is it any wonder

2 08 2008

Her eyes got red and the faucet turned on as I packed up my computer for my three day leave. We were having the weekly pep talk that repeats the mantra – don’t take anything he says personally, it’s not your fault, you can’t do anything to fix this. The problem with her using the mantra thing – is that with early dementia thing going on so she forgets. “I just can’t do anything right…he gets so mad at me” I started my combat breathing and tried again…”remember – don’t take anything personally, it’s…”

When I’m on the two hour drive home – my personal decompression chamber- I listen to NPR till the stories start to loop or I’m out of range of WBEZ / Chicago and can’t yet get Michigan Radio 104.1, I will often switch over to Delilah (it’s a toss up between wanting her job or Terry Gross’…I think I’ll come back as Terry Gross – I can’t be as sweet as Delilah) Anyway – tonight between sappy love songs and ridiculous stories (must be the jealousy in me talkin’ since I don’t have 7 million listeners)…some things made sense.

In 1941, Minnesota experienced an encephalitis outbreak that killed 90 people. One of those mosquitos bit Georgia Ora Smith Cummer and left my mom, at 14 with no mother. Two older brothers, one younger and a father who was a watchmaker by profession made up the rest of the family.

During the years of the Depression, my grandfather (Charles) had outfitted a panel truck with a workbench and sleeping/cooking quarters allowing him to drive through the southern states during the harsh northern winters, going town to town looking for enough watch and clock repair to be able to send $5 dollars home every few weeks. Georgia’s diaries of those years are a fascinating insight into my mother’s childhood and I believe some things, like journaling, are genetic.

After her death, he needed to look for “steady” employment and thought that the Chicago area might fit the bill. There was just one more hitch – his elderly mother in the throws of dementia was living alone in Canada needed care. The solution – move her too.

The logistics as they’ve been told to me, included a bus trip from Minnesota to Gary IN with my mother (still 14 I imagine) and her younger brother to accompany their grandmother. Her state of mind was so gone by then that at one point she got off the bus during a rest stop and approached a policeman to tell him she was being kidnapped by the children. I remember my mother telling me that she just cried and begged the police to take her away.

So a move to a new city, no mother, a small apartment, a father who couldn’t turn a buck to save his soul, one brother in the service with two still at home and a seriously demented grandmother that she hadn’t known from Adam- my mom was left with all the “duties” of housekeeping. She’d come home from school to find this poor woman naked, or having defecated somewhere other than the toilet, or having hidden things all over the house. Needless to say, she didn’t invite friends in.

“When I get old, just put me in a home…no one should have to care for grandparents in their home” was what she used to say. It is no wonder that deep in her psyche there are issues. But she didn’t stick to that when it came to caring for her own father…who because he was in our home became one of my dearest and best buds as I grew up.

It is good for me to not judge these situations I find myself in solely on the moment. Those tears of hers come from never really having grieved the loss of her mom, a lifetime of being identified as the one who had to hold things together and the fear she faces as the guy that rescued her from her living hell the day after she turned 21…is entering into Dante’s world himself and there is nothing she can do about it. Maybe it’ll be a good couple of days for them to enjoy the swing.