No Scotch at My House, No Sirree…

I woke with Abraham Lincoln on my mind. My large plastic tub of pennies awaiting sorting were next to my bed; my blue penny books were scattered on my bed along with  the latest books of poetry I am reading.

I woke feeling grateful for the 16th president, for pennies and my mother.

That is a good way to begin any day.

Today was the day to renew my driver’s license. You know how that goes; you are certain you have everything you need and being a Worst Case scenario gal, I had extra. Bureaucracy, I felt ready.

Being in the DMV brought back memories. I was grateful for the Sauna Club Stranger yesterday; I needed to be holding my mom in a grateful light.

My mother moved to Colorado after Daddy died. First things first: drivers license. My mother is not a patient woman and the DMV is a challenge; it would be for the Dalai Lama. We were there for hours waiting to get Mommy a Colorado drivers license.

When her number came up, hours into our wait, we moved to the counter and all hell broke loose.  My mother  needed to relinquish her Iowa license. The woman behind the counter began making small talk, “ You lived in Iowa. My grandmother lives there.”

“No I never lived in Iowa.” said my mother. “I have no idea where you get that idea.”

My mother had just handed over her Iowa license, that is where the woman helping us came up with that idea.

“Oh, well,  you do have an Iowa drivers license.” said the woman.

“ No. No, I do not. I have always lived in Michigan.” said my mother. “That drivers license is just a fake ID.”

There is was. Again. Confabulation.

I had come to understand that at any moment my mother could find herself caught in her dementia. She could, without missing a beat, make up a story to fill in the blanks that existed only in her mind.

I had begun to understand how this would present itself; my mother could see a look of confusion cross someones face and confabulation would kick in to explain away her mistake.

I was at the DMV remembering that conversation and the fancy verbal footwork I needed to do to make things right. My mother and I  left, hours later with her Colorado drivers license. I left with a dull headache and an urge to sob.

I tried to put the memories of that DMV visit behind me. I was not there with my mother today.  She was safe on the secured unit of a very good nursing home  across town. I brought myself back to the present.

I thought of the shiny penny, a gift from the Sauna Club Stranger. I remembered the gratitude I felt last night thinking of my mother’s gift of my coin collector books.

I tried. I really did.

I tried to be back in the place I was  last night; a place of Gifts, and Gratitude. I just could not bring myself back.

I just want to cry. My mothers alcoholism has eaten away her brain and there is very little chance of reaching her now. If I listen to the nurse on her floor of the secured unit with the locked doors holding her in, there is no chance.

It is over. The possibility for my mother and I to converse about Love or Life is long gone. We will not have give and take or conversation of any kind ever again and we had so little of it to begin with.

Wernicke – Korsakoff comes like a thief in the night; a sneaky thief. Stealing just a little bit of something each day so no one really notices how much is missing.

I can’t shake the memory of my mother at the DMV. I can’t forget the pain of watching my mother lie, confabulate, an elaborate story to cover for the thief having come and stolen what we had yet to  notice.

In one sense it is a wonder to watch someone lie so easily about the most mundane things in such elaborate ways. There is that too. The ease with which confabulation flows when the brain is not capable of  remembering the truth.  How is it the brain can do this?

Confabulation is not the same as ‘Alcoholics Lie’ by the way. Alcoholics lie so they can keep drinking. Confabulation is the swiss cheese brain of an alcoholic who told those lies for




Alcoholism is a fucking nightmare. I am angry and sad and in  pain.

I have the penny at home. I will be there soon. Maybe I can recapture what I felt yesterday and do some wild sober confabulation of my own; I am feeling fine, and all is well.

No scotch at my house, no sirree. I am grateful for that tonight; Eternally grateful and ever watchful for that.


~ by Step On a Crack on October 12, 2011.

17 Responses to “No Scotch at My House, No Sirree…”

  1. Oh you poor sorrowing person. Dementia is a terrible thing, stealing a person from their family. And of course alcohol does the same thing, and the two together, well, it’s a nightmare.

    Alcohol abuse is such an easy thing to sneak up on a family, sometimes the damage can only be really seen after, when you have the safety to reflect on it all. I hope you have that safety and find peace.

    I found a peace about my father’s death after some years of dementia – I wrote a sonnet for my dad which I read at his funeral. It touched many there and their comments were healing to me.


  2. More wow! It’s mind-fucking … but with less and less mind. My god, Jen … I can’t imagine combining WK, dementia and the mother-daughter dynamic … It’s criminal.

    I know my mom and i will never tell each other the truth about our hurting selves … but (for me, only) i CAN’T care about that (for me). I can’t. It’s a quintessential pissing contest … no one wins … there’s always more piss… always more contests.

    She can lock herself away in her world … and i can orbit the woman who once housed me for 16 years … and lives in my head (released only when I agree).

    I love you, J. I hope you don’t hate my post … it is a reflection of my acceptance that i have only discovered several years ago.

    I wish i could take away the pain. You are so good to visit your mom … I hope you are that EXTRAORDINARY toward yourself!



    • Not only do I NOT hate your post I find it tremendously inspiring! you are so right; no pissing contest; waste of time. too many good books to be reading…. You. WOW. YOU! love J always…


  3. Powerful story. Thank you for sharing.


  4. Love the posts, but too many pictures. It breaks up the flow of the story.


  5. Jen, my heart breaks with yours. Yes, any kind of dementia is a thief. You said it so wonderfully, it steals a little at a time. I’m just so thankful that you have made the hard choice of dealing with this with a sober mind. Your mother lived a life of pain, it sounds. Now you are suffering but you are working through yours. I’m so proud of these hard choices you are making it. Praying for you that you’ll find that gratitude again. I believe you will. You have.


    • Debby, I can not believe your kindness and support. In so many ways my mothers journey is the best program I could be in. I never think of drinking. That is really why I want to put this out there. If people can see what long time drinking brings with it, it can only help. I also hope to help increase the rate of diagnosis of Wernicke Korsakoff. Maybe this will help caretakers too. I am grateful for YOU and the support I am finding here. Thank you for your prayers. That is the key, isn’t it? Peace, Jen


  6. Jen– Angry, sad and in pain…but no Scotch…whew! So grateful to God that you have made the decision to live.

    I cannot imagine the pain of watching your mother die inch by inch.

    You are precious.

    The story you’re telling is gripping. Thank you. We are privileged to be your audience.


    • Heidi, YOU are a Blessing! I started writing this to let others know what alcohol can do, to increase awareness of Wernicke – Korsakoff; but I have found you guys.
      It is so sad to watch Mommy die like this, but at least I have writing and support here and in my world. Thank you thank you a thousand times, thank you!!
      Love, Jen


  7. Deeply touching and so sad. Keep on trying to heal yourself and your writing is one of the avenues to get there.


  8. Thank you for wriing about this personal and painful journey in order to help others. Your words need to be published so others can feel understood and can heal with you!


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