by irene bean

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A Solid Foundation



Not Trying to be Corny

This Little Light of Mine

We Were Once Young

Veni, Vedi, Vinca

U Tube Has a New Star

Packing a 3-Iron

Getting Personal

Welcome Again

Well... Come on in

Christmas Shopping

There's no Substitute

Dressed for Success

Cancun Can-Can

Holy Guacamole

Life can be Crazy

The New Dog

Hurricane Reenie

He Delivers

No Spilt Milk

Naked Fingers


Have Ya Heard the One About?

The Great Caper


Barney's P***S

My New Security System

Life Can Be Crazy

Lately, I've had a tough time with my mom. It's all so disheartening. She's a high-functioning schizophrenic. Ordinarily, we can get on the other side of her *spells* with little damage done, but recently she has spun out of control, and I am at a loss of what to do. She's off her meds and won't go back on.

The movie "A Beautiful Mind" had a huge impact on me. Huge. So much was explained. I was 53-years-old and it was the first time I fully understood my mother, my life with her. The moment was pivotal in many ways, as was the question a counselor once asked me when I was in my 40s. "Who would you rather have had as a mother?" My honest and quick response was, "No one." That answer was the beginning of a long, overdue healing process. The movie iced it.

There are so many examples regarding my mom's current setback, but this one is a dilly. Christmas night we were sitting in the dining room amidst a beautiful table setting and lovingly prepared meal. All of a sudden my mother piped up, "David, have I ever told you about your Aunt Gloria's abortion?" Talk about a sitcom gone bad. Brian, my husband, almost spit his pureed zucchini soup across the table. David, the politician in training, said something diplomatic. I saw my entire childhood flash before my stunned eyes, because my entire childhood was inappropriate.

One other holiday evening David tried to set up a game of Parcheesi. My Mom and David used to play for hours - it's his strongest thought association of his grandmother. She abruptly announced to him that she never liked the game and didn't want to play - and then droned on for an hour about how my uncle had once tried to murder her. It's all so sad, because the past year she had done well and we were having fairly normal fun.

I once wrote a lengthy comment regarding my mother in response to one of Barbara Klaser's blogs. I thought everyone lived like us. My childhood was downright weird, but it was my norm. For example, my mother purchased two chickens and diapered them in order to make them house pets. My sister and I squealed with endless pleasure. Our eyes never saw our neighbors shake their angry heads, and then their fists when the hens ended up being noisy roosters.

Throughout the years, my sister and I have always been able to find the humor in "Life with Mom." I still joke that I don't know who had more imaginary friends when I was growing up - me or Mom. When I was little, my mother once explained to me that good spirits lived in the trees on our property. Not a bad concept, really. But for days I propped myself in front of our living room bay window and stared at all the trees, trying to find the benign faces my mother talked to.

She was a hippy, of sorts, too. But in the 1950s one was just thought of as odd, not cool. We ate nothing but organic foods, which was no small feat since no one really knew about organic foods back then. About twice each month a truck would deliver our groceries from far away - we lived on Long Island and I think the groceries came from someplace in Pennsylvania.

It's amazing my father has a hair left on his head for all the pulling he did when he got the grocery bills. He finally left the marriage, and no one blamed him. Their divorce also made us weird in the 1950s, because everyone had June and Ward for parents.

For years, my mother also cheerfully planted and tended a Victory Garden each spring. The double-entendre doesn't escape me. Her victories were few. Perhaps her greatest victory has been the remarkable ability to survive - against all odds.

I keep the kindest memories close, the sugar-coated ones we all prefer to remember about our childhoods. In many ways I revere her kookiness, because it has given me permission to embrace my own kooky ways. There were many moments during my childhood that were pure magic. But when my mom spins out of control, an ugly rage invades my body and I slump into the bad memories to justify my anger. She was the town drunk, the nutcase, the butt of jokes. My scars run deep.

I can remember gaily skipping home from elementary school - my A+ assignments and construction paper art projects (lumpy with paste) flapping to my happy cadence. I'd find my mother upstairs in her bedroom, the windows shuttered tight, the room as dark as a tomb. I'd tiptoe in and determine her whereabouts by the glow of her Kent cigarette. I'd gingerly tap my way across the hardwood floors - empty Vodka bottles would reel like a grim version of "spin the bottle." It was awful. Not only was schizophrenia her demon, so was Vodka. She hasn't sipped a drop in years.

Today I saw a TV ad, which solicited volunteers for a study on Schizophrenia. Yeah, right, buckaroos. What the hell are they thinking! I can't imagine one afflicted schizophrenic stepping up to the plate and enrolling, because they can't. That's part of the illness - denial, or a state of unawareness - huge paranoia and frightful delusions. I angrily snorted at the silly ad.

So, I'm going through a bad patch. At the moment, my mother is so spun, I think I've lost her forever. This is certainly true if she won't medicate. Something has misfired in her brain and she's treating me like some ferocious enemy. It hurts big because Brian and I have treated her like royalty, with respect and dignity. It's not that I feel she owes me loyalty for all my good deeds - I have simply loved her unconditionally, and yearn for the same. My mantra is to keep reminding myself she can't help herself. She has an illness.

I miss my mommy. Always have.

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