Hindsight is what I have now; then I had nothing



My mother did not want to move after my father died. They lived outside of town in a wooded area near a small river. It was beautiful and my mother had her animals to think about. I am not talking about the five cats and my dad’s  old dog Fred; I am talking about the wild creatures she called Kin.

My mother did have Mysterious Gifts. She could communicate with any animal anywhere.

Wild creatures saw her and recognized her as one of their own.

She could feed a mama possum with her hands with its babies on its back.

It was a wonder to watch my mother with Wild Things.

I grew up resenting her gift.

Mommy loved animals and they came first; always.

Growing up we had every pet you can imagine including a raccoon named Cynthia who lived in the house with us and ate with the rest of the family pets.

Mommy had to move. We did not have a choice. Iowa Winters are cruel and relentless. There was no way my mother would survive in a major storm. Mommy would need to leave her Animal Family and come to live near us.

Mommy came home with us shortly after Daddy died and we looked at apartments in our neighborhood. We would need to sell my father’s business before we could buy a place for Mommy; a rental was the first step.

Once we had the rental lined up, my family headed to Iowa City to pack her up and move her out. It was not an easy task.

My mother has never been a talker. She is a quiet woman. I remember few things she ever really talked to me about. I do remember as a kid, hearing her say over and over, “If you do not have anything nice to say, do not say anything at all.”

As I became an adult I realized this was why my mother was so quiet.

She did not have anything nice to say.

We packed in silence. I packed some things for storage and some things I knew she would want in her new home. At this stage of the game, we still had no idea why Mommy was acting so odd; we were still many months away from a diagnosis of Alcoholics Dementia.

All we knew was that Mommy was seriously strange.

We had a truck coming to take all of my mothers belongings to her new home.

 The animals were another matter all together.

Five cats and an old, old dog named Fred. All of them needed to go with Mommy. She was already needing to give up her WIld Family; we could not separate her from her pets. They were really all that ever mattered to her.

Daddy died less than a year after Ace committed suicide. My father in law had not been gone long and now we were in the midst of dealing with the loss of Daddy. My family had been through a year of Hell. My husband and I were closer than ever; crisis does that to a family. Protecting our son as much as possible was our prime directive.

Caring for Mommy was a close second.

Grieving Daddy’s death was not even on the table yet.

My husband spent two days putting together five cat carriers. My husband spent hours making contact with each cat and scratching Fred’s belly just like she liked it. Fred was my dad’s dog; she was a very good, very large dog. Fred had been abandoned near my parents house some years earlier and as was their custom, Fred was quickly adopted and became family.

My son and I would take Mommy to her new home blocks from us on the train. My mother was not keen on flying and we thought a sleeper car might make the whole thing more fun for our son. We would all be in the lap of Amtrak luxury.

My husband would be driving my mothers old Buick 12 hours straight through with five cats in carriers in the back seat and  Fred the dog riding shotgun. Not exactly  a Kerouac on the road trip, but surely one to remember.

This is when you know your marriage has Juju; when the rubber hits the road and you are able to rise to the occasion. Juan was there for me 100%. Just a year before I had been there for him 100%. We were good.

The day Juan needed to get on the road, I had all the carriers in the back bedroom; the same room my cousin had died in years earlier.

Our plan was to catch each cat and put them in a room across the hall and then transfer them to the carriers one by one.

My mothers pets were barely house pets. They were closer to feral in the way they lived. They were Wild things that only my mother could control.

We spent the days leading up to this day talking with Mommy about our plan and reassuring her that each and every animal would make it to her new home. They would be there when she arrived.

We began early in the morning to catch each cat as they came in for breakfast. We had all discussed the best way to handle the capture and the transfer to the carriers. Juan needed to get back for work and we could not afford to mess around. We were ready.

As each cat came in, Juan and I would get them fed and coax them, with Mommy’s help, into the back bedroom. We had five to contain. Five feral cats.

The day started well. mommy fed them and then we moved them to the back bedroom. Juan would then take them one by one into the room with the carriers and get them ready for the drive; the 12 hour drive home.

All seemed to be going well until I found Mommy letting the cats not just out of the back room, but out of the house. She was luring them outside as soon as we could capture them.

We had gotten somewhat used to Mommy’s odd ways; the strange look that would cross her face, the bizarre things she would say; we were not prepared for this.

We would sit Mommy down in the living room and explain that Juan needed to get back to work and that we needed here to cooperate 100%. She would agree with us, nod her understanding and begin to help bringing the cats inside the house.

And then it would happen; We would catch her luring them outside again.

My husband had the patience of the Buddha that day. I was in and out of tears.

I could only remember Daddy the day he died saying to me on the phone, “ There is something seriously wrong with your mother and I don’t know how much more I can take.”

I saw clearly that day that Daddy had been right; Mommy was Off.

Mommy was Off in a big time way.

Each time she would AGAIN let the cats out she would have some strange reason it was actually helpful. Her reasons did not make any sense but she said it with completer surety that she was right and was being helpful.

The cats in; the cats out, the cats in; the cats out….

It was one of the first Very Strange days with my mother and Wernicke – Korsakoff.

Hindsight is what I have now; then I had nothing.

Only wild cats captured, wild cats let go; over and over again;

and confabulation galore.

And Mommy with a strange look on her face as she came up with nonsensical reasons for what she was doing.

We got all five cats and Fred the dog in the car eventually. My husband spent 12 hours straight in an old Buick with an AM radio driving across Nebraska listening to country western stations and weird talk radio.

Thank God for AM radio; turned up loud enough it will drown out the screams of feral cats stacked in carriers in the back set of a Buick.

Thank God for small favors;  for Marriage.

And to Hell with alcoholism.

To Hell with it.

~ by Step On a Crack on November 9, 2011.

7 Responses to “Hindsight is what I have now; then I had nothing”

  1. You had so much more than nothing. You had the love of a fine man, you had memories of a father you loved. You had family.


  2. What a horrible introduction to the Wernicke – Korsakoff! Cats in cats out …. have you heard the saying “herding cats” … it is NO SMALL task. … and yet the screeching of cats was nothing compared to the hell you were going through with your mom juxtaposed with your father’s death. Insane-making.

    God in heaven, my mother put animals first … so did my gramma. Mom hated people in general (people liked her); Gramma liked grandchildren … didn’t like many others.

    I have a devotion to animals because they are innocent and helpless. … BUT oh my god, am i like your mother? Hell no!

    I’m Dr. fuckin’ doolittle! I am, my sweet. People come first!!!!

    Hindsight is not always 20/20 … it’s only a hint of what is to come. I have never found definitive answers. I believe that’s why so many people are devoted to their God. I have such skepticism … if i could let go of my intellect and my pride, maybe life would be easier … WHY WHY WHY keeps me from 100% faith …

    we’re works in progress … you are progressing like Jen … perfectly, Jen.

    oxoxoxoxo m


    • Mel. I go back and forth with God. Or I should say ‘God’. My God includes physics and the moon and the seasons. Sure makes it easier to have faith when E=mc2 is part of the equation (pun. Get it? Ho ho)

      Buddha. Allah. Shiva. Green Tara. The Lady of the Lake. I got a bunch to lean on and the moon as my guiding star.

      Outside is my REAL chapel. My family is my real chapel. Friendship. Connection. It is all my God.

      And the Golden Ratio and the Fibonacci Sequence too.

      Mystery is my God.

      Makes it easier and only a few understand. I bet you do my Dr. Doolittle!

      Love. Jen


      • Radio? Oh. That is small. Got it. Silly me.
        Still, I am so glad you have that man. He deserves a medal for taking such good care of our Jen. Or at least an extra hug or something. Almost worth the pain to get the care and security he gave . . . what a guy, what a guy.


  3. Small favors? That rare, beautiful man who became the rubber room you could bounce around in was a huge, huge favor. I am so glad God gave you such a man, Jen. So glad. Likely he is the big reason you can have such peace.


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