Nayu describes them to me. The haggard bodies covered with dust and blood, surging abruptly in front of the car. The limbs missing. The faces contorted in pain and disbelief. She tells me about the ranges of a scream—from the silent or guttural shock to the bellowing distress.  She was riding shotgun with her grandmother in Pétion-Ville when the earth grumbled, dust engulfing the car, swallowing the surrounding mountains flanked by shanty towns.

In Kate Zambreno’s hallucinatory and disjointed Green Girl (Emergency Press), we are lured into the world of Ruth, a young American girl lost and damaged in London. Following this ingénue into her dark musings, the echoes of voices fill the page—Ruth, HIM, her mother, the author, and the silver screen flickering in the distance. It is a hypnotic read—the duality of Ruth—her good side and her darkness, the need to behave and the need to be punished.

It seems as though everyone is talking about Michael Kimball and his new newly released novel, US.  Sam Lipsyte calls Kimball a “Hero of contemporary fiction.”  Blake Butler says US is one of only two books that ever made him cry.  And Gary Lutz says that Kimball is “One of our most supremely gifted and virtuosic renderers of the human predicament.” 

US might break your heart, but it’s a good kind of break-the kind that reminds you how nice it is to be alive.

Falling

By Angela Tung

Memoir

It’s Friday night, and like every Friday night, we go to see Joe’s parents.

On the drive over, Joe calls: “What do you guys want for dinner?” Usually it’s Korean take-out, or occasionally Chinese, though that’s too salty. “Chinese people don’t know how to make rice,” says my father-in-law, no matter how many times I say that restaurant rice isn’t authentic. Tonight it’s Korean.

We lay the food on the table. I set up Joe’s mother’s bowl: duk mandu gook, dumpling soup, over rice. At this time, she can still feed herself, though she’s a bit messy. We don’t care that she’s messy, but Joe’s father fusses over every dropped grain of rice, every dribble of soup.

After dinner, we clear the table and do the dishes. Joe’s parents go up to their bedroom. Joe and I go down to the basement living room.  Joe’s parents don’t have cable so there’s not much to watch though Joe always manages to find some sports game. After an hour, I get sleepy.

In Joe’s old room, I change into my pajamas. There’s little of Joe’s childhood here. Some yearbooks, a few pictures. Mostly it’s his parents’ stuff. The room, like most of the house, feels crowded. His parents like to collect things. Jewelery, pocket watches, fountain pens. Vases, china, grandfather clocks. As the years pass, they collect more and more, and yet their house gets no bigger.

Soon Joe comes upstairs and climbs into bed with me. There are only twin beds in Joe and Billy’s old rooms. I try to sleep but I can’t. I’m squashed. I rise to go to the other room.

“You can’t take one night?” Joe says. He thinks that a husband and wife should always sleep in one bed, no matter how uncomfortable, the way he thinks of many things, that there is only one right way.

“Sorry,” I whisper, and steal down the hall. I stretch out on the empty twin. Outside a brook gurgles; somewhere a clock ticks. I sleep.




Joe’s father runs an acupuncture clinic on Saturdays. Some weekends, he has clients at the house. Once I met one, the daughter of his friends.

“What do you do?” I asked her before remembering she had been a trader on Wall Street before having a stroke at 35.

She bristled.  “I stay home with my daughter,” she said.

“That’s great!” I said. I’m not one of them, I wanted to say. I don’t care what you do.

By the time we’re awake, Joe’s father is already out the door. At Joe’s parents’, everyone showers and dresses immediately upon waking, even on the weekends. At my parents’, we lounge in our pajamas, drinking coffee and chatting, till almost noon.

While Joe picks up breakfast, I help his mother shower. I used to be afraid to be alone with her. I didn’t know how to hold her, and was nervous she’d fall. But now I know.

First, I take her feet from the bed and turn them to the floor. Next I take her by her left arm and hand, and lift her up to sitting. I shift my hand to her armpit, and help her stand. Then we walk.

When you walk, you don’t realize how you move. You don’t know you lift one foot while pushing off with the other, then again with the opposite foot, then again, and again. People with Parkinson’s disease get stuck, like cars revving in mud.

Joe’s mother is stuck now.  “C’mon, Mom!” I say. “One, two, three!”

She tenses. I know she’s trying. “Right foot,” I say instead, like a drill sergeant. “Right foot, left.”

Still nothing. She begins to drool.

“C’mon, Mom.” I nudge at the backs of her ankles, but she’s rooted. Instead of lifting, she pushes, digging deeper into the floor. All of her socks have holes in the same places.

I get in front and take her by both hands, the way Billy does.  Joe doesn’t like it. “She’ll fall like that,” he says, although Billy is a physician and knows these things. But Billy isn’t here now.

In front isn’t working. I inch her forward, but her lower half doesn’t move, which means she’ll fall. The last resort. I get behind her, line up our legs, and stick my arms under her hers. Then I walk her like a giant puppet. She doesn’t like this, embarrassed by the proximity of our bodies, though by that point I wonder how either of us can feel embarrassed about anything.

In the bathroom I attach her hands to the towel rack while I pull down her sweatpants and underwear. Then I sit her on the toilet. While she goes, I pull off her sweatshirt, undershirt, sweatpants, underwear, and socks. The whole time I keep my eyes averted. Her medicine had taken away her appetite so that she’s mostly bones. Her legs are broomsticks, her spine like dinosaur scales. Only her stomach is fleshy, a wrinkled yellow paunch.

When the water’s ready, I stand her up and get her in the shower. There’s always a moment of panic as she steps over the metal threshold. I’m always afraid her ankle will catch and she’ll cut herself, or worse, she’ll trip and, slippery and out of my reach, I won’t be able to stop her from falling. She doesn’t fall. She steps over the threshold, turns herself, and sits on her plastic chair.

At this time she can still wash herself. Later she won’t be able to. Later she’ll get so bad, she won’t be able to feed herself so that one of us will have to cut up her food, put it in her mouth, wait for her to chew, to swallow, give her a sip of water, then start again.

If this is what it’s like to have a child, I’ll think, then I don’t want one.



After the water shuts off, I return to the bathroom. I dry her off and get her dressed. I comb her hair. You can always tell who’s taken care of her by the way her hair is combed. The caretakers and I let it fall into its natural part and cowlicks. Joe and her husband part it severely and slick it back. Billy takes the time to blow it dry.

I bring her to the sink. She holds onto the edge while I brace my body against hers. My hands free, I can ready her toothbrush. I hand it to her and she brushes her teeth.

“Take your time,” I tell her. The longer she takes, the more time passes, and the closer we are to leaving. In the walls of my mind are taped the hours of the day. Twelve, eleven, ten, nine. In my mind I cross out each one. She spits and rinses many times.  Parkinson’s hinders swallowing so that her mouth is always full of saliva and phlegm. I wait.

I walk her back into the bedroom and onto her bed, easier now that her muscles have warmed.  I smooth moisturizer on her face, over and around, like a facial. I put lotion on her hands. I rub Ben Gay into her bad leg. Billy says this is no use. There’s no muscle there, only bone, but she says it helps. I wash my hands for a long time, the Ben Gay tingling the webs of my fingers.

I’ve bought a book on Parkinson’s disease. There are exercises to help keep limbs loose and supple, and I perform these on Joe’s mother after her shower.

“You should do these on your own,” I tell her, bending one of her knees, then the other. “You should get Wanda to help you.” Wanda is her caretaker during the week.

She shrugs, and I know she won’t, though she appreciates my efforts.

Joe comes home then.  I smell fresh coffee and fried potatoes. “Your wife practices damned good medicine,” she tells him. “My doctor said he could tell someone has been exercising me.”

I smile. But then Joe says to his mother, “You should have been exercising this whole time.” He returns downstairs.



I help her take her medicine. Joe thinks she takes too much. “You were a physician,” he says, “and you pop Sinemet like candy.” Sinemet is for stiffness. She does seem to take a lot, but sometimes she takes only half. Then again I don’t know what she takes when I’m not there.

Joe and his father are especially afraid she’ll take too much Valium, which is for extreme stiffness.  “I’m freezing,” she says moments before an attack.

“You’re not freezing,” Joe always corrects her, although that’s what my book calls akinesia. “Freezing is very cold. You’re just stiff.”

I recognize many symptoms from the book. There’s ataxia, or loss of balance. Dysphagia, difficulty in swallowing. There’s dyskinesia, that extra, involuntary movement from too much dopamine, such as that found in Sinemet. There’s the resting tremor I see in her chin right before akinesia. I often know that freezing is coming before she does. I can try to calm her down before she starts to panic.

They keep the Valium where she can’t reach it – in my father-in-law’s study, on the top shelf.  Usually I give in, figuring five mgs is so little. But sometimes I resist.

“Wait five minutes,” I tell her. “Let me watch this show till a commercial, and then I’ll get your pill.” For the next five minutes, she moans. Sometimes she cries.

I don’t think I’m being cruel.

For now though she’s not freezing and doesn’t need her Valium.  I bring her downstairs.




Joe has already cut up his mother’s eggs, sausage, and hashbrowns. He studies the box scores intently as he eats his own breakfast.

I close my eyes and sip my coffee.  Soon I’ll feel better.  “If you feel like going out,” I tell Joe, “go ahead.”

Sometimes he buys groceries for his parents, or hits a few golf balls, or goes to an aquarium store. We can manage without him, and when he returns, he’s more relaxed and less angry. Besides, he comes to his parents’ again on Sunday, although his dad is around, and I do not.

“Maybe,” he says.

After he finishes eating, he stands and stretches.  “Maybe I will go hit a few golf balls,”

I nod.

When Joe is gone, his mother and I sit in the kitchen and finish our coffee. She often tells the same stories over and over, how people have wronged her – her siblings, her husband, her mother-in-law. When she’s clear, she makes sense. But sometimes she tells the stories in circles. She reaches a point, then says the same point again and again, like her foot digging into the floor.

Other symptoms I know about now are hallucinations, delusions, and dementia.  Before this, I believed everything she said, like how as a girl she often visited a beautiful garden, where once a strange woman gave her a red coat. Or how at her medical school graduation the same woman appeared, bearing a white rose, the woman who is supposedly her real mother, not the woman who raised her, several years’ dead, but a woman who gave her up during the war, wealthy beyond our imaginations, living in nearby Connecticut, ignoring her daughter while she’s been sick for some unimaginable reason.

I believed my mother-in-law when she said this woman called her one day out of nowhere, after years of no contact, to ask if she wanted to get together for a cup of tea. When she said she pulled up to their house in a limo in the middle of the night.

“Your father-in-law told me,” she said, and pointed at the window. “He was standing right there. He said, ‘Your mother’s here.‘”

“Are you sure?” I asked. “It wasn’t a dream?”

She was crying. “It was real.”

I wanted to believe her.  It seemed possible, not like probing aliens or talking dogs.  Later I found out for sure.

“Do you know what she said?” said my father-in-law one night at dinner. “That her mother came here, in a limo! And that I was the one who told her!”

She glanced at me. I didn’t know if her look meant she’d been caught, or see, her husband was in on it too.

“You’re like my daughter,” she says now.  “You’re like me.”

I don’t answer.




We finish our coffee and return upstairs. I turn on the TV and find a cartoon we both like. Next we’ll watch a cooking show, and then maybe Antiques Roadshow, her favorite.

“That’s our cake platter!” she’ll cry, pointing a wavering hand at the screen. “That’s my ring!” In her mind, her wealth grows.

To keep my hands busy, I darn the holes in her socks. She falls asleep, and Joe returns with lunch.  I bring his mother down; we eat.  I bring his mother upstairs; we watch more TV.  She sleeps again.  I fold laundry.  She wakes up, chin trembling, and panics till I give her Valium.

Three o’clock.  Four.  When will Joe’s father come home?  We don’t know.  He never calls.  He doesn’t feel he has to.

Five, and it’s getting dark.  “Stay for dinner,” Joe’s mother says.

I feel the walls of my head closing in. I want to leave, to breathe, to be in my house with my husband.

“I don’t know,” I say.

Finally, Joe’s father walks in.



By the time we get home it’s almost eight.  I’m exhausted.

“I feel like going gambling,” Joe says.  He’s looser now.  We’ve put in our time at his parents’, and he can, at least for now, release his guilt.  “Wanna go?”

I don’t gamble.  “I’ll be bored,” I say.

“I’ll get us a room at the hotel,” he says.  “I have enough points.”

He knows that if I go, I’ll want to say at the casino hotel.  That way, I can wander the gambling floor and head up to the room whenever I want.  That way, I know he’s right nearby.

“You’re sure?” I ask.

He picks up his phone.  He’s smiling now, humming a tune.  In a few moments we have a free room.  “A deluxe corner,” he says.

I feel myself getting excited.  I’ll eat some bad food, watch TV, take a bath.  Maybe Joe will win some money, and we can go shopping the next day.

We throw together an overnight bag, and head down to the car.  As we get in, he says, “I love you, honey, I really do.”  He turns on the motor and we’re off.

This is why I stay.


Excerpted from the author’s memoir, Black Fish: Memoir of a Bad Luck Girl.

Humans like to say things like ‘the human spirit’. They like to think it means something, that it’s what’s special about them. That it separates them from other animals. There’s that new movie out, 127 Hours, starring James Fracno, about that guy, Aron Ralston, who got his arm caught under a big rock when he fell into a canyon, and he had to cut the arm off with a really dull multi-purpose knife. The movie’s about, like, ‘the human spirit’.

I had not been a good king. The people were gathering to throw me from the castle and perhaps kill me. I was doomed.

Fortunately for me, this was only a dream. Unfortunately, when I woke up from the dream, I didn’t really wake up all the way from the dream.

I had such an incredible fever that I didn’t know my dream from reality. This sort of thing is tough when you look out your window and hallucinate a massive mob of angry citizens marching through your backyard to get you. I took it upon myself to freak out.

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

and

 

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?”

“52.”

 

“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?”

 

“97.”

 

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

 

“3.”

 

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

 

“60.”

 

“Where do you live?”

 

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

 

“How old are you?”

 

“36.”

 

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.

 

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.

 

134 Comments »

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

Ben,
You sort of have to read two other stories first before this will make sense.
1. http://tiny.cc/gA1YR
and
2. http://tiny.cc/mkEdo
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

Sweetheart,
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.

(Comments wont nest below this level)

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

Uche,
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

Marybear,
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.

Melissa

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?

Melissa

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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.

Melissa

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.
YES IT IS
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!

Wonderful!

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.

melissa

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

Kate,
Have you not been paying attention when we talk about NANA?
Wait.
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

Kate,
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

Zara,
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

Zara,
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

Zara,
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

Sara,
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

*hug*

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.
Ever.
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

jmb,

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
scary
and it really
really made you re-think
euthanasia
because it scared the
hell out of you to
think you might
one day be in
their shoes.

shoe.

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

jmb,
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

Irene,
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!
Rach

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: http://tiny.cc/gQBKH
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

Ursula,

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

Yamona,

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…

Henning

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

Henning,
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

Duke,
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

James,
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.
Nope.
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.

Hugs,
marlene

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

Marlene,
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

Marcia,
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

Megan,
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

Ben,
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?

(Comments wont nest below this level)

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

Josie,

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

ksw,

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

Irene
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

irene,

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

Aaron,

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!