So Much Silence Between Moves * So Much to Lose

The day my father died I was on the phone with him much of the day. He had been worried about Mommy for some time; years really. “I can’t put my finger on it Honey,” he would say, “Your mother is just acting strange.”

Daddy could not put into words what was wrong. He could not point to one thing and say, “See! There she goes;acting strange!”  It was a general overall sense in my father that something was terribly wrong with my mother.

It had gotten so bad he was thinking of leaving her. Now, that in and of itself, was  not unusual. They left each other all the time. One would leave the other but there was always a precipitating fight; some passion connected to the leave-taking.

This was some thing else. Daddy just couldn’t take it anymore and the trouble was, he did not even know what it was he could not take.

We were on the phone. Daddy wanted Mommy to go the doctor. He felt certain that the doctor could pinpoint what was wrong. Mommy would not go. Out conversations on the day he died consisted at first, of Daddy trying to make sense out of what he felt was wrong. He was trying to put words to it. When that failed we turned to scheming; how to get Mommy to go see the family doctor.

Daddy was funny that day. We joked about how many times they had left each other. They had been married as long as I was alive. It was a shot-gun wedding that each of them told me separately over the years was a foregone conclusion. They would have been together anyway. I just pushed the envelope.

Daddy would call and we would scheme. He would hang up and talk to Mommy with our latest plan and call me back to tell me it had failed. Our last resort was A Visit.

Daddy called late afternoon; he had Mommy in the kitchen with him.

I could hear Daddy telling Mommy,

“Kay, God Damn it! There is nothing I can do! Jennifer is coming whether you like it or not.”

I could hear the familiar bickering in the background.

Mommy never called me. She never wanted to talk to me when Daddy and I were on the phone.

Mommy did not want to talk to me.


Daddy finally got her on the phone. I could hear her voice, so quiet and so angry on the other end,

“Hello,’  was all she said. It would have been “What the hell do you want?” if she had not been raised by an Englishman.

I knew that small talk was out; that we would not discuss the weather or my son or the animals. We would talk as little as humanly possible.

“Mommy, This is the deal,”  I said.

“You need to go see the doctor tomorrow. Daddy is very worried. If you do not go I am flying out the next day and we will both take you to the doctor.”

I was met with silence. I expected that.

I did not expect this;

“I feel…. strange.” Mommy said.

Silence. Mommy never started a conversation. Mommy never said anything to me.

“What kind of Strange, Mommy?” I asked.

“I…    don’t ….    know…..”   she said.

She was more than quiet; Mommy was…. lost.

I was afraid to say anything. I had never experienced Mommy talking unless it was late at night and she was drunk. Mommy was stone cold sober and she was talking to me.

I did not want to scare her away. This was like playing Go with the Go master I studied with for a year. So much silence between moves; so much to lose in those moments…

“Do you think the doctor might be able to help you?”  I finally said.


“I…  I …. I will go.”  she said after a long time of quiet.

Daddy and I talked briefly before he hung up.

I was in Cost Plus. I was shopping for Valentines for my men.

I stood in Cost Plus for a very long silent time. I stood there leaning on my cart stunned at what had just happened. I stood there waiting and waiting and waiting.

Waiting for Daddy to call back….

He did call back on the day he died. We had many more conversations that day.

Daddy and I talked all day long the day he died.

We talked about Mommy.

“What the Hell is wrong with your mother?”

My mother had alcoholics dementia. The day my father died and we talked all day on the phone, we had not a clue

not a clue.

Daddy  called back. Daddy and I  talked for hours the day he died.


To be continued….

Please read this post:

“How Family Input Could Help With Dementia”

Read this before your father calls with the question;

“What the hell is wrong with your mother?”

Read it before it is too late.

Peace, Jen

~ by Step On a Crack on March 29, 2012.

20 Responses to “So Much Silence Between Moves * So Much to Lose”

  1. Ten points out from the center – your mother.
    The GO master – your father.
    And you.
    You, trying to make a Good Shape on a board that had no rules. I simply can’t imagine, Jen, but it breaks my heart.


    • Debbie oh this is really hitting me…

      I think of others I know who are dealing with dementia in families right now and it breaks my heart too. I have hindsight now.
      What a journey….
      I would not wish it on anyone AND I know that there is a gift in here SOMEWHERE….

      there must be.

      Thank you so very much or being here….

      XO Jen


      • Always. The internet doesn’t work once the fog settles in outside – and my brain fails to amaze me once the fog settles in, inside – but my heart is always with you.


  2. I’m watching a movie…a sad movie. Anything I say will not help the actors. But that does not stop me from feeling for the actors. I’m watching a movie..a sad movie of my friend Jen. I am sad…


  3. Oh yes, the eery silence in between the rage and violence…and ever walking on eggshells…hugs, my friend.


    • OH It breaks my heart to read your words! You TOTALLY get it! I am so sorry….

      Thank you for being here and for getting it…

      XO Jen


      • It’s certainly something else to deal with, isn’t it? Not really knowing what’s normal, how to be, etc. It’s definitely a struggle and a process. I was wondering just today if we ever get to be ‘whole’ or if that is something we search ever on for.

        Hugs to you – you’re doing INCREDIBLE work and you are an inspiration. 🙂


  4. Dear Jen–This is tragically and strikingly profound. I’m so sorry that this is your last memory of your dear daddy. The two of you trying to make sense of nameless confusion:dementia without a diagnosis.

    Keep writing when you can, when it bubbles up, give it a space to be … instead of a space inside where it broils. These words need a space. They need a space of their own. Let them lose.

    I admire your ability to pronounce the memories and to place them on the blog. The power of these memories is too much… alone. We are the privileged few, so far. We are loving you through this and praying for the release of these powerful stories. Some day, I know, many others will benefit from all your work. You are doing the hard thing, courageously… you are …

    Thank you so much for letting us be your witnesses…


    • Dear Heidi,

      I bet you get this: writing it all out, putting words to all of this and all that came before this HELPS me figure out how it felt in the moment and what it means to me now. I have NOT been able to put this stuff down, not in public, until now. 6 years plus. 6 years of processing. I was in the same cost plus recently playing Easter Bunny (to my 14 year old…) and it hit me: that place is a pilgrimage spot now. It is. Weird how our brains protect us from the stuff until we are ready to handle it. I am ready now.

      I so desperately want to help other people become AWARE of alcoholics dementia. It is the most misdiagnosed form of dementia and is so deeply tied to family systems of dysfunctions. Alcoholics Lie I wrote a long time ago. If we just keep lying then people will keep dying and children will keep suffering.

      It breaks my heart. Yours too. That is why we do what we do…

      Your support has meant more than words could ever say…

      XO Jen


  5. Jen. No words. I am so glad you talked to your dad the same day he died. I feel horrible that he was talking about your mom. But what a strange coincidence, right? My heart goes out to you my friend. What deep, deep pain you have experienced … no one can know unless they’ve got their feeties in your shoes. As much as i feel like we came from the same fabric, your experience with death has been much more profound. Along those lines, i know how our feet are in the same shoes in a DNA way, and Tribal way … i wonder, what next?

    Sister Warrior, Tribal Chieftess: Do tell, will my dad thrive?

    And, THANK YOU for wishing me well (regardless of your intent of this post) on my journey to see papa today. I am now feeling peace, and i owe that to you.

    Course peace can turn into bitchslapping crying in a heartbeat. I’ll hold my own, love!!! I may be calling. Actually, i’d love you to see dad again. He is still sweet and smart and silly. Thank you for reminding me that OUR MEN are pretty cool for men. 😉


    • 4 feet 2 shoes….

      I can do this

      4 feet 2 shoes….

      I am with you my friend… Phone on LOUD

      Yes. peace;;;bitchslapping cry fest::: peace::: Fury:::Peace:::a moment of forgiveness::: CRy FUry PeaCe

      Hang in there my Friend (I mis typed Griend: maybe so! My Grief Friend…)

      I would love to see your dad and YOU AND I may be in IC soon! Oh my Bus# 59! MEL I will be in IC!
      I think…

      OK we will touch base…

      Love, Jen


  6. The second time today I’m deferring to Heidi’s comments. Yes to all of what she said….your courage, your strength, your heart and your determination to survive! Yes, please continue to share and accept all we can give you…love. xo


  7. Sending Hearts your way ❤ ❤ ❤


  8. WOW.


  9. W.oman


  10. Oh Jen. The pain. The sadness and the love.

    Dammit, I am doing step four and your writing this column just killed me.

    I am sorry to even attempt to make your story mine, but damn (really wanted to say F***).

    I identify so strongly with this story in many ways that I want to cry – at the gift of finding you online, and others, but also of the pain that we are forced to endure. I also want to cry and scream at the universe who is allowing us all to find the strength and courage to continue on.

    I am thankful that I am so sensitive, and that you are as well – it means that we can be there for others, feel their pain and survive to live to tell the story. Others are not so fortunate – they either don’t make it or they don’t live it. I would prefer to be in this club but damn it hurts sometimes.



    • Isabella,

      I am just sitting here. I am reading your words and understanding exactly what you mean and I am astounded at the power of connection and truth.

      You are dead on: We are sensitive and that hurts and I would not trade my sensitivity for anything. It is a gift. It is also a curse. We are making it and sharing our words and our truth and here we are: connecting.

      I am just sitting here marveling at you and me and all of us

      connecting and surviving.

      thriving and feeling at the same Fucking time. ( there I said it for the both of us!)



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