I have been places I pray you never go

Denver General is in the middle of town.

Mommy was taken by ambulance and I followed in my car. I had never been to Denver General but I knew from working on a soup kitchen line that it was the hospital for the homeless and indigent in town.

I arrived at about 10:00 pm and the lobby was packed solid; young people, kids, cops with gang bangers in cuffs; you name it. It took a very long time to get to the check in point.

The first check in point at Denver General is a security booth. It was almost as complicated as getting on an airplane. I saw people ahead of me handing switch blades to family members who would not be going into the emergency room.

The waiting room was just as complicated. It took me probably an hour to talk with someone. The people at the counter were official,  on guard, and stressed

I was lucky I had my mothers ID with me; it was the only way they let me in.

I asked where to find my mother.

“No idea. Check the hallways.”


I went through another safety check point and was allowed into the emergency room triage area. It was a wild place; kids waiting with parents for help with vomiting, men in cuffs bleeding and bruised sitting with cops.

I did not see Mommy anywhere. I grabbed a young kid who was working there.

“My mom is here somewhere. How do I find her?”

“Check the hallways. Look on the gurneys.”

He pointed to a door that led to a maze of hallways.

All along the walls of the halls were gurney after gurney; some with IV’s, some with people moaning and laying on their sides.  It was a process of elimination:

Mommy is not here, not here, not here…

I finally found her between a man I recognized from the soup kitchen line and a young kid with a stab wound.

I had never seen my mother like this before; her eyes were glazed over and she was in between some weird worlds.  It occurred to me that my mother had been wandering the streets of our neighborhood looking for alcohol at 9:00 pm.

She was drinking early these days, like really early. When we were kids we would joke that mommy would not drink until she had fed the dogs. Each year dinner time came earlier and earlier for our pets.

  My sister would call and ask,

“Is it safe to call Mommy now? What time is she feeding the dogs now?”

She was feeding the dogs in the morning. She was feeding the dogs all day long.

I  realized that Mommy might  be going through the first stages of detox without medical assistance. I knew that this could be dangerous.

It took about an hour to find a doctor.

Once I found the doctor I found out that Mommy was no longer my responsibility.

They had already begun guardianship proceedings.

The state was taking my mother.

It took another hour to contact a social worker. The social worker explained that when a drunk comes into Denver General in an ambulance without a family member they instantly begin to process State Guardianship papers.

“We have at least five people a day dropped at our door without ID. They are left here by family members who are done taking care of them. We do what we have to do to expedite their care. To be perfectly honest we did not expect to see any family member in here at all. We have already ordered the medical detox, I suggest you go ahead with it. You can contact the office tomorrow to suspend the State Guardianship proceedings.”

I was numb. The thought crossed my mind,

“What if I give Mommy to the state?”

Could I just walk out of here, clean and free of her?

I was tempted and I am not proud of this.

It had been a very long road from building my fathers Coffin to Denver General. My mothers behavior over the proceeding years had been often horrific and I was tired.

I was tired of dealing with a drunk.

I went back to sit with my mother in the hallway as we waited for a ‘room’ in emergency. My mother was in and out of her weird places and I was worried that the DT’s would set in. I feared a seizure.

It took hours more before we were given a corner in the emergency room. We were between a group of gang bangers who had been involved in a crime. I listened as the cops questioned each member trying to get one to roll over on the other.

My mother was out of it; an IV had been given to her with a Valium drip and she drifted between sleep and consciousness. I convinced a nurse to change my mothers pants; incontinence had become an ongoing problem over the last year or so. Incontinence is a common side effect of drinking too much for too long.

I held her hand and realized I would not give her to the state.

I would not give her to the state because I was my father’s daughter.

That is it.

I WANTED to give her away, I really did,

But I would not.

The sun was coming up as I drove up in front of my home. I would get a little sleep before heading back to stop the guardianship process.

It is amazing to me how many journeys I have been on with my mother since my father died.

I have been places I pray you never go. I would not wish this trip on any one.

I would not wish this trip on my worst enemy;

problem was,

she was already there.


~ by Step On a Crack on November 1, 2011.

18 Responses to “I have been places I pray you never go”

  1. Oh Jen, it’s hard to push the “like” button on these heartbreaking stories. Tonight i picked up on the fine line between love and hate. If you’re indifferent to someone, you can’t hate them. It feels like you’re BEGGING her to give you a reason to love her — in some unknown way, in your big heart — i believe you care for her. Or you need something from her. Go*, just a nod would be something … I hope that doesn’t upset you. You could have cut her loose … i don’t think that’s what you want. It’s probably what you need … but not in the long run. I think you’re much more “cosmic” or karma to simply release your attachment no matter how damaged and hideous it has been at times. Godspeed my friend. I will be keeping you in my heart, warm and safe, and loved … and sober. Love, Mel.


    • oh boy. There it is. I DO want her to just do something Anything to let me think she loves me. I meet with her care team thursday and it is just killing me. I will spend time with her too and If I am not wearing makeup and lipstick and NOT wearing a hat (I LOVE hats) MAYBE she won’t sneer at me and POINT at every single thing I am doing wrong. I am not kidding. That is what she does STILL! Alcoholics dementia is HELL because she is still in there and remembers stuff she just can’t form new memories. You are not upsetting me at all you are validating EXACTLY how I feel. Turning her over to the state was never a real option because of who I am inside. that is a good thing right? right. it is. I can not figure out how to get any closure here or let go of my desire for her to really show me love. thanks sweetie for getting it. Do you feel this way too? Just curious. I wasn’t too into my mom loving me or not until Daddy died. Really caught me off guard. wheww. Sleep tight my friend…. xxx Jen


  2. A kid needs a parent. It’s a terrible shame when the kid has to BE the parent. I hope peace will come to you some time. You deserve a place of peace where you can think about what might have been.


  3. I was thinking–when our parents die, and they all must, they teach us about how to die or how not to die.
    I want to get it right, to be the best I can when that day comes for me. I want my children to say or find something good, in the end, that they can cherish. I have never seen it so clearly as now. Thanks, Jen. SH


    • Very good thought. I have been thinking of all the people we have lost and all the different ways to Go. It does set one to thinking. There are some Catholic sects and some Buddhist sects that believe you should ponder your own death for a time each day. The thinking is; if you are aware that you WILL one day die, you may make different choices while alive. I think this is true. My husband and I sometimes talk about decisions in terms of “death bed decisions” meaning, on my death bed will I feel resolved about the choice I made. That has been serious Gift from all the deaths we have witnessed. Gift and Gift. THank you for thinking of this. I spent some time today with my friend team discussing my mothers death and I realized that with her dementia I do want to help her have the best death she can possibly have. The question is: what does that look like? as a perennial planner, I want to know now. Not on my clock though. I will just need to practice presence and prayer. and visit your blog often…!!!


  4. My Mom and Dad were married for almost 62 years. When my Mom died, my Dad made a series of stunning choices that left me reeling long after his death 11 months later. I was overwhelmed with grief and sorrow, and for the first time in my life, anger.
    I was angry with him when he died. We never were ‘estranged’ and I kept on taking care of him, but my heart was different. If he sensed it, it didn’t really matter to him. He made it clear that nothing I thought mattered much to him.
    Forgiving was a very odd after death process. I wish I could have done it in the moment, at the moment. But, to quote an Ellen Burstyn line from the Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood, “I dropped my basket.”
    You’ve carried yours down treacherous corridors, Jen. My prayers continue to travel with you.


    • Dear Debbie, Oh my! THis is Heartbreaking! I don’t know how you manage to deal with it. Were you able to forgive him and if so HOW??? Of course you ‘dropped your basket’ (love the ya ya’s by the way) Really what else could you have possibly have done? I have ‘dropped my basket’ plenty and I am certain to keep needing to pick it up.

      I feel so sad for you in so many ways; at least with my mom none of what she has done is out of character. She has never been particularly kind or loving with us, animals yes, us no. I think in many ways that makes this easier. I just need to get my head back in the old program “Accept what i can not change”. I can not imagine the pain of having a personality change flip like that. AND you soldiered on and took care of him!! Your Heart is Solid Grace Gold, I swear, and you walk your talk even while dropping your basket. You are a remarkable Woman and I am honored to ‘know’ you. You are one of my Mothers I hope that is OK. I learn so much from you. My prayers are with you. I want to say “Go easy on yourself and don’t judge yourself so harshly” You took care of him: that is not basket dropping in my book. That is You letting God in and going from there… xxx Jen


  5. I have so many thoughts reading this post. The main one that jumps out is how brave you are & were in that particular situation. I think the only real response that a person could have in this situation would be the one you had: “Please let me be released from this.” There is NO shame in that, IMO. It is a totally *sane* response. Who in their right mind WOULD keep going with a person in the circumstances she was in then? Instead, I think what you had was a superhuman response, “I am going to do this anyway because of love for others who loved my mom” (i.e. your dad). That’s extraordinary. But love is so often like that, isn’t it? Bigger than we are? Incomprehensible? Love is loving anyway, sometimes even when the sane thing to do is to just leave. (Sometimes love is choosing to leave, too, but in this case, it seems the bigger thing to do, the most loving thing to do was stay in it.)

    The second one is I was thinking about how I never experienced the ER at Denver General, or Denver Heath & Medical, I think it is now called. Thank goodness. I used to drive past it every day for work back in the 1990s, though, and I had a good friend who was an EMT and another who worked as a psychiatric social worker & knew the ER there, and boy did I hear some interesting stories! What you wrote was very accurate to the experiences that they shared, too. So many spend so much time in places like the ER there, and it is never because of happy reasons. What an intense place. I admire the people who work there day in and day out.

    The third is, again, what beautiful comments there are here. I love to read the loving things that people have to say just as much as I love reading the posts. Gardendog’s touched me in particular this time, and I want to say much the same.

    Thank you, Jen, for more honesty.
    Mrs D


    • Mrs. D, Love is Big isn’t it? I think it was Joan Didion who said “we choose the places we walk away from” I am gonna not walk. (did you see her on the cover of Writers Digest this month? wow. Grief hit her hard. I would give my left hand to be able to write like her…)

      That ER was WILD! I actually really dig weird new experiences so it was a Fun Run in that aspect of it. Really interesting. Do not want to go back. Mommy was there 24 days. WILD place. Saints work there. really.

      I am amazed by the support online! It is astounding! I mean look at the WILD connections?! Weird and Wonderful. Who knew?

      word count is…???

      xxx Jen


  6. My heart goes out to you.


  7. You have been places i may never go but possess a grace i may never know.

    You are your father’s daughter to be sure. You are also your mother’s daughter and maybe there is more of that here than you recognize.

    Thank you for pulling us up with you.


    • Dear Al, You are doing it again. Are you a Shaman of some kind? I am my mothers daughter. I was sitting with this the other day. (do you have brain surveillance?) I am going to look for the ways I am like my mother that make me feel good. I will take that with me when I visit her.

      I need to correct you on one thing: Thank YOU for pulling me up PERIOD! Peace, Jen


  8. Wow, you have been through quite alot. And you have a gift with your writing – it is factual yet speaks deeply to the story that has unfolded. I think there is healing that occurrs when people tell their story, and share the suffering and pain that has been witnessed and endured. I am so sorry that the health care was so distant, disengaged and stressful. That should not be the case. But as you said, it occurrs. Thank you for writing through the pain.


    • Thank you for reading through the pain. Really. I am consistently amazed at how supportive this blog land is. Writing with witness IS very healing. Thank you for being here, Peace, Jen


  9. What heartache I feel for you. No, no one, should have to make that journey but you’re still on the journey, walking bravely. And I know you’re also walking with grace. Thankful, for you, dear Jen, to share your journey with us. Just hopeful we’ll be able to support you along the way. grace and peace…..debby


  10. Jen. You are going to be OK. Really. You are. I see your strength, your heart and your determination to learn from all the pain. You’re not only a Winkle Woman, (I hope I have that right) you’re a survivor. I think you’re right about working the program a little harder right now.


    • How about Work My Program at all?! I let it go Need it back. I am a survivor and sometimes being a survivor I fall back into “I can tough this out” when really, I don’t have to. Thank you Mucho! xx Jen


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