout at my children…

Comment by lonny |Edit This
2008-11-06 03:02:03

the fudge store in eagle river was really something

they made licorice of many flavors, jaw breakers of many sizes (up to just silly and wont even fit in ones mouth), rock candy, candy dots (which is sugar on paper- if you dont know), and of course fudge – lots and lots of fudge


Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-11-06 05:38:44

On Parents’ Weekend I think each person gained at least 5 pounds just from the Eagle River Fudge Store. The sugar smell would knock you right over when you walked in the door. I’m certainly happy we don’t have that where I live, what with having the metabolism of a person in a coma and all.

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Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-11-06 05:23:09

Nana was under control, somewhat, when my Dad was alive. After he died, there was no one to say, (appropriately,) “Shut up, Rose!” Without him, she was an untethered tiger. Ten years of untethered tiger I was responsible for.

Sometimes old folks get really sweet. I’m hoping that will happen to you and me. My dog and I work at an old folks home and it’s mostly the sweet ones, only a few are mean and paranoid. We’ll be the kind of old folks that people WANT to visit!

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-11-06 06:47:35

What happened to your name, Erika Rae?

2008-11-06 12:18:40

Hmmm. I think I was trying to go incognito. Or something.

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Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-11-06 12:59:01

LOVE your new moniker! Who could ever forget it?

“Did you hear that Schmerika Schmrae got another book published?” I can hear it right now. Think how easy it would be to find your books on the shelves of the bookstores!

Comment by Josie |Edit This
2008-11-05 22:52:11

OK – that was quite a tale and I’m real sorry for you but dang it Irene – do not take me into the bathroom with you and your husband ever again, especially while he is on the pot!

I will never forgive you for the images you have left in my head!
I may never read you again.

:::Stomps out of the bathroom:::

And tell (Lenore’s dad) to light a match, will ya!

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-11-06 05:25:55

Josie, I told it as it was. We were so sick when all this went down. I’m afraid the whole room stank, not just the bathroom. Wait, I think I just made it worse for you. Solution ahead:

I think eating ice cream washes those icky images from your mind. Go get some Chunky Monkey.

Comment by Josie |Edit This
2008-11-06 11:08:37

This is how you tricked Sara into round two, isn’t it?
I’m feeling like you’re setting me up for something here… like this whole thing is a trap…

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Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-11-06 13:03:30

Oh my poor Sara, the WORST things happened to her when she was the emergency person for my mother. No one should have to be in the positions she was in. The thing is that there was no warning, no hint anything could go wrong. She’ll probably hold it over my head forever.

Chunky Monkey, I promise. It will be all wiped from your memory.

Comment by ksw |Edit This
2008-11-06 06:08:53

A surgeon entered the room. Maam, he said, I have good news and bad news, which would you like first. The thoughtful woman replied, I would like to hear the bad news first so the good news will cheer me up.
You need to have your foot amputated immediately. Oh, my G, she said. Quick, tell me the good news.
Your roomate wants to buy your slippers.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-11-06 06:17:48

ksw, That is a really funny joke. (And in much better taste than the earlier one!)

I can always count on you to make me smile.

Comment by amanda |Edit This
2008-11-06 07:05:41

Ohhhh involuntary foot amputation, that’s a good one. In my family, that would totally be On The List.

My brother and I keep a running tally of “things we were denied as children”. It includes pony rides in our backyard on our birthday, a limousine for the grade 8 prom, being allowed to stand on top of the refrigerator, and so on. In order to make it onto the list, we need to witness someone else enjoying the thing, for instance my mom’s cat is allowed to wreck the joint without punishment, doesn’t have to clean up after himself, is served treats at least thrice daily. The neighbour’s kids have their own private bunk house in the yard, own tiny motorcycles, and get to use any language they please. When we see yet another thing for the list, we announce it by shouting to our mother, “That’s on the list, too!” “Also on the list!” “Put that on the list!” etc.

There is a companion list of “things we had to do which others did not”. Making major medical decisions for our grandmother, that would definitely be on this second list.

In fairness, I am sure my mother also keeps a list of “things I had to deal with at the hands of my children, which other mothers were spared”. I suspect this list includes “daughter having boyfriend with own apartment at age 16″, “daughter going gay for 9 years then switching back”, and “daughter getting first tattoo in friend’s basement at 16, hiding it under long-sleeved shirts till age 20, then proceeding to get several more to keep the first ugly one company.”

If you were to keep such a list, you would surely be entitled to add ALL events in your story to it, without delay.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-11-06 10:10:41

Amanda, I love your lists! I have to say that it never even occurred to me to even WANT to stand on top of the refrigerator. My kids didn’t think of it either. I’ll bet that is a singular wish, maybe peculiar to your family. (Not that I am intimating in any way that your family is peculiar. Seriously, who am I to even hint at peculiarity with my glass house?)

The things you had to do that others did not is a really hard one. Medical decisions for someone you love suck eggs. You can’t win. Nothing is the right choice.

My daughter, Lenore, (you probably already know her,) got herself her first tattoo in her junior year of High School. I assure you she did NOT look 18. It was horrendous. I didn’t see it for at least a year. I talked about it somewhere on TNB, but I forget where. It looked like a map of her ovary on the skin on top of her actual ovary. It was hideous. She had it changed into a quite beautiful hummingbird which is actually about 16 times life size. We call her tattoo girl now, for the sheer number of her tattoos.

Did you have any problems with getting yours in your basement? It doesn’t sound like the most sanitary of places for such an undertaking. Who did it? (Don’t say a friend, please.)

My lists are sort of amorphous blotches in my head. I don’t know what’s there until I start to write. (There’s probably a psychiatric term for that.)

Pets are universally treated better than kids. There’s a reason for that. Pets are WAY nicer. Ask anyone with both.

Comment by Dana |Edit This
2008-11-06 08:09:32

Wow. What a cantankerous old crank. But it makes for a great story! (I love your stories, even if I do tend to get a bit queasy at times.) What IS it with old people pilfering stuff from restaurants? I know a lot of people attribute it to living through the depression, but that’s true of a lot of people who don’t line their pockets with free napkins and condiments.
My now deceased mother-in-law never saw a jam display or Equal packet that she didn’t want to shove in her pocket. When we helped clean out her closets we found a little treasure in every pocket. )

I’m sorry your mom was mean. My grandfather was a monster and my mom is a saint. You and she are living proof that these cycles can be broken.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-11-06 10:16:01

Dana, I am so proud to have made you queasy! That’s a first for me and I think I should get some kind of award. GO ME!

Did your Mother-in-Law wrap leaky food up in napkins too and put it in her purse? That always got to me. Usually she actually carried around a baggie to put the napkin-wrapped food in, so her purse didn’t get all wet. Creepy behavior.

Tell your Mom today that you think she’s a Saint! Better still, write it in a little note and mail it to her. I swear she will cry and keep it forever. Trust me on this, Dana.

Comment by Tim |Edit This
2008-11-07 17:09:05

Hey, Ma

You remember how she used to get all her money in singles and carry around a huge wad of cash?

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Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-11-07 18:29:44

Yeah, I forgot that. Tim! It always made her feel like she had more money when the roll was thicker. HA! I like ones too. (uh oh for you guys!)

Comment by amanda |Edit This
2008-11-06 10:41:28

As described here, oh yes, the tattoo was done by a friend:

It was an eyesore, and while my mother thinks “tattoo” is short-hand for “stupid ugly thing you did to ruin your perfectly pretty body and one day you and all your tattooed friends are gonna regret what you’ve done to yourselves”, she grudgingly prefers the cover-up to the original.

As for the fridge-scaling, well, in our house, all the “good” stuff was hidden in the cupboard above the fridge. Getting on top of it was the quickest route to raiding the supplies of candy, ribbons, scotch, elastics for pinging, cake decorations and loose coins (depending on the age of the climber, their interests and goals upon reaching the cupboard varied). The ban on actually getting right up there and rooting around, well, this was clearly unfair to those family members too short to reach the cupboard by any other way.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-11-06 11:00:37

I love your beetles, Amanda!
I believe I used those same words to my daughter, Lenore. Mother’s speak from the same handbook.

I can’t imagine a category to explain the range of strange things hidden above your fridge. Why would rubber bands be with the scotch? Why ribbons with the candy? This is stumping me. Did your mother just hide anything you guys wanted but couldn’t have up there? That would make sense.

Comment by amanda |Edit This
2008-11-06 12:44:00

Although my parents have moved house several times since we were small, there is STILL a cupboard that contains: a carton of wooden matches; three bottles of Johnnie Walker; sandwich bags; the scissors and pens; a sushi and sake service; massive sacks of potato chips; and some swizzle sticks.

Sometimes, when I am home visiting, I just stand there on a chair, gazing at that crazy top shelf. There is no explanation, none whatsoever, for this mingling of household goods.

The jar of rubber bands has been moved, to the cupboard that contains all the drinking glasses.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-11-06 13:30:26

Amanda, I love the way your mother thinks. It’s so unconventional. Now I’m going to puzzle over why the far of rubber bands moved to the cupboard with the drinking glasses. Why would you possibly need a glass and a rubber band at the same time? If the glass is broken, you can’t hold it together with a rubber band; it’ll still leak. I’m not going to give up. I’m going to think on this mystery. It’s good to have a mysterious mother!

Did you see below that Marcia had a friend whose mother padlocked all the food? At least you could move a chair and sneak up there when your mom was on the other side of the house. It was hard, but you still had a fighting chance.

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Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-11-06 13:05:28

mothers! Where did that damn apostrophe come from? (Must learn to proof read!)

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-11-07 16:04:16

and jar, not far. I MUST LEARN TO PROOF READ!

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Comment by Autumn |Edit This
2008-11-06 11:12:47

I enjoyed the story. That being said, I tend to lean toward misery when I choose my reading material. Not sure why that is.

My family would have done the same thing. My grandmother will turn 99 in December and she has become very bitter at times. But she still lives in her home (with hired help) and she never drove in her entire life so we never had to worry about that. She dotes on the great grandchildren now, as she once doted on us. That’s something anyway. She reserves most of her nastiness for my mother, who after years of spending AT LEAST two or three days a week with her, finally found someone to spend her time with. Since my mother has had a boyfriend, the last 6 years or so, my grandmother treats her as though she has abandoned her completely and is pretty mean to her most of the time. This despite the fact that my mother still makes it over there at least once a week to bathe her, fill her pillbox, etc. My uncle, whose home you can get to through my grams back yard, rarely sees her. Gram is much more understanding of him. The reason you ask? He is a man. That’s all it takes in my grandmother’s mind to absolve you of her disdain. Just have the right genitalia and you are off the hook. (although he has his hands full at home, but that’s another story)

Anyway, blah blah blah. Sorry, this is your story time, not mine. I want to know more.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-11-06 13:10:13

Oh Autumn, your poor Mom! The ungrateful ones can pierce your heart. I also have a brother. Ask me how much help he was to me for ten years. No, don’t. I can’t bear to start another draining story. I’ll write that sometime later. The story of the only child my mother wanted. Oh yes. Another time.

Tell your mother how wonderful she is. (Or just read advice I’ve written twice because I’m obsessed with this topic.)

Comment by Autumn |Edit This
2008-11-06 15:42:27

I try to make a point to remind my mom of how much I appreciate her so I hope she knows it. Phone calls, the occasional card in the mail for no reason. I’m sure she has her faults but to me, she’s pretty much achieved sainthood. I have nothing but adoration for her.

I suppose I shouldn’t complain about my grandmother since it wasn’t until her early 90’s that her attitude change went into effect. Even still she’s mostly pleasant as long as you have one of her great grandchildren in tow. I don’t have children so I tend to limit my visits to when my sister is heading over there too.

Whenever family members get to talking about her mean moments we sort of chalk it up to the fact that she has earned it by being wonderful all her life and making it as far as she has. If she’s bitter in her old age I suppose that I might be too. Most of her friends have died and her family is spread out and her husband has been gone for over 30 years. Really she’s just lonely, and that I can understand.

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Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-11-06 17:15:00

Old is hard. So many of the people you love are dead and you feel like shit. Everything hurts and you can’t hear or see well. I think I’ll be pretty cranky if I get into my 90s. Since she was warm and kind for decades, she’s due a little slack. Borrow a friend’s kid and bring him over and say he’s yours. She’ll probably think she forgot and get all happy. How can it hurt?

Comment by jmb |Edit This
2008-11-06 11:16:43

It’s a compliment but I was tired after I read this.

We flew two million miles to get to Israel.

The old rabbi told me once that everywhere Torah says Israel you can insert your own name.
Israel is symbolic for God’s relationship with us.
Israel means,
One who struggles with God.


Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-11-06 13:18:36

jmb, thank you.
I was emptied out when I wrote it, and it’s only the beginning of this particular story. I’ll need some sort of break. I’ll write about the worms in the Amazon or something. Something that doesn’t grab my stomach and pull it forcibly out.

I didn’t know about what the Rabbi told you. We have a Torah. I will try to read it that way and see what happens.

My relationship with God is a struggle.
So many questions unanswered.
and yet
and yet

Comment by jmb |Edit This
2008-11-06 13:36:10

And yet.

That’s what faith is, right? The and yet?

what’s that Leonard Cohen said?
love is not a victory march,
its a cold and its a broken Hallelujah….

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Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-11-06 13:47:03

Whoa. That’s beautiful.

Comment by Josie |Edit This
2008-11-06 19:59:26

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-11-06 20:10:46

Wow, Josie, that was stunningly beautiful. Thank you.

Comment by Marcia (former next-door neighbor in Illinois and frequent visitor to Florida) |Edit This
2008-11-06 11:22:36

When my mom was a child, she had a friend whose mom kept a padlock on the food cupboard in the kitchen. There was no between meal snacking in that house! I can’t even imagine living with someone like that. You need to tell the story about Nana visiting the in-laws in England. I have forgotten what happened but I know it was funny.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-11-06 13:20:48

A PADLOCK? That woman had control issues, Marcia!

Marcia how can you remember a story I forgot? Now I’ll have to get in touch with my brother.

Comment by ben |Edit This
2008-11-06 14:40:15

I remember thinking that summer camp was required of us, like school. I thought the federal government mandated that I be without air conditioning and surrounded by suburban Chicago Jews for 8 weeks out of the summer.

That does not make much sense, but I was pretty little.

If I had known it was just to give you two some peace and quiet I would have protested.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-11-06 15:24:04

Oh Ben. You can think it was to give us peace and quiet, but, really, what kind of peace and quiet could we ever have being responsible for NANA?
We sent you to camp so you would learn about the outdoors and be with loads of kids and have fun. You lived in a city where there was NOTHING for you to in the Summer at all.
Instead of watching TV or playing video games, in your case, you were playing team sports and learning how to live with others without the interference of your mother. I know your father didn’t interfere, but I was incapable of not interfering. They have a name for that now: helicopter mothers. I know it. I’m sorry. It was impossible for me to be any different.
I hated when you all left. My nest was empty for all camp time. It was a preview of what was to come. If I had it to do over, I would have the kind of kids that never grow up. Best time of my life. Best.
We’ll see what you do when you have kids. Maybe you’ll let them play video games all summer and eat blue candy. I doubt it though. When you grow up and have kids everything changes. (For the better, I might add.)

Comment by Tim |Edit This
2008-11-07 17:05:26

Yea. No shit, Ben.

Why did we have to hang out in Eagle River? Wasn’t there a closer Jewish-athlete enclave we could’ve spent the summer in? I hate sports. Always have. At least you had the balls to ask to go to Jewish science camp instead.

You always did like going your own way. Shithead.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-11-07 18:34:17

You know, you ingrates, your Dad LOVED camp. He wanted you to have the same experience. How could we know you’d be sports-impaired?
That damn Science camp messed up our 21st wedding anniversary. We were going to go to Africa for it, but the Parents’ Weekends were two different weekends because you were in different camps. Spent our 21st anniversary on the worst bed in the smelliest motel in the universe instead.
Sports-impaired losers!

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Comment by Tim |Edit This
2008-11-21 21:40:51

We weren’t all that sports-impaired. We just didn’t like that sort of thing. You know, being outside and so forth.

Comment by Irene Zion |Edit This
2008-11-22 05:48:47

I’m pretty sure that not being outside makes you sports-impaired, but correct me if I’m wrong, Tim.

Comment by Amy |Edit This
2008-11-06 17:24:35

Believe it or not I found the time to read this while the baby was sleeping and the hubby is out for the night! I forgot what peace and quiet was like. My grandmother is not as crazy, but still basically not a nice person. I can relate.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-11-06 20:00:57

It is absolutely astounding how many crazy grandmothers there are out there!

(What are you doing on the computer? You should be asleep when the baby’s asleep, remember?)

Comment by Sara Zion |Edit This
2008-11-07 07:24:31

Luckily, this was fifteen or twenty years ago.
I don’t remember much and besides, it’s done now.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-11-07 08:54:38

Oh Sara, I’m so sorry that we put you in this position twice. If only we could have known ahead of time, we could have saved you the trauma. Anything you said to us was richly deserved. Luckily there are no more crazy grandparents and besides, I’d never ask you again for anything like that. I promise not to be a crazy old lady. I will never move into your house. You’re safe now.

2008-11-07 07:43:33

Seriously, Irene.

Are you writing these stories down in a larger format? I’d suggest “Running With Nail Scissors”, but that’s been done.

And when you do… I want first dibs on the screen adaptation rights. Pretty please?

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-11-07 08:56:43

I never wrote anything before in my life. What you read on TNB is it. I have to thank Brad for inviting me because I am having the time of my life here.

Kimberly, if ever, you got it!

Comment by donald |Edit This
2008-11-07 08:06:50

your mom sounds like…..a….lovely woman…..yup! very nice!

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-11-07 08:58:41

Donald, I don’t believe I have ever heard that about my mother. That’s a first.

(I have a feeling you are being facetious, though.)

Comment by Tim |Edit This
2008-11-07 17:01:47

Man, I sure am glad I wasn’t the one who had to call you guys with that news. Poor Sara. I remember I got arrested for underage drinking when she was watching us one of the other times you people were out of town. I tried to get her to not tell you guys. I was a bit of an asshole.

I got the shits in Israel too.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-11-07 18:38:06

You got arrested for underage drinking with Sara in charge? Oh my God, that poor girl!
You know she never told us. She kept your secret and your juvenile delinquent butt out of trouble.

(Thanks for sharing about your bowels, though.)

Comment by Cecile |Edit This
2008-11-08 15:23:47

I was here in USA when when that infamous call came from Israel, crying what should we do?? I believe Ira went to take a look to make sure there were no hallucinations going on. Poor Rose. It was the real deal. Some things things we don’t forget (too bad we can’t remember the good stuff as easily!)

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-11-08 16:47:58

I called you? I don’t even remember that. Ira has always been a prince among men. Yeah. Poor Rose. No one should have to go through that, even a crazy wacko grandmother who hates kids.

Comment by Ursula |Edit This
2008-11-08 16:21:47

Again a story well told. It is certainly understandable after two bad experiences with “Nana” that Sara would say “no” to further requests to “help out”, but my feeling is that Sara would have and would do anything for you if you really needed her.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-11-08 18:13:07

Ursula, you are entirely right. She’s always been dependable. She couldn’t change that if she tried. She’s reliable in spite of everything.

Comment by alex d |Edit This
2008-11-14 07:00:20

you see thats why vacations suck and if sara wont help you im always around the corner

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-11-14 15:14:11

Thanks, Alex,
You are the sweetest of the sweet. (However, since NANA is not on the docket, it’s not such a huge offer as it would have been….)

Comment by ksw |Edit This
2008-12-02 05:41:07

as always one should be quite careful about what they wish for, especially for someone else. Is it not strange how we learn so much from our families,even when the method of learning is so regrettable … you are one great friend caw

Comment by Irene Zion |Edit This
2008-12-02 10:45:07

Hello, not really ksw,
As I recall, you’ve learned a thing or two from your family also. (Also, sometimes regrettable….)
Such is life.

Comment by Mary Richert |Edit This
2009-06-19 04:52:17

I don’t know why, but I love Nana. I also think she would be extraordinarily difficult to deal with, but you do such a good job of making her this… just incredible person. I think “incredible” is a word I’m going to overuse in reference to your family. I apologize for that in advance. Your writing makes me feel like the most difficult experiences are the ones most worth having. That may be a silly assumption on my part. But really, I’m so glad you’re telling these stories.

My family was living in Trieste. This was a time when Trieste was a Free Territory, contested between Italy and Yugoslavia. It later became the northeast corner of Italy.

My brother, who was 8 or 9-years old, took me to the park. I have always had poor proprioception, which is a cumbersome word just meaning that I was seriously clumsy. My sense of where my body was in terms of the world in general was just off by a bit. This particular day I misjudged the speed of a swing on its return journey and got a good whack in the head, knocking me out cold.

My brother, ever the boy scout, decided to leave me there on the ground under the swing while he made his way home as quickly as he could to seek help. Unfortunately for him, HIS sense of where his body was in terms of the world was ALSO somewhat off kilter. (I’m thinking there is a genetic factor in play here.) He had been to school in Switzerland and no less than three times he skied off of a cliff and broke one leg each time. He alternated legs, which I always thought was fascinating.

He didn’t run home the usual way; he went in a relatively straight line, which entailed climbing a wrought iron picket fence. Regrettably, he impaled his right hand on a picket. The picket entered his palm and exited at the base of his pinkie. It happened very fast, since he was in a hurry. Working his had loose of the impalement took a bit longer. When he freed his hand, his pinkie was sort of swinging loose from his palm. He held it with his other hand and ran home.

Here is where fate intervened. Both my mother and my father were home. This was very unusual because my father was almost certainly a spy and was virtually always away behind the iron curtain somewhere in Yugoslavia. (You young ones might have to pause now to look up both “iron curtain” and “Yugoslavia”.)

My brother entered the house, bleeding profusely with his right pinkie dangling loosely from his palm. By this time, I had come back into consciousness and followed the usual route home to our house, avoiding the perilous wrought iron picket fence. We arrived at virtually the same time, since it wasn’t necessary to dislodge any part of my body from impalement.

My mother focused like a hawk directly on my brother’s wound and picked up a paring knife.
“Let me just clean that up before we go to the hospital,” she said calmly.
“What do you mean ‘clean that up’ and why are you holding a paring knife,” my dad asked.
“Harry, his hand is messy. I need to neaten it up. I won’t have him going to the hospital all messy. I’ll just cut off that pinkie,” she said.

At this point my brother started running around the dining room table away from my mother, screaming: “Mommy, please don’t cut off my finger!” My mother was fast and got a hold of his shoulder, but she wasn’t all that strong, and my brother got away from her. I’m pretty sure that panic can make a person more fleet of foot. My mother proceeded to chase after him around the table shouting: “Woody, just let me clean that up.” My father was stunned at the sight of his wife brandishing a paring knife, and also somewhat upset by what she planned to do with said paring knife. He joined the fray and began chasing my mother around the table yelling: ”Rose, you will NOT cut off my son’s finger!”

The three of them circled the table yelling these unusual things over and over. Around and around the table they ran, reminiscent of the tigers circling the tree so fast that they tuned into butter. My mother wasn’t usually fast, but when it came to tidiness, she was driven. My father was not ordinarily a quick man, but he knew his wife and had reason to kick it up a notch. At last, my dad caught up with and disarmed my mother. She was irate. Not only did she not tidy up my brother before his hospital visit but now there was blood to clean up all around the rug under the table. My mother HATED messes.

My dad drove us to the hospital, but had to stop by the side of the road almost immediately. My mother had nail scissors in her purse and was reaching over the seat to my cowering brother in the back trying again to snip off his finger. It would have been so easy if my brother hadn’t cried out thus alerting my father. I myself bunched up my hands in two little fists because I feared she would just snip off one of mine if she couldn’t succeed with my brother. Those who knew her will understand that this was a real possibility. When my mother became frustrated, she got a really strange look in her eyes. It was a freaky kind of look.

My dad took my mom’s purse and emptied it on the side of the road. Finding no other sharp instrument, he put the nail scissors in his pocket; moved my bother to the shotgun seat and banished my mother to the back with me. This really got me worried. Who knew how strong my dedicated mother could be? I was afraid she might just try to tear off one or two of my fingers instead. I cringed in the corner, concentrating on keeping my little hands in tight little fists.

The doctors were able to sew back my brother’s pinkie and splint it. Today he has a couple of great scars and complete use of the finger.

It was serendipity that my dad was there at the moment of my brother’s injury. My brother would certainly only have 9 fingers now, perhaps fewer once my mother began “tidying him up.” My mother was a determined woman when it came to neatness. Savagely determined.


Comment by Lenore Zion |Edit This
2008-09-12 16:00:49

remember how you used to get really drunk and smash wine bottles over my head when i was little?

then you’d cry and apologize, but i knew all that meant was that you’d sneak into my room when i was sleeping and vomit into my pillow case.

you never minded a mess. nothing like nana.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-12 16:46:00

JesusHolyChrist, Lenore,

What are you trying to do to me? NO ONE believes I broke wine bottles over your head. I can’t even vomit. ( If I could I swear to you I would be skinny.) You are a dirty stinking liar and I love every inch of your desecrated body.

It IS true, though, that I never did mind a mess. Still don’t.

Comment by Jaime Simpson |Edit This
2008-09-12 17:02:39

Not even those Hollywood stunt wine bottles that break super easy? I think it’s great you didn’t (still don’t) get upset over messes; not worth it at all. The messier the better, I say. Unless there’s blood. That’s where I draw the line.

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Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-12 17:06:30

Wait. Weren’t you Jim just a little while ago? You’re Jaime all along? Humn. Both good names.
My house is a total disaster. But I’m almost sure that there is no blood anywhere. Can’t be positive, of course, mess that it is, but pretty sure.
I’m still Irene.

Comment by Santiago |Edit This
2008-09-12 18:48:42

St. James

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-12 19:03:39

Oh. Can I have a relic from you? I’ve always wanted a Saint’s relic. Just something small, like a finger bone….

Comment by Tim |Edit This
2008-09-12 19:01:57

Quit lying, Mom. I always thought it was gin, Lenore. Oh well.

Mom always hit us with bottles. We knew when to hide.

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Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-12 19:07:19

My mother used to say “I’m going to tan your hide.” all the time. Now, I’m not sure exactly how to go about it or indeed what it entails, but I’m going to study up on it and tan both of yours, maybe.

(She also used to say “Damn your eyes!” I can’t go that far. That seems mean. You both have such cute eyes.)

Comment by Adam |Edit This
2008-09-12 22:39:13

Again, from Wikipedia:

Tanning is the process of converting putrescible skin into non-putrescible leather, usually with tannin, an acidic chemical compound that prevents decomposition and often imparts color. Tanning leather involves a process which permanently alters the protein structure of skin so that it can not ever return to rawhide. Making rawhide does not require the use of tannin and is made simply by removing the flesh and then the hair by way of soaking in an aqueous solution (often called liming when using lime and water or bucking when using wood ash (lye) and water), then scraping over a beam with a somewhat dull knife, and then leaving to dry, usually stretched on a frame so that it dries flat. The two aforementioned solutions for removing the hair also act to clean the fiber network of the skin and therefore allow penetration and action of the tanning agent.

Comment by Adam |Edit This
2008-09-12 22:40:52

Now, as far as actually removing the flesh, I’m sure Nana would have had some tips for you, if you weren’t always too busy cowering in the back seat to listen.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-13 05:28:27

Okay, Adam, thanks. I will NOT tan their hides. That is WAY icky. I have to try to remember the other fascinating things my mother said to me. They were all ingenious. She was very creative in an angry, malicious sort of way.

Comment by lonny |Edit This
2008-09-13 14:02:45

i seem to remember having my hide tanned a few times

that and being locked in the crawlspace

whoa is me…

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-13 15:56:07

Ah. The crawl space…. Such a place of mystery. (and such a low ceiling!)

Comment by Tim |Edit This
2008-09-13 19:07:37

I always found the crawlspace to be disgusting. Why not have a floor? Nasty.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-14 01:05:23

Tim, the water table was too high in that part of Central Illinois. You couldn’t have a basement without having it flood often. Do you remember the Bocheks had a basement and anytime we got a good rain they’d be inundated. They only put it in because they were afraid of tornadoes. You needed a crawl space so people could get to pipes and wires and stuff from underneath the house.
Remember when Sara would freak out at the sound of the tornado warning horn and gather all of you with blankets and pillows behind the bar for your safety? I’d be outside marvelling at the yellow sky and the great wind. Poor Sara would be so upset with me. I think she’s still terrified of tornadoes.

Comment by Tim |Edit This
2008-09-14 14:03:56

I understand the crawlspace-concept. I just hate seeing dirt and shit inside(ish). Why not have a damn floor? I ask again!

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-15 03:56:57

I’m so proud of you, Tim. Out of the five of you, you are the only one to keep a clean house. Well, Sara does now, but she didn’t used to. The rest of you are pigs.

The dirt in the crawl space didn’t bother me because I would never in a million years go down there. I’m sure there are all manner of insects and creepy-crawlies down there still. Nope. Never ever go down there.

Comment by George |Edit This
2008-09-13 11:29:59

I learned another new word, “proprioception,” which I probably won’t use in a conversation because I will forget how to pronouce it.

Irene’s mother is a hoot, and a little bit crazy. Fortunately, she wasn’t a doctor, or she would be amputating everything. Maybe she was a tree surgeon. They like to amputate.

Irene should really publish a book of her short stories.

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Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-13 12:39:33

Well, George, the only people who need to learn the word “proprioception”, (which sounds phonetically exactly how it is spelled,) are those who are afflicted by the condition. I can tell by the sturdy, manly way that you write that you have no such problems.

I will grant you that my mother is a hoot in retrospect. Growing up with her was less hootful, much less hootful.

Perhaps if I did write a book about my mother, I could finally exorcise her from my brain. I’ll think that over, George, thanks for the idea.

Comment by Tim |Edit This
2008-11-22 05:47:38

Gin, Lenore. Our classy-ass mother would’ve had a hard time getting her message across hitting us with her empty boxes of Opal Estates.

Comment by Irene Zion |Edit This
2008-11-22 05:58:39

I don’t even know what Opal Estates is. Gin smells funny. You must be misremembering. It was probably sake, Tim.

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Comment by Melissa |Edit This
2008-09-12 16:27:30

True quote from my mother, when my brother and I must have been driving her up a wall.

“The dog is going to break and I am going to crack up”. How my brother and I made fun of her. HA…maybe you mom had a little case of the crack up there.

And……..well I know you never know where you are going since I have to guide you around MCH, how on earth did you get home girl?

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-12 16:52:50

I’m afraid that you are going to get two comments, because I already left one, but it seems to have disappeared.
I love your mother! “The dog is going to break and I am going to crack up.” That is priceless! Especially the dog is going to break part. ALL moms say they are going to crack up. But the dog is going to break? Where did she come up with that? I love it!

Melissa, you know I could never get home on my own. I have one of those electronic gizmos that tell you very sweetly how to get where you want to go. You stick it on your front window and type in an address and it NEVER loses its temper no matter how many mistakes you make. She just kindly says: “recalculating route…” whenever you screw up. I love her. Her name is Gerty.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-13 05:40:11

Melissa, your mother said funny things when she was angry. Can I borrow her for awhile?

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Comment by Melissa (Irene’s friend) |Edit This
2008-09-13 07:33:58

Well she keeps saying my ex, should choke and die. How about that one? Mind you this little lady is less than 5 feet tall and a good gust of wind could blow her away. I swear that the late George Carlin had hidden mikes all over our house. His routine was my mom down pat. Her best one was,,, “Where are my good scissors?” Good thing when my brother ran into the glass door, his pinkie finger was not dangling. She hated a mess too.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-13 08:01:17

But Melissa, your ex SHOULD choke and die, that is not at all an unreasonable thing for your Mom to say.
I have to say, though, that I’m glad she loses things too. I need everyone to lose things so I don’t feel so stupid.
When your brother ran into the glass door, did he go through the glass door? That is not a good thing for anyone to do. Lots of blood and all that glass to clean up. How is your Mom with messes?

Comment by Melissa (Irene’s friend) |Edit This
2008-09-15 19:31:39

The only reason my mom did not totally crack up , was because I was babysitting. AND being such a good sitter, I would not let Gregg go outside to let his friends feast on the very yummy vitamins he was giving out as snacks. So I locked the front door… he smashed into it. Glass and blood spewed. My mother hated messes so had the front hall tiled long before it was the thing to do,,,which made for a swift clean up. Brother in the tub. lots of bandages. Everything was as good as new..just a few dozen scrapes and a broken door. An everyday happening in some homes…….but shhhhhhhhh they still do not know I locked the door

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-16 15:18:44

Don’t worry,Melissa. I am excellent with secrets! Mum’s the word!

Comment by N.L. Belardes |Edit This
2008-09-12 16:38:35

What years were these? Just curious. There’s no bio for you, so I have no clue other than Iron Curtain. I’m just assuming the 40s or 50s.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-12 16:42:48

Hello angry cricket!
Those were the years, for me, between 1951 and 1955 from when I was three years old until I was eight and we returned to Brooklyn. I’ll get a better bio up eventually, but I totally stretched out my welcome with Lenore tonight getting this posted. Thank GOD I didn’t need any pictures or blue print that sends you somewhere else!

Comment by N.L. Belardes |Edit This
2008-09-13 11:14:25

Gotcha. I look forward to reading more stories of your family craziness. I kinda want to cut off one of my kids’ fingers for fun though.

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Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-13 12:43:36

Sorry, no, uh uh. I don’t believe you one tiny little bit. You are a big talker, but a softy inside, just what a Dad should be. You come off as an angry cricket with attitude, but really, take off those glasses and you are a mild-mannered reporter-type. A sweet one who wouldn’t hurt a fly. You’re busted, angry cricket!

Comment by N.L. Belardes |Edit This
2008-09-13 13:31:04

You just don’t know. I used to live in Yugoslavia. I ran an orphanage. They called me “Cricket the Finger Master.” I collected fingers from all the kids whose parents I thought were Iron Curtain spies back in the day. I did that until I reformed and moved to California where I decided to collect bug legs instead.

But I can go back to the kid fingers. I’m getting all spinny-eyed.

Where’s my oldest child? I’m starting with him.

Spinny-eyed, Irene. Spinny eyed.

Spinnnnnnnny Eyyyyyeeeeszzzzz…

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-13 15:58:29

I thought you only had girls. You lie, angry cricket with attitude!

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-16 03:44:56

Oh, NL! I LOVE your new hat! It completely changes your look. Completely.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-17 06:59:54

Did you do this just to make me look like an idiot calling you an angry cricket?

Comment by Cayt |Edit This
2008-09-12 16:38:36

Wow. This is Lenore’s other grandmother, surely…? Not the one who tried to make her sleep in vomit.

But, your whole family is just…wow.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-12 16:54:26

Yes, Cayt,
This is the very same grandmother who tried to make Lenore sleep in Benjamin’s vomit. This is where Lenore got the idea. She is defaming me just because she has a black black heart.

Comment by lonny |Edit This
2008-09-13 14:05:07

if the vomit were in a strong freezer zip lock it would be a great pillow

i think

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Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-13 16:04:19

Lonny, I think that is true. However, from experience I have to say that there is no zip-lock that actually locks. I have traveled many miles with liquids “sealed” in zip-lock which leaked all over my luggage. In a perfect world, a bag of zip-locked vomit would make a passable pillow, but this is the real world, Lonny. Not buying it. Besides, if you read Lenore’s post about this a million years ago you would see that the vomit was encased in nothing whatsoever. It was just on her pillow and sheet. No zip-lock bag. ( Actually, I’m pretty sure that “zip-lock bags” did not even exist yet. We were stuck with the flimsy bags with twister ties. They NEVER held anything well.)

Comment by Tim |Edit This
2008-09-13 19:14:48

If I may step in here:
Lonny’s point is a valid one. We’re talking perfect-world Ziplocs here.
Quit being such a killjoy, Ma.

Comment by Adam |Edit This
2008-09-13 20:16:54

My friend Pat (the same one with the briefcase cat, Lenore) had a bag — like a plastic shopping bag — of vomit nailed to his bathroom wall for like months, I want to say.

I swear I am not making this shit up.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-14 01:14:56

Sorry, Tim, I had no idea we were talking about the Platonic Ideal of the zip-lock bag here. I stand corrected in the world of perfection.

Adam, I HOPE you at least got a picture of that! (Sorry, I have to ask, was Pat a girl or a boy?) I’ll bet he/she is residing at the happy farm now. Or else he/she is living in a cabin in the wilds of Appalachia, miles from anyone else, stocked up with guns and ammo and dried foods in aluminum foil bags and shooting his/her own meat. And grumbling. Doing a lot of grumbling to himself/herself.

His/her parents ALLOWED this? Too late to call in DCFS I guess.

Comment by Adam |Edit This
2008-09-15 00:21:37

He’s a boy. There’s a picture of him in the “Heroes” section of my MySpace profile.

Pat kinda had dominion over the basement. I don’t think his mother went down there more than she had to.

He’s sane.

He’s living in Seattle, playing Anarchy Online.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-15 09:58:56

For some reason I couldn’t write this up where I wanted to, (where you mentioned this.) You called my Mom “Nana” . How did you know that’s what my kids called her? Just curious. I never said it.

Comment by Adam |Edit This
2008-09-15 14:34:28

I pay attention. And, yes, I was like that as a kid.

Comment by Jess |Edit This
2008-09-12 19:46:32

Irene, your stories are beautifully written and fascinating, to boot. Is it too much to hope for a collaboration between mother and daughter?

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-13 05:30:10

HA! Jess, I’m pretty sure she’d kill me in the process. She is not known for her patience with me. Maybe YOU could talk to her? (Drug her?)

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-15 10:00:16

Besides, Jess, Lenore is a bona fide writer. Her fiction can turn you inside out. I just tell stories.

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Comment by marcia |Edit This
2008-09-12 20:01:19

Wasn’t your mom trained as a nurse? That makes it even funnier. It’s the part about the nail scissors that really gets me.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-13 05:32:34

YUP, Marcia, she was a Registered Nurse. I’m sure she meant to sanitize the stump very professionally after the amputation.

Comment by Adam |Edit This
2008-09-12 22:33:01

My father has somewhere around nine fingers total, with the deficit apportioned among three of them.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-13 05:33:14

Did his mother do that to him?

Comment by Adam |Edit This
2008-09-13 11:57:41

No, he accomplished it himself, through his own ingenuity.

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Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-13 12:46:33

In what way did his trimming of three fingers further his interests? I find this puzzling. How many fingers do you have? (Like father, like son?)

Comment by Adam |Edit This
2008-09-13 14:33:05

I don’t think dismembering his fingers directly served any interest. Rather it was a collateral effect of his ingenious rigging of a circular saw to act as a table saw, which in theory would have furthered the interest of building a bookcase or a loveseat (I forget which he was working on at the time). Of course, in order for this to work, he had to bypass the circular saw’s safety mechanism — probably something akin to tying down the bail of a lawn mower with a bandana, although I don’t know the details.

I inherited both the kind of smarts he exhibited in that case and the kind he didn’t, as well as ten fingers, which I have retained due in part to periodic strokes of luck.

It was less a trimming than a hacking, followed by a virtuosic reattachment (I also forget the surgeon’s name — I’ll get back to you on that). The phalanges he pureed were all intermediate.

He’s told me he most misses wiping his ass with his dominant hand.

My mom tells me that as she was driving him to the hospital, hysterical, at least one other driver was purposefully obstructing her. She hypothesizes that the other driver just thought she was a boorish driver, and she has since taught me if another driver is hellbent on passing, to just let them pass, which I have taken to heart.

Comment by Adam |Edit This
2008-09-13 16:04:02

Allen Van Beek was the surgeon.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-13 16:20:41

“He’s told me he most misses wiping his ass with his dominant hand.”
Oh Adam. I totally agree. When my arthritis acts up, the sinister hand is just not up to the job.
Glad you have ten fingers, even if it is due to dumb luck. It’s the end point that matters, after all.
Allen Van Beek was a terrific surgeon.
Sara and Lenore both cut off the ends of their thumbs.
Sara was using a mandolin and cut off the end of her thumb. There were guests in the house, however no matter of sifting could find her thumb end. She seems to have grown back a passable thumb end.
Lenore was working nights in High School at a supermarket in the deli section and….(Okay, really Lenore should tell this story because it is hers and it is hysterical.)

Comment by Adam |Edit This
2008-09-13 18:38:54

Meat slicer. Yeah.

I’ve got a nice scar on my right middle finger from one of those. When it was all stitched up, from one side it looked like it had been severed and reattached, but my meat slicer was turned off, so it stopped at the bone.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-13 19:07:56


Comment by Adam |Edit This
2008-09-13 20:04:16

I love that somehow I earn the strong reaction in this thread. Empathy is a wondrous and at times seemingly arbitrary thing.

In re: Sara, I just realized that you probably meant “mandoline,” although the mechanism would still be essentially the same as in my initial, more ridiculous vision.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-14 01:19:29

Sorry, misspelled that one. (Although it is a more interesting story that way….)

Just explain to me how you almost severed your right middle finger with the meat slicer turned off. I’m picturing you rubbing your finger hard against the non-turning blade. Why would you do such a thing?

Comment by Adam |Edit This
2008-09-15 00:39:49

I worked at a sandwich shop, and I was cleaning the thing. We used it to slice all the meats as well as the cheese. I was wiping cheese from the face of it. It was tacky, so I was applying a lot of downward pressure and getting used to a certain amount of friction as I wiped hard back and forth in a tight pattern. Anyway, some cheese came free or something, reducing the friction, and the force I was putting into wiping hard in a tight pattern got put into wiping hard in a much looser pattern before I noticed it. I made one large sweep off the edge of the blade, and drew back along the curved edge. My fingertip kind of rode the curve around, resulting in a 180-degree slicing. There are like a million-some-odd nerve endings and fibers and whatnot in the fingertip, and although this took like a quarter-second, I swear I felt each damned one of them severed individually, in sequence.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-15 10:05:17

I say again: EEEEWWWWWW!

Comment by Sara Zion |Edit This
2008-09-13 04:26:20

I like how you write, Ma. I know the stories well, but I like how you tell them. )

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-13 05:34:25

Sara, that is so nice. You didn’t even get the willies this time. Good job!

Comment by Sara Zion |Edit This
2008-09-13 04:28:42

Wow. I have always hated those little yellow smilies with *eyebrows.* Now I know where they come from: evil editing programs that translate ” : ) ” into :). Ick. Now I am one of *those people.* Oh well.

Comment by Sara Zion |Edit This
2008-09-13 04:29:27

And it didn’t even work when I tried to explain.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-13 05:37:45

Sara, you could NEVER be one of “those people”, (not that I know who you mean,) because you are super different from anyone else on earth. (In a good way.)
The HTML rules are different on TNB for some reason. It’s messed everyone up who tries to use the regular kind.
You have patience. You would explain it to me if you could. Thanks.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-13 05:44:42

You have to put quotation marks around happy faces, etc? Why can’t you just type it?
I’m going to try it both ways and see what happens: : ) “: )” The first was without quotation marks and the second was with. did the second one turn me into one of “those people”? I shudder at the results.

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Comment by Adam |Edit This
2008-09-13 11:59:19

“:)” “: )” ) : )

Comment by Adam |Edit This
2008-09-13 12:01:43

Got it: you need no attached punctuation and no intermediate space. Sara’s period — Sara’s dot — interfered in her explanatory comment. Irene’s space did.

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Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-13 12:49:21

Adam, you are really good with puzzles. Were you like that as a kid too?

Comment by Adam |Edit This
2008-09-13 14:36:05

I think the only pronounced fundamental changes I’ve undergone since infancy have been in height and vocabulary.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-13 16:23:09

Your height and vocabulary are both strikingly wonderful.

Comment by Christine |Edit This
2008-09-13 05:56:06

I love this story. MORE MORE MORE stories!!!!!! I like the one where you lived in Trieste and tried to get all the kids to fly off of that stump.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-13 06:32:37

I think that’s an old one in my myspace. I can certainly rewrite it better for TNB standards. I was just talking there. Christine, I can’t think how else you’d know that story. You should be writing down the stories from your kids. Better to have a record of how wonderful they are before they turn on you. Actually even after they turn on you it makes good material. They almost always come back to you. Some with more patience, than others.
By the way, I just adore your picture, (heck heck heck, what is it called? avatar, no. gravatar!) I think that’s it. I love your gravatar.

2008-09-13 06:15:02

Irene, this is glorious!

As for a tiny emoticon tutorial: if you put the close parenthesis directly after the colon (no spaces) you get this ) (a smile) – same thing using a semi-colon you get this ;) (a wink). I think if you reverse it or put any spaces in it or use other characters like dashes and things, you get bupkis.

) 🙂 ) 🙂 ) 🙂 ) 🙂 ) 🙂 ) 🙂 ) 🙂 ) 🙂 ) 🙂 ) 🙂 ) 🙂 ) 🙂 ) 🙂 ) 🙂 )

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-13 06:38:30

Just as an aside, I’m not used to reading a post that I wrote and it’s set up differently. I looked at your name and I thought it said:
Comment by Kimberly M. Wetherell / Eat This
Took a second look cause it sounded more like Lenore than sweet you.

Anyhow, thanks, now I know why I got bupkis. I’m going to try to make the two different yellow smiley faces. I hope I’m still educable.

) ;)

I appreciate you’re trying to teach me. We’ll see when I hit “add comment” if it worked.

Comment by Adam |Edit This
2008-09-13 12:03:49

I should’ve read ahead, it seems.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-13 12:52:57

No, Adam, without your explanation we wouldn’t know why Sara’s smiley face with the period didn’t work. I’m going to call her now and explain it. Do you know how good it makes me feel to explain something computer-related to my genius daughter? Oh Yeah, I’m so smart now!

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Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-13 06:39:15

HA! Educable still! Thanks, Kimberly!

2008-09-13 06:48:14

Educable. Sounds like Lunchable.

Eat that!


2008-09-13 08:44:26

Great story Irene– I can see where darling Lenore of the fabulous handsocks gets her wit and wonderful perspective! I also enjoyed the reference to one of my favorite stories as a kid, whose title you wisely did not use and I will not use in this note as it is so controversial now.
Do you really think your father was a spy?
I want to be a spy!

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-13 08:52:31

I loved that book, Jessica. Maybe they could clean it up and write it for today’s audience. Wouldn’t be that hard.
Yeah. I’m sure of it. He was a marine engineer who worked on ships. Trieste was a huge port for that part of the world, still is. He was missing, scoping out secret engineering secrets, etc., behind the iron curtain. Knew lots of languages, but pretended not to. It should have been strange, but it felt normal to me. Wasn’t good for family life, though. Always away, left there with my certifiable mother.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-13 08:54:44

THAT was bad writing. “secret engineering secrets?” I’m so embarrassed!
Must learn to proof-read. Must learn to proof-read. Must learn to proof-read.

Comment by lonny |Edit This
2008-09-13 14:00:30

i have heard that fingers are not the necessary anymore
in todays modern world with everything so zoom zoom
you can do everything with voice command

with the exception of my current typing i never use my fingers

i guess this story did take place in some prehistoric period of the earth that i can not spell
so perhaps back then fingers were more important

my grandma was always so interesting
and unpredictable
and she made awesome cookies

finger away!

Comment by Stephanie |Edit This
2008-09-13 18:41:01

Thanks for letting me know about your new post.
My mother is another neat freak, but I think she would have punched me instead of trying to remove my dangling pinkie finger. (That’s just her way of coping with “being irresponsible”)

Everyone has odd habits, and methods.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-13 19:09:10

You are smart beyond your years, Stephanie!

Comment by jmb |Edit This
2008-09-14 11:19:02

It seemed like a dream, too good to be true,
when God returned Zion’s exiles.
We laughed, we sang,
we couldn’t believe our good fortune.
God was wonderful to us;
we are one happy people.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-14 13:13:10

I save everything you write. You think in poetry, don’t you? I wait for your shadowy figure each time I write. Glad you’re not a number anymore. People should know your name. People will know your name.

Comment by debby |Edit This
2008-09-14 14:26:09

loving your stories. keep up the good work. looking forward to the next one.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-14 17:37:15

Thanks Debby, I have dog stories too!

Comment by Cecile |Edit This
2008-09-14 15:10:33

Like the way you tell a story never leaving out one gruesome detail! It is compelling enough so as to wonder the fate of your brother later in life. I do have some idea, however. Did that experience sort of push you in the direction of marrying a surgeon?? As long as he was cutting on some else I guess you felt safe enough, cause it couldn’t be you. It gets better and better.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-14 17:39:12

Nah. I fell in love with his aura. When I met him he had a glow all around him and I knew he was the one. Didn’t know bupkis about him. True story.

Comment by Lisa |Edit This
2008-09-14 19:31:24

I never knew what Woody did to his finger. Very glad to have that mystery explained.

Thank you and happy Sunday.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-15 03:51:41

I think this was the incident that turned him away from being a knight in shining armor. Until he was 8 I think he had had plans to save the world, or at least all damsels in distress. Impaling himself and having no one around to help him was horrible enough, but to go home where he was supposed to be safe and have his own mother try to sever his finger was intolerable. There’s a reason this is seared in our memories. I’m sure psychologists could have a field day with the scenario of a mother attempting to amputate her son’s appendage.

Comment by keiko |Edit This
2008-09-15 05:21:07

Poor proprioception = seriously clumsy! I’m going to use that new definition every day at work. Thanks

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-15 09:48:04

Keiko, you can use that in describing people without their knowing what it means.
My brother had a stroke some years ago and he has no proprioception at all in his right foot. For this reason, he has to use a cane. He cannot feel his foot at all, so he has no idea how he is putting it down. It could be crooked or he could be stepping on top of his toes because his foot bent back but he wouldn’t know it. If he didn’t have a cane, he could easily fall. It’s really scary. Getting old is not for sissies, as they say.

Comment by Emma Ashwood |Edit This
2008-09-15 06:18:49

Irene, I love your stories. But oh, your awful mother. That should be scripted into a horror story. The mother looming over her child with gleaming nail scissors in hand: ‘Just let me clean you up!’

And has your brother got a scissor phobia now?

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-15 09:55:05

Let’s just say when it came to pick which silver goblet he wanted to keep after they died,(we got them for their 25th wedding anniversary), he picked the one that said “DADDY”, not the one that said “MOMMY”.

The thing about my mother was she was always sure that she was doing the right thing and really resented any interference. Complete confidence in your own actions comes more easily when you’re off your rocker. I figure that I must be okay, since I second-guess every single thing I do or say. That may not actually be healthy, but it makes me feel better to believe it.

Comment by Rob Bloom |Edit This
2008-09-15 11:07:30

Irene, you are delightful. Like a ray of sunshine on TNB. Warm, inviting, justwannasoakitup sunshine.

And now that you know how to post emoticons, you’re unstoppable.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-15 12:38:54

Thanks, Rob!
But I have been stopped!
I need to learn how to post pictures!!!! No one will show me. (Poor, pitiful me!)
I don’t need to turn words blue and send people to Wikipedia or elsewhere, but I DO want to use pictures with my stories.
Emoticons are great, but just don’t look like my family. (I also learned how to cross things out, from Cayt. That’s fun.)

(Wow, “delightful” that was really sweet. I’m going to savor that for a good long while!)

Comment by Erika Rae |Edit This
2008-09-15 13:10:15

Hold the phone, everyone…96 comments, and no one has asked how young Irene was saved from the swing incident??? As far as we know, she was rescued by a pack of wolves. Help us out here, Irene! Were you unconscious? There must be a story here all on its own?

I love your stories – keep them coming!

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-15 15:42:20

Well, I just came to and walked home. No one ever mentioned me passing out. At the hospital they just took care of Woody. He truly looked like the one who had need of looking after. Maybe that bout of unconsciousness was good for me. If it hurt me, I don’t know how. Maybe I would have been a genius. Oh well. My life has been just fine in spite of it.
Thanks for asking, Erika Rae, I remember wondering what I was doing alone on the ground under the swing. But, then walking home seemed the thing to do at the time. I didn’t know that I had passed out until my brother told me much later. Glad I woke up in time for the excitement, though!

Comment by Erika Rae |Edit This
2008-09-15 17:22:32

Totally crazy being upstaged by your brother like that…who in turn was upstaged by your mother. And while I can’t speak to whether it prevented your genius status (although, you seem awfully smart to me), I’ll bet the experience DID make you tougher!

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Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-16 03:41:44

Well, Erika Rae, I was only five years old, remember, so everything that happened to me seemed to me the way life was. I became conscious alone under the swing, so I imagine I must have thought I had fallen asleep. What did I know about unconsciousness?
I never thought I was tough until I needed to be. Surprised the pants off me. I’m plenty tough. Scary tough.

Comment by Kate |Edit This
2008-09-15 13:30:44

okay, so i knew your mother was crazy, but i didn’t realize it went that far. yikes! was that the closest you guys ever got to losing body parts? there must have been other close calls.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-15 15:43:36

There’s a lot more Mom stories, but I think that may be the only one involving the possible amputation of a body part. (I’ll have to think, though…..)

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-11-06 06:23:09

Well, Kate, there you go. I don’t know how I forgot the foot amputation. Perhaps I wasn’t ready to remember it enough to write it. Now I have. Hope you like it.

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Comment by Ruthie |Edit This
2008-09-15 14:04:45

Another great story. I’m surprised you didn’t walk around with your hands in fists forever. Luckily you are obviously very resilient. Why does your story make me want to run and do my nails?

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-15 15:47:39

Well, Ruthie, I think you appreciate having ten fingers with ten nicely shaped nails because you had a mother who adored every part of you and would never have cut parts of you off.
Go get a manicure. Get a pedicure while you’re at it. Treasure your digits.
(I can’t say that I ever thought I’d say the phrase: “Treasure your digits.” It’s amazing what comes out of my mouth.)

Comment by Adam |Edit This
2008-09-15 22:40:36

That came from your digits, though. Suddenly, it makes sense.

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Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-16 03:43:36

That was good, Adam.
I think I’m a storyteller, though, so when I’m writing I’m really talking.

Comment by Alex Devoto |Edit This
2008-09-17 04:18:34

oh man there must have been a lot of blood. You poor mom must have spent a week cleaning since blood is hard to take out. Thank god your dad was home, but did anyone ever find out you were knocked out by the swing? very funny in a sick way.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-17 07:07:01

I found out when my brother told me, but not for years and years later. I never until then knew what I was doing alone at the park under the swing. I was only 4 or 5 then, didn’t know much. I don’t think my parents ever did find out about my being knocked unconscious.
It was entirely a Woody story. I wasn’t part of it.

Comment by Ursula |Edit This
2008-09-17 10:31:21

Your story Irene, could have been sold easily to the producers of “Tales from the Crypt.” Unfortunately I think that show is off the air. Like Ruthie said, it would have been “fists” for me forever. What an experience, your poor brother.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-17 13:35:11

I did learn to keep my distance, Ursula. That I did learn.
Well, sure Woody had a bad experience, but his finger turned out fine and he got all this attention and cool scars to boot. I’m pretty sure that if I hadn’t come out of my semi-comatose state on my own I would have been there all night until some nice Italian person found me and called the Italian equivalent of 911.

Comment by ksw |Edit This
2008-09-18 06:19:07

you only need one finger to pick your nose, and two to remove dingleberrys…so what’s the big deal???

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-18 06:32:30

Oh my God! I thought Victor made up the word “dingleberrys.” I can’t believe it’s a real word. GROSS!
On the other hand, sometimes a pinky is just the right size for something. You shouldn’t underestimate the power of the pinky.

Comment by Squeaky |Edit This
2008-09-18 11:17:11


As a six year old I fell out of a tree and cracked my head open on an exposed pipe coming up from an otherwise harmless backyard. My father was smoking weed at the time and, when driving me to the hospital, was very frustrated with the amount of blood leaking from the back of my head onto his seat.

Parents have funny ways of dealing with injuries to their children. At the beginning I was with your mother. I thought she was going to clean out the wound or remove infected tissue or something. But in the end her true intent reared it’s ugly head. I argue that your brother would have 8 fingers today had your father not been home. She would have looked at the two hands and said, “Well these don’t match up at all. Let me clean up that other hand so they look alike’ and then poof would go the other pinkie.

I feel very strongly about this.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-18 12:46:50

I swear that is just what I think. I’m sure if my Dad hadn’t been there she would have “cleaned up the first pinkie” and then been horrified that they didn’t match. Off would have come the second, just as you said! I’m not even sure she would have stopped at that. Once you start trying to even things out, it’s difficult to stop!

I’m so glad that your backyard was “otherwise harmless.” Did your Dad get rid of the pipe after all this was over? My Dad was also very concerned about the state of his car. I’m sure blood must have really inflamed your Dad. Did you have a concussion? Heads really bleed a lot. I learned that in the kid-raising biz. Also tongues. Tongues bleed like a house on fire! I bet if you have kids they can bleed all over your car and you will tell them it makes no difference to you because you just want to get him/her some help, and you love him/her more than some stupid upholstery.
I’d also like you to know that figuring out how to spell “upholstery” took a really long time, but I didn’t give up. What through me off was my stubborn belief that it started with an A. Turns out, it doesn’t. There you go.

Comment by Squeaky |Edit This
2008-09-18 19:32:54

You hit my parenting style directly. In fact I’d like to share more of my philosophy with you, but it involves the fantasy that Lenore is my wife/mother of said children and I think that crosses some lines that usually (see: Always) get me in trouble.

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Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-19 03:26:57

Well, Squeaky, you have my vote. Unfortunately for you that will not help with Lenore. She only does the opposite of what I say. It’s a thing we do. I’m working on doing the opposite of what she says, but she doesn’t seem to notice, which sort of takes the sting out of the exercise.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-19 03:40:03

Something is reversed here. The kid is the one stupid enough to be using drugs. The parent is the good role model who eschews all manner of mind-altering substances. Right?

Comment by Ken |Edit This
2008-09-18 16:12:17

That story completely freaked me out!

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-18 16:24:23

Oh hi, Ken,
This is true life! I thought you were totally cool with reality. This is my actual mother and just wait until you hear more of my life with with her. I’m pretty sure I avoided scarring my kids, but then, they’ll have to tell you that. ( I am just a bit worried about their response, here. Seriously, I tried my best not to be as crazy as my mother. It was a full-time job.)

Comment by donald |Edit This
2008-09-24 05:44:17

Im assuming your mother also performed the bris…..

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-24 09:45:18

OH. Donald. God. Forbid! That is a very seriously scary thought. His poor little baby unit. I shudder at the very thought!

Comment by Amy |Edit This
2008-09-27 06:43:23

Your mother and my grandmother must be related. We should talk!

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-09-27 08:44:51

Oh Amy, I am so sorry to hear that. I really think that one of my mother in the world should be enough. Although. You might have some zippy stories to tell…. Why don’t you tell us a story about her? We’re listening….

Comment by John B |Edit This
2008-10-01 07:57:03

What a roller coaster ride, this story and thread… By the time your daughter made the remark about getting hit with wine bottles, I was feeling downright disgusted…and a little bit scared. Once I realized that she was just bustin’ your chops, I almost spit Starbucks on my keyboard. What an ingenious follow up… I can see why her milkshake brings all the boys to the proverbial yard…

Anyways back to your story, for the love of Jesus, tell me that you just have an equally morbid sense of humor as your daughter?!? I mean…you CAN”T be serious, that your mother honestly wanted to cut her kid’s finger off??? That’s the most psychotic thing I’ve read in ages.

I realize that people born during the psychological dark ages (say…pre-history to 1970 or so) were more or less aloud to abuse their families with impunity, but Jesus H! If your story is true, then your mom would rank right up there with those schizophrenic Christians in Texas who try to scald the sin off of their children. And your wording doesn’t even betray a grudge…You’re frying my CPU over here. Say it ain’t so Irene (lie if you have to)!!!

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-10-01 09:19:10

Lenore is ALWAYS busting my chops. She LIVES for it, in fact. You can’t believe the things she says about me that she thinks are hilarious, but readers BELIEVE! She drives me nuts! Then Tim chimes in and does the same thing, but he’s not as adamant about ruining my reputation. He’s just having fun and knows where to draw a line.

John B, I swear to you that this is exactly what my mother did. She was one wacky mother to grow up with, I can tell you that. I have stories that will curl your hair, although I have to admit that this one is pretty much the most graphic.

I don’t know what “frying your CPU” means. I am pretty sure that I have no intention of frying it. Why don’t you tell me what it means and then I’ll know for sure.

Lenore and I do sort of have an equally morbid sense of humor. Is that a bad thing?

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-10-01 10:27:16

Besides, John B, if psychotic people don’t do psychotic things, who will do them?

Comment by John B |Edit This
2008-10-01 10:28:18

In your daughter’s defense…satirically accusing you of things like assault with a wine bottle, and you apologizing only to vomit into her pillowcase IS friggin’ genius. As they say on the street, “don’t playa-hate….congratulate!”
The fact that you guys can joke like that is very telling. Together, you’re putting the fun back in dysfunctional !

Using words like “wacky”, and “creative”, to describe your mother makes me guess that you’re either A:highly compartmentalized, B:at the tail end of 20 years of intense therapy, or C: on valium. In any case, you have a beautiful sense of humor and I commend you. I’ll save my judgmental comments regarding your dad for a later date (your story sort of struck a chord with my own baggage….what’s worse, the deranged abusive mother, or the “sane” father that repeatedly impregnates her? I swear it’s like the whole concept of having “standards” when choosing a mate never even existed until a generation ago).

CPU stands for Central Processing Unit, it’s what makes your computer compute. I was basically saying that you were blowing my mind…I didn’t think you story could be true, at least I didn’t want it to be…You seem so well adjusted for a being raised by the type of woman that puts the turkey in the bassinet, then wonders, “now WHERE did I put that baby….”

Yes your morbid sense of humor is detestable. Awful. I can see why Nick wants to kick your polar bear dog.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-10-01 10:40:33

Earlier on, John B, George said that my mother sounded like a hoot. If you look back I said that growing up with her was less hootful. Much less hootful. I try to use language that is appropriate to be read on line. Lenore is not bound by such rules. Her stuff is more fun to read probably partly because she has no filter between her head and her fingers.

Were I speaking to you in person, I might very well use some colorful words to describe her. She really wasn’t “abusive.” She was nuts. Stark raving nuts. Sort of hard to blame her for the stuff she did when she wouldn’t even be responsible in a court of law. She BELIEVED it was the right thing to “clean my brother’s hand up” that way. She wasn’t being mean. She was being tidy. Terribly tidy.

Thanks for telling me what CPU means. Yet something else I’ve learned since I got here.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2008-10-01 10:41:23

Oh. Nick KNOWS not to try to kick my polar bear dogs. (And you better too, Buster!)