“Abandon hope all ye who enter here”


All of the paperwork my Worse Case Scenario self had with me yesterday at the DMV was to no avail. I was informed that I needed to go to Social Security to have my name officially change with their office before I could renew my license.


Of course I would. I had taken my husband’s name as a gift on our 10th wedding anniversary. It was something that was important to him and to his father, two men I loved deeply. Being a Winkel is something larger than just  a name. I thought long and hard before I gave this gift. It meant the world to both my husband and his father. It was worth it. It was a gift worth giving, and lets face it, I am a Winkel Woman. Paper will never change that.


Today I needed to drive all the way downtown to the social security office. I knew what that would mean for my heart. More memories of my mother and her descent into Dementia hell.


To steel myself for the memory road ahead, I played my stereo loud as I drove from here to there; Iggy Pop, The Stones, Airbourne Toxic Event and Patti Smith kept me company.


Iggy Pop had to go; Lust for Life reminded me of my mother. She wanted more from the life she had lived. As a young woman she had been a wild thing. Her pregnancy with me and her marriage to my father ended that;


The Stones had to go too. Mothers little Helper only reminded me of the years Mommy tried Valium to help her cope with motherhood. Valium and scotch. Those were not good years.


I tried to focus on “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you find, you get what you need.”  But no; Keith Richards can rock Red lipstick. Not me, much to my mothers chagrin.


I ended up with Vivaldi.


I was able to find parking in a lot across the street from the Social Security office. I steeled myself for the coming Hell.


The Department of Motor Vehicle is one level of Bureaucratic Hell, Social Security is another, kind of like Dante’s Inferno. I felt like Dante desperate to reach my Beatrice in heaven.


Yesterday was one ring of Hell and here I was in another.


The visit to the DMV with my mother was bad; the visit to the Social Security office was horrific.


We needed to go to the social security office to prove my father was dead. My fathers social security check was larger than my mothers and she needed the money to make ends meet. I thought this had been taken care of but as is the wont of a bureaucracy, some snafu had occurred.


I remember parking the car in the same lot and helping my mother out of the car. I had all the paperwork I needed to prove my father was dead. I had the all important Certificate of Vital Record; his death certificate. I had his social security card and my mothers identification. I also had their marriage license; the document that proved there had been a shot-gun wedding. Doing the math was easy.


The trouble was, I also had my mother. Her dementia was terribly unpredictable; some days she knew Daddy was dead and some days she was furious at him for always running so late.


I had no way of knowing where Mommy was in her  alcoholic dementia hell.



I should note here that at this point in the game, I did NOT know what was going on with my mother. At this point I did not have any idea what the hell was wrong with Mommy. All I knew was Daddy was right the night before he died, “Living with your mother is becoming impossible and I do not have any idea what to do.”


That was all I knew at this point.


The wait at the DMV is bad. The wait at the Social Security office is ten times worse. to make matters more complicated for my mother, the seats were very close together. She was not fond of people and she did not like sitting close to anyone, not even me.


My mother is a silent woman. She does not make small talk. Ever. I could see we would be spending hours together in silence. I had her magazines and my book; I could only hope they would hold us.


After hours of waiting our number was called.


The clerk was overworked and tired. I was on edge and my mother wanted to leave.


I was hoping to get this over as quickly as possible.


That was not to be the case.


I explained the situation to the clerk and fortunately my mother was ignoring us, “I need to prove my father has passed in order for my mother to receive his social security benefits”  I used the word ‘passed’ hoping Mommy would just let it go. She did.


Unfortunately, the clerk had not had the same thing in mind.


“ Mrs. Winkel, when did your husband die?”  asked the clerk.


“Bill? Die? Are you kidding? He will outlive us all.”


The clerk was not in any sort of mood to deal with my mother and any nonsense. I took over and quickly and quietly explained the situation, “My mother is still a bit in shock and  becomes easily confused.”



When I told the clerk my mother was still in shock, I meant it. It was the only reason my husband and I could come up with for her bizarre behavior.


My mother began rifling through the paperwork, she lost it; my calm, cool mother lost it in the Social Security office.


“What is that you have there? A death certificate? That IS a forgery and why are you trying to steal from your father? What do you think you are doing?”


I did cry. I actually cried right there in the Social Security office.


I don’t know if my mother seemed crazy or if I did. I do know that one of the guards was sent to check on us. I think there must be a button under the clerk’s desk and she was wise to push it.


The guard asked if he could be of any assistance and told us that we would need to resolve our issues or leave.


I stopped crying, shoved all my paperwork under the thick plate-glass separating the clerk from us and said,


“My father is dead. Please do what must be done to make sure my mother receives my fathers benefit check at the earliest convenience.”


My mother began to argue with me and I did something we were never allowed to do as children; I said,


“Please Shut Up.”


My mother was silenced and the clerk began to handle business.



Moments later I was able to lead my mother out of the office, down the steps to the elevator and out to the car. I had accomplished what I came for and had paper work to prove it.


My mother was furious at me. We were taught to say, “Please be quiet.”


“Shut up!”, would get you slapped.


My mother ignored me all the way to her apartment. She got out of the car and made it clear I was not invited in.


Confabulation Day Two.



Today I held my self together. I ran the memory and thought of my father. I am doing right thing in caring for my mother. I am doing the best I can to let go of the past and let the future take hold. It is what it is and all I can do is the best I can do each moment.


As I left today, I was going to take a photo of the very old sign outside the Social Security office. I had my phone at the ready when a guard approached me, “You are not allowed to take photos of that sign.” he said.


“What? Why not?”,  I asked.


“Terrorism. It is because of Terrorism.”


I said, “You have got to be kidding, right?”


“No. I know. It is silly but it is the law. Let me ride down the elevator to the street with you.” He said.   He was a young guy, a nice guy living in crazy times.


My ‘Go Your Own Way’ self almost snapped that picture anyway, just to show him how silly this was. But I did not. Getting arrested for something that ridiculous would have been really stupid.


The police officer rode with me down to the ground floor. I was escorted out of the building.


Outside the building we made small talk about the weather,


He said, “I am really sorry, I know you are not a terrorist.”


“Can I take a photo of the building? It is for my blog.”


He thought on this for a moment and said, “Of course, and again, I am sorry.”


I snapped the photo and walked across the street to the parking lot.


I tipped the man who was working the lot and drove away.


I listened to the Stones and they were dead on.


“You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you find, you get what you need.”


All I need is Love and I am rich in that area. I drove by my church on the way to my son’s school.  I definitely have all I need. ©


~ by Step On a Crack on October 13, 2011.

13 Responses to ““Abandon hope all ye who enter here””

  1. As usual, so well told. How mind-fucking. You poor sweetie … i know the feeling of being on the edge: the verge of tears … and then, again looking like the kooky one … always protecting the TRUE kooky one. Beautifully written … great flow and nice snippets of dialogue.

    Eyes are tired and weary. Paul Cezanne is almost a complete man now … i will finish with him 😉 tomorrow morning before work.

    I love you strong, surviving, WONDERFUL-WILL mommy.


  2. Well done Jennifer! You tied the music metaphores so well to your life experience and memories.


  3. This story quivers with pain and truth, stay strong, you are not alone!


  4. Jen– I look forward to each post and find myself praying for you and your family during the day when the current scene returns to me. I hope you plan to publish your story when you finish.


    • Heidi, Thank you for the Prayers. I can feel them lift me…. I will write this and get through this journey. God’s will be done, I figure, on all of it… Thank you. so very much…

      Love Jen


  5. Jen, what a journey. I like your warning on the sidebar. I will find great comfort here. My sister is the alcoholic and I suffer more than I know just not being able to help her stop that. Thanks for visitng and opening up the path.


    • We all have our journeys Yes? I Love your journey through Poetry. I am so sorry you have to go through the pain of watching a loved one suffer; or rather not be aware of her suffering. I wish I could help ease your pain. I think your words will help you; your gift with words. In the 12 step program I was in alanon, for those who have loved ones who are alcoholics. The Serenity Prayer helps me: Grant me the courage to change the things I can, the serenity to accept the things I can’t and the wisdom to know the difference.

      It is so painful to watch someone you love drink. I wish I could say some thing to ease your pain. I hope that my blog will support caretakers and Maybe, just maybe reach a drinker before they drink their lives away. I believe that my journey will end in Light. I hope that will help you. Alanon helps ease the pain of watching a loved one drink. Peace to you BluePrintBaby… Jen I want to add your blog to my blog. I am trying to figure out now how to create a blogroll. I really love your poetry.


  6. Jen –
    I read your posts each day with a degree of trepidation.
    I know there’ll be a measure of joy, but also a great measure of heartbreak.
    I do better when I pretend like I’m reading a bit of good fiction.
    I read of your past and your present and see the healing in your heart.
    Maybe I’m afraid of my own heart breaking? It broke again tonight as I sat here reading, as my heart is prone to do.
    Heartache is good for me, though. It prompts me to pray in a way other reactions might not.
    You’re on my heart and in my prayers, every day.


    • Debbie,

      Oh no. You know, I go back and forth about this whole thing. I will write this anyway as writing is a form of prayer for me. Therapy too. Blogging is a way to reach out to others who may be in the same boat. I do feel less alone in this since I began the blog. Maybe that is selfish (or self seeking???) I know it is not happy. I also hope to shed light on alcoholics dementia and reach other caregivers AND alcoholics. A couple of my friends who have known my mother for years are now sober. Watching her go through this Dementia Hell made the decision for them. What a gift that is! I am so sorry I cause heart break and I am also grateful for your Generous Heart that is so tender. Thank you for walking this road with me. You are in my thoughts and prayers also. My Gratitude cup over floweth…. xxx Jen


  7. Sounds like maybe it could’ve been a Bob Marley day. “Don’t worry about a thing, because every little thing is gonna be all right.”

    i love the ending to your anecdote and how it dovetails so perfectly with the song you chose! When writing goes beyond the words…


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