I hope you’re never, ever in the position to receive a phone call from your mother, shut away in a memory care unit, and hear her sobbing, begging to be let out, begging to be allowed to come home, to be taken anywhere except left where she is.  Not because it’s awful (it isn’t), but because she doesn’t understand it, does not (cannot) comprehend where she is and why.  When I try to explain that she is a danger to herself, that left alone she could be hurt, she replies, “I don’t care anymore.”  Weeping, weeping….the tears of a frightened child, a woman who understood so much and now understands NOTHING, can comprehend nothing, makes sense of nothing.  The simplest explanations sink into the quicksand of her Alzheimer’s afflicted brain with the barest whisper of sound and are gone forever.  She cannot understand, it is not in her ability, and so one cannot explain, there aren’t enough words or enough ways to put them together to make her brain grasp them and turn them into something she recognizes.  She is in pain, frightened and alone.  I am in pain and as helpless as she.  I did what I felt was right — and I know it was right, she has supervision, she is safe — but her brain doesn’t know it.  And although I know it’s a lie, I can’t help but feel like a betrayer.  And there’s not a goddamned thing either of us can do about it.


About Melissa Crandall

Longer ago than I care to admit--although I will--I cut my writing teeth on fanzines and media tie-in novels. Since then, I've moved on to narrative nonfiction, speculative fiction, and essays. I write to explore and understand the world around me, the things I see and experience nearby or from a distance. If I shake myself up, cool. If I shake you up, even better. Not gratuitously--what's the point in that?--but to set what I know, or think I know, on end and realize, "Well, doesn't it look different from this side!" My work is neither sexually explicit nor graphically violent. Let's face it - your imaginations will come up with things far worse than anything I could write, no matter how descriptive. Besides, it's just not my thing. I live in Connecticut with my supportive husband Ed, a cat named Ruby who might just think she's a dog, and an epileptic Australian shepherd named Holly who isn't quite certain anymore who she is, except she knows she loves her mommy.
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6 Responses to Hell

  1. dementedgirl says:

    Keep telling yourself, Melissa, “this too will pass, this too will pass”… I really hope for your sake that she settles soon – in the meantime, should the unit be giving her free rein to use the phone to you if this is how the conversation goes…?

    • Not free-rein, per se – she is an an assisted living apartment until a room opens in the memory care unit, and part of that is a phone of her own. Also, when she’s in the unit during the day, they will call if a patient is so upset that they feel contact with family will help. I don’t mind the calls if she needs them, but boy it can be hard.

  2. Lorraine Spaziani says:

    My heart goes out to you, Melissa. You have taken on the task of caring for your mother and you are doing the hardest job in the world. Hoping that time and placement in the memory care unit will help. You are doing the best you can…never forget that. Hugs and love, Lorraine.

  3. marie mccarthy says:

    Dear Melissa…be strong. I’m reminded of a story my father told of when my brother was 3 years old (he is now 75). He had whooping cough (before vaccinations and before the days when parents could stay with their children in hospitals). As my mother left the ward, little Joey implored, “Mummy come, mummy come.” She never got over the pain, but it was the right thing to do. Little Joey was fine after a while. Your Mum will be fine too. Right now you are the one suffering the most. You are being a good daughter. Be strong.

    • Marie….thank you. You’re right. I know this course is the best thing for my mother but… It’s all grieving – she grieving her losses, me grieving mine. Frustration at the inability to fight this inexorable disease and the fact that she can’t have the rest, the death, she outspokenly desires.

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