Where to begin?

Storytelling is an art. It can be a tool for change or a weapon. Storytelling is hard.

I have decided to tell this chronologically as much as is possible. Easier said than done.

Wernicke – Korsakoff is a tricky syndrome. It can take hold years, even decades before anyone is aware of the damage being done.

Chronologically is tricky too. Do I begin with all the times my mother forgot to pick us up from an event, or forgot a permission slip or a teachers conference? Do I begin with the difficulty in convincing my father that my mother was a drunk or the intervention we tried once he saw the light?

Do I mention dishes flying across the room, my father ducking just in time or the fights that were waged long into the night while my sister and I tried to sleep?

I have decided to begin with my filing cabinet. It is a large, beautiful maple cabinet, filled with files. The bottom drawer has over the years since my father’s death, become a chronicle of the destruction that comes in the wake of caring for a long time alcoholic.

A warrant for my mothers arrest, a forced tax sale for a house in Iowa that was to pay for her retirement; missing persons reports and letters from her neighbors complaining of the stench coming from her condo. Dead birds and feral cats on her counter tops.

Burners left on, a car accident, care givers and police.

I have files upon files. Going through the drawers yesterday was overwhelming. I had to stop and start again as I let the pain of the not too distant memories in and then force them out again.

I have an outline now scratched out on several sheets of paper: broken foot, forced medical detox, medical emergencies and legal ones too.

I also have a list of the people who saved me along the way; Dr. Plunkett, Sandy Tobin and Mary Beth Leitzmann; social workers and Angels of the highest order, Richard Vincent; an elder care lawyer with a heart of gold.

My sister Andrea and her husband Paul and my Brother Phil and his wife Carrie.

My husband, Juan Thompson, a man who stands by me during the very worst of times.

A legion of Angels and this is only the short list.

No one can do this alone. It would be impossible and that was perhaps one of the harder lessons I have had to learn. I am my father’s daughter; I am tough. I am also myself and I am soft.

It is not possible to care for someone suffering with Wernicke – Korsakoff by yourself. This path breaks your heart, you need a legion of angels to help you put the pieces back together again.

So, back to the filing cabinet; I have a file that contains my father’s death certificate. That file is at the front and in the middle and at the back. That file will always break my heart and that piece can never be mended.

~ by Step On a Crack on September 28, 2011.

4 Responses to “Where to begin?”

  1. Your story is heart-wrenching. You are courageous and smart to get it out of your head and into words. Thank you for bleeding through it. It is worth it.


  2. Heidi, It takes a village and I am grateful for your support.

    They say, “The only way out, is through.” I am hoping this helps me get to that other side. I can’t do it without support. Your blog offers me that and so do you. Thank you!


  3. I decided it was time to start at the beginning (of your blog).
    I have both of my parents death certificates scanned in my laptop. I can’t remember why now, but for some reason, I don’t delete the file, even though my throat closes up every time I accidentally come across it. My prayers will be following you on this journey, Jen.


    • Debbie, I totally understand why you can’t delete that file. I have an answering machine with my dads last calls that we don’t use BUT I will keep it.
      I can not tell you how much it means to me that you read it all. You are an incredible support and your heart is Large! I am grateful, Very grateful!!!

      xxx Jen


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