Sharing The Love

Sharing-the-Love-002I love to read good writing. I especially love to read good writing when it’s written by someone I know.

Since I’m a writer, lots of my friends and friends of friends and cousins and neighbors have asked me to take a look at something they’ve penned and provide some feedback.

“Hey, I worked really hard on this short story. Do you mind reading it and telling me what you think?”

I almost always say yes, because I want to keep my writing karma sparkling. I mean, I email my works-in-progress to friends all the time, sometimes going so far as to call them ten minutes after I hit SEND, asking them what’s taking so long.

I’m not good at waiting. pizza_delivery_guy_by_floydworx-d4pj0pfLike a hungry seven-year-old awaiting the pizza delivery boy, I dance around on one leg and bounce off walls and chew on my nails until the comments arrive.

Where is he already?

My husband has more than once and fewer than a million times, come home from work and had me thrust a new chapter of my latest novel, or some parenting essay I worked on all day, into his face with the accompanying demand that he “read this now, please.”

He usually sighs, puts his computer down and says, “Can I at least wash my hands first?”

I back off and say sure, impatient as a chicken as I watch him ramble around his bag for his reading glasses and make a cup of tea and look for a good pen with which to scribble edits and opinions.Impatient

And then, while he’s reading, I dance around on one leg and bounce off walls and chew on my nails.

Getting feedback about one’s work is a little like seeing the UPS guy stop in front of your house: the beep-beep-beeping of the parked truck pinging the air; the heavy slam of the door; the quick footsteps as he makes his way up the sidewalk.

What is it? Is it for me? Is it the special cat foot we ordered for our diabetic cat, or is it the printed copy of my new book?

That moment when my husband looks up from the papers. That moment when the brown-uniformed man reaches his arms toward you.

Do I want to hear this? Do I want this package?

I do. I want it, no matter what. No matter what, I want to hear what you think of my efforts. Because I love you and because what you think matters to me.

Even if you’re totally wrong and I fight you on that stupid edit where you think what I wrote sounds trite, but it’s not: it’s funnier than shit.

Sorry, I’m straying off topic.

Truth be told: I like getting less than I like giving. I don’t like hurting people, even the tiniest bit. Constructive criticism is an art; one at which I am still learning how to be good. But when I read something by a friend and it’s good, really good, I am going to be the first in the room to raise my voice and tell them, “Congratulations. This is amazing.”

Which is what I’d like to do right now. For two people. Two writers. Two talented women who make it easy on their friends when they tell you, “Hey, I wrote this…”

Nancy Stearns Bercaw. She wrote a book called Dryland: One Woman’s Swim to Sobriety, and it’s one of the best memoirs I’ve ever read. drylandShe didn’t ask me to read it, but the moment it was out, I bought it. I finished it last night. Nancy is so quiet and gracious in real time that I almost expected her story about her travels, and finding sobriety while living in Abu Dhabi, would be circumspect, quiet. But no: Nancy lets loose (sometimes literally) and gives the reader the truth, the proof, the pudding, and all that went into making it. She’s funny smart and knows how to keep the action boiling along.

Before I read the book I was worried. Whenever a friend writes something, there’s always worry. I knew I was seeing her for lunch next week. What would I say if the book wasn’t good?

In this case, I need not have worried. When I see her, I will say, “Nancy. Your book is fantastic. Your story and your strength touched me. Thank you for writing this book and for letting me read it.”

Friend #2: Aimee Picchi. She’s a journalist mostly, but writes sci-fi and fantasy and assorted other genre stories when she has time. sabinaA few of her pieces have been published, but I’ve not bothered to read any until two days ago. I printed “Only Then Consume Them,” her latest, and read it in bed. The next morning I wrote a comment on her Facebook post. I told her how great the piece was and that I wished it were longer. I let her know without a moment’s hesitation that I wanted more than anything to follow Sabina—her main character—to the ends of the earth, even if it is an earth in turmoil.

Friends are a gift. Friends with gifts are a blessing.

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Mother May I?

 

When my husband, Victor, was offered a teaching job at a new school in Bali, I held off sharing the news with my mother for as long as humanly possible. I knew that when I paranoiatold her we were moving her Jew-ish granddaughter to a predominately Muslim country, the arrow on her paranoia meter would swiftly catapult beyond the red zone. I expected her to fret and cry and do all she could to change my mind.

What I didn’t expect, though, was that she would be so wise.

I called her on a Tuesday morning. She listened silently as I recapped the events of the last few weeks: from reading about the school in a magazine, to convincing Victor to send a resume, to his Skype interview, to him flying to Bali to check it out, to him coming back to California with a signed contract.

When I finished speaking, I tensed, waiting for the emotional storm to blow through the phone line. “When will you move?” She asked so calmly I thought perhaps I’d called someone else by mistake.

“In six weeks. We have to find renters and pack up the house and deal with the cat and get a million shots and—” I got so anxious thinking about the list that I cut myself off. “Anyway, we’re really excited. It’s going to be amazing.”

“Loy is only six years old.”

Here it comes, I thought. She’s going to let loose her worries bit by bit, like an IV drip. “So what, she’s six? She’s going to love it. I mean, come on, Mom. It’s Bali!”

“And you’re not troubled by the fact that Muslims hate Jews?” she asked with barely a hint of distress in her voice.

“Mom. That’s ridiculous. Not all Muslims hate all Jews,” I said, swatting away her closed-minded assumption as if it were a gnat. “And besides, most Balinese are Hindu.” I pictured her sitting on her white couch with her hand flung dramatically across her chest like a movie star overcome by shocking news.

All she said next was, “That’s good to know.”

I was beginning to lose patience with her patience. “Okay, well, I’ve got to—”

“Why do you want to move to Bali, Lisa?”

“What?”

“What are you hoping to get out of it?”

I could tell she was getting ready to pounce; to lay bare all the reasons we were making a huge mistake. “I don’t know, Mom. I mean, it’s beautiful and the people are lovely and the school is supposed to be really great so Loy and Victor—”

“Lisa, of course it’s beautiful. Why else would so many people go there for their honeymoon if it wasn’t a beautiful place?”

My suspicions gave way to bewilderment. She didn’t seem upset. She wasn’t trying to talk me out of going. Who the hell had appropriated my mother and replaced her with this unflustered woman? “Then you’re okay with us moving to Bali?” I said, flinching a little out of habit.

“You haven’t answered me, sweetheart. Why do you want to move to Bali?”

I had more important things to do than justify to my uncharacteristically unconcerned mother why I wanted to leave California and create a new life in Southeast Asia with my husband and child. There was sunscreen to buy and dresses to choose and languages to learn. There was money to transfer and people to interview and books to sort.

“Lisa? Are you still there?”

I stared out the window. Twisted my hair around my finger. What was the proper answer? For Victor, I knew moving to Bali would offer up innovative fodder for his middle-school classroom. He’d get to enlighten foreign children; not just Californians.

Loy would make friends from around the world. She’d be immersed in a new culture. Introduced to unfamiliar art, music, food, sights and sounds—a veritable treasure trove for her ever-expanding brain.

But, what about me?

Me, the hippie mother who took too many drugs in the 80s and then worked for Microsoft before getting a well-endowed two-book publishing deal, and then for the life of her couldn’t write her next book.

Me, the brooding bitch who too often wallowed away in her office looking for a distraction.

I wanted to find peace of mind. I wanted to rest assured that I’d seen what there was to see, explored the beyond, and lived to tell about it. I wanted to stop looking over my shoulder, and the shoulders of strangers, so that once and for all I could cease asking What Else Is There?

“If we move to Bali,” I finally said to my mother’s doppelganger, “I will be more mindful. I will find my higher self. I’ll learn to be a better mother and a more loving wife.”

“You can’t do all that where you are?”bali1

“I suppose I can but I think it will be easier in paradise.”

“If you say so.”

Really? I almost shouted into the phone, “MOM! YOU’RE FREAKING ME OUT THAT YOU’RE NOT FREAKING OUT!” but instead I said, “We can talk more tomorrow,” and was about to hang up, when she uttered, “Let me tell you a story I heard once.”

“What? Victor and Loy will be home from school in five minutes. I really gotta go.”

“So this man learns that he’s going to die in a year and he wins this prize or a lottery—I heavenhelldon’t remember exactly—but God and Satan let him come visit heaven and hell to see which one he’ll want to go to when he’s dead.”

“Mom.”

“He goes to heaven and oh, it’s so lovely. Lots of harps and violins. Tuna fish sandwiches being passed around on silver platters. You know, nice.” she said brightly.

heaven  “Mmm-hmm.”

“Then he goes to hell. The gates open and he walks in and sees there’s a big party. Hundreds of gorgeous women are dancing around in skimpy clothes and there’s a band playing his favorite Frankie Valli songs hellpartyand there’s really expensive champagne flowing from a fountain. The man is laughing and dancing and drinking and he has a great time.”

I saw Victor’s car round the bend toward our house. “Okay, so he picks hell to go to when he dies. I get it.”

“Of course he does, and when he finally dies, he shows up and what does he see but fire shooting down from the sky and flames everywhere and people are moaning in pain and the devil is whipping and torturing everyone and it’s just awful. Horrible.”satan

I had no idea where she was going with this.

“‘Satan, I don’t understand,’ the man says. ‘I was here a year ago and it was all so different, so fun. There was music and dancing and—what happened?’ Before unraveling his whip, Satan smiled at the man. ‘Ah, that’s because last time you came as a tourist.’”

I remembered that little tale of hers again while writing the last chapter of RASH, my memoir about moving to—and, ultimately, running away from—Bali. I was reflecting on the how excited and hopeful I felt while flying back to the States. Not because we were finally leaving our Bali nightmare behind, but because I was going to be a tourist; once again experiencing that unfettered wonder one gets when you go on vacation:

Visiting someplace else is way different than living someplace else. Typically, when you go away on a short holiday, you unpack a few belongings, spend some moment-to-moment time tasting the new; peeking at the strange; marveling at the different. If, instead, when you get to your destination, you unpack your books, stock the fridge, hang family photos, and decide to stay awhile, the exoticness eventually evaporates and you’re left with the same issues you had back home. Life in Bali was just life somewhere else.

My mother’s nimble parable was dead on. Much to my surprise, the person I had been in California followed me to Bali, and once we moved into our hut, I no longer danced with scantily-clad women or drank ever-flowing champagne. Instead, I borrowed Satan’s whip and gave myself a good lashing. I constantly worried about Loy getting sick or hurt. I complained about the insects of all nationalities who flew in and out through our wall-less, window-less hut as if jet-setters on a whirlwind tour. I whined about the rancid smoke from smoldering trash and burning corpses that suffocated my lungs and brain. My bitchiness increased by a factor of 18. Victor and I fought so much that he suggested I go back to California. Without him.

abundanceThough it didn’t turn out to be paradise, I believe that going to Bali has made me more grounded. More accepting. My heart is softer. My eyes are wider. My spirit is lighter. I am more grateful than ever for the abundance that surrounds me. I no longer have an untamable itch to go looking for something else to make me happy.

I’m fine just where I am.

Thanks, Mom.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This post was originally published as a first-person essay on parent co., May 3, 2017.

The Unbearable Whiteness of Reading

 

Because I make my living as a writer, people might be surprised to know that I have a hard time reading. While the act of writing feels as natural to me as breathing, moving my eyes from word to word on a page sometimes feels akin to pulling a heavy cart uphill.

When I was twenty-five, I asked my eye doctor why, when I read, the white spaces between the words on a page sometimes pop out at me, and why, when I reach the end of a sentence, I often have trouble finding my way to the beginning of the next sentence. I also read slowly and—as demonstrated by my SAT and GRE scores—I suffered from poor reading comprehension.

He said I have a reading disability. “You mean, like dyslexia?” I asked. He shook his head and said there was no real term for my imperfect brain-to-eye connection, but if I wanted to focus better I should 1) move a black sheet of construction paper down the page, sentence by sentence; or 2) trace along the sentences with my finger or a pencil eraser.

fingerreading

I used those strategies to propel me through graduate school—a piece of black paper was always sticking out from the scholarly texts I lugged around Brown University’s campus. I also was quick to join study sessions, where I would glean from conversation all that I’d missed from my readings.

To be sure, my reading skills have improved over the years. If I’m into good book, I can jam through it without losing my place or seeing the white spaces. When I read online, I enlarge the font and allow the cursor to take the place of my finger.

But I still lose my concentration, and often end up skimming. I read first sentences and subtitles, and can usually come away with just enough relevant information to fake my way through dinner party conversations. If I know an article holds some import to my life—like if it’s about raising a teenage girl, or how to make the best French onion soup—I’ll send it to my husband and ask him to let me know what the takeaway is.

I recently mentioned this personal annoyance to my therapist, Jessica. She arched her eyebrows with a disturbingly knowing look.

“I think you have ADHD,” she said. “Not a reading disability.”

“ADHD?”

“Yup. You have all the classic signs. You’ve probably had it your whole life.”

I went home and Googled ADHD, skimming through all the verbiage and statistics. Then I took the test. If I agreed with at least 15 of the statements, it was likely that I had attention deficit disorder: 

  1. I have difficulty getting organized.
  2. When given a task, I usually procrastinate rather than doing it right away.
  3. I work on a lot of projects, but can’t seem to complete most of them.
  4. I tend to make decisions and act on them impulsively – like spending money, getting sexually involved with someone, diving into new activities, and changing plans.
  5. I get bored easily.
  6. No matter how much I do or how hard I try, I just can’t seem to reach my goals.
  7. I often get distracted when people are talking; I just tune out or drift off.
  8. I get so wrapped up in some things I do that I can hardly stop to take a break or switch to doing something else.ADHD1
  9. I tend to overdo things even when they’re not good for me – like compulsive shopping, drinking too much, overworking, and overeating.
  10. I get frustrated easily and I get impatient when things are going too slowly.
  11. My self-esteem is not as high as that of others I know.
  12. I need a lot of stimulation from things like action movies and video games, new purchases, being among lively friends, driving fast or engaging in extreme sports.
  13. I tend to say or do things without thinking, and sometimes that gets me into trouble.
  14. I’d rather do things my own way than follow the rules and procedures of others.
  15. I often find myself tapping a pencil, swinging my leg, or doing something else to work off nervous energy.
  16. I can feel suddenly depressed when I’m separated from people, projects or things that I like to be involved with.
  17. I see myself differently than others see me, and when someone gets angry with me for doing something that upset them I’m often very surprised.
  18. Even though I worry a lot about dangerous things that are unlikely to happen to me, I tend to be careless and accident prone.
  19. Even though I have a lot of fears, people would describe me as a risk taker.
  20. I make a lot of careless mistakes.
  21. I have blood relatives who suffer from ADHD, bipolar disorder, or substance abuse.

I agreed with seventeen.

I was not alone. According to ADDITUDE, an online zine devoted to all things ADHD, 4.4 percent of the adult US population has ADHD. That’s a lot of distracted insecure risk-taking pencil-tapping humans, if you ask me.

So, it turns out my optometrist had been mistaken. I didn’t have a reading disability. I just couldn’t always concentrate long enough or hard enough to allow the words from the page to travel to my parietal lobe in an orderly fashion. It’s like, sometimes, when I’m in the middle of reading, my brain suddenly holds up ayield YIELD TO ONCOMING THOUGHTS sign, or a photo of a cute bunny, and I have to start over again.

I am getting better, though, day by day. I am learning to tame my monkey mind through meditation, mindfulness, exercise, and radical acceptance. (I tried drugs but they made me quiver and quake and sent my blood pressure into dangerously high digits.) And Jessica has been offering me tactics to help keep me more focused on my objectives (see: #1, #2, #3, #6).

But I’m not even close to there yet. Case in point: yesterday I was having kind of a lousy day. I had a lot to accomplish and felt angry at myself for not being more productive (see #10 and #11), so I did what I’ve been programmed to do most of my life: I ignored Jessica’s advice and went looking for a distraction. I cleaned the cat box. Played a round of Toy Blast. Unwound a paper clip and wrapped it around my finger. Made another list of things to do. Checked Facebook. Looked at pictures of food on my food porn site. Read email.

I saw that I’d gotten a beautiful post from Jena Schwartz, a poet and writing coach whose blog I follow (or, really, whose blog I skim). In her “Practices for a Busy Mind and Being Here Now,” she talked about going for a quiet morning walk out in nature. She kept getting distracted—by her thoughts, her phone, tasks that needed taking care of, her children and wife, her job. After telling herself she had to BE HERE NOW, she walked for a while longer, then sat on a rock and meditated. By the time she got home she felt rushed because she didn’t think she had enough time to write her newsletter, and how crazy it was that she felt that way. She realized it was more important that she MAKE ROOM for the words, rather than anxiously try to squeeze them through a muddled mind.

All you have to do is begin. 
Just as the water always flows downstream,
the rest happens by itself. 

Jena’s tale—I read the whole thing; every last word—resonated with me so much so that I decided I wanted to write a blog post about Jena’s blog post, but it wasn’t on my list of THINGS TO DO TODAY, which made me castigate myself for not following my new rules and staying on track, which distracted me into fixating on my ADHD, which distracted me enough to write a blog post about that, instead.

So here it is, and now I can check WRITE BLOG POST off my To-Do list and feel gratified that I completed a task—a great accomplishment for someone who gets lost on a page as easily as a blind man does in a circus tent.

I will get by. I will get better. With practice and patience, I, too,  will figure out how to make room for my words. Words to read. Words to write. Words to live by.

 

 

Notes From A Boarding Pass

IMG_1575

It would be unfair
if after flying
half way around
the world
cramped indelicately
between an
oversized computer
and a mother with an infant
suckling
letting go
suckling
letting go
screaming
napping
screaming
your plane crashed during landing.

It would be unfair if
your lover promised
he’d wait and when
you finally found
the suitcase and
the nerve and
the time
he changed his mind.

Yum-a-lumma

chicken

Way back when, I used to post recipes–highlighting some of the better meals we cooked. Then I got bored of writing about food. There are way too many great food blogs out there. I had nothing to add.

But last night we tried out a recipe that was so close to perfect, I have to share. Here’s the original  recipe for Half Baked Harvest’s Chicken Shawarma and Sweet Potato Fry Bowls

Here’s what we did differently:

*Used thighs instead of breasts;
*Broccoli instead of asparagus (half the price);
*Roasted some button mushrooms; red onion slices; and a russet potato (also cut into matchsticks like the sweet potatoes) as well;
*Sauce: we omitted the mint, added a dollop of mayo and a squeeze of sriracha (BTW: until I typed that just now, I had no idea that the extra “r” existed. I’ve been pronouncing it wrong for decades);
*We made couscous because Loy would rather eat pig balls than quinoa;
*Our toppings: feta cheese/sliced-up Trader Joe’s Hot&Sweet cherry peppers/my homemade carrot pickles (ask me for the recipe)/kalamatas/sliced sun-dried tomatoes/sliced cukes that I de-seeded and salted for an hour

Five-stars. A perfect meal. It’s supposed to serve 5-6, but the three of us finished off every last bit, so double it if you want leftovers. You’re welcome.

Sand and Ice

mars_polar_deposits_main

Daylight: life
burrows out and up.

A common but no less uncommon tern swoops
past bubbling edges. There, a cormorant, black as ash,

gathers the sun in its arcing wings. Prehistoric
pelicans cling clumsily to a pocket of air, then fall

like rocks, shattering through undulating surf as the
red-shorted lifeguard hooks his gaze

onto distant thighs smothered and scented
with coconut . And the dimwitted sandpipers peck

at the straggling sunburnt seaweed, and finally,
late as usual, the seagulls
arrive.

Out there on the frozen plain
the ice is

breathing. Beneath the floes
the water streams faster,

further; sun rays race atop glinting surfaces;
unsuspended ice unfurls

below a red fox pattering berg
to white berg. Life froths

anew. Yawning bears scratch and
stretch and lumber toward meat. Mayflies

flitter away abbreviated lives on
a nanosecond of love while still in flight. Hurrying

toward their beginnings, salmon
muscle past the ocean’s currents. And

here, when the soft shoots release winter’s hold,
the hidden pheromones of humans
begin to seep.

DOWNSTAIRS, UPSTAIRS

allAround

DOWNSTAIRS

Years ago I volunteered at a nearby assisted living facility, spending a few hours each week with sixty seniors. I read the newspaper aloud to them in the morning. We discussed current events and watched movies. I called BINGO, paying out a quarter to each elated winner. I ate lunch with them, played Scrabble and UNO, and sat beside them while local musicians serenaded us.

Being that I am a storyteller by trade, I especially loved hearing about their past lives. Roxanne* and her brain surgeon husband helped found the Vermont Youth Orchestra in 1964. Fred was a Seabee seabeeduring WWII. Louis practiced law in New York City for five decades. Gillian was an assistant to former Vermont governor Madeline Kunin. Margaret taught German literature at a New York State University.

I felt a particular fondness for Josephine, who had been an army officer. After her discharge Josephine battled depression and alcoholism. She kicked both, but lost her marriage in the process. Josephine had a gruff demeanor and was not prone to socializing, but whenever she did join an activity, she was the brightest most loquacious soul in the room.

Whenever I visited the facility, I would traipse down the long hallway to her large sunny room and knock.

“Yes? Who’s there?” she’d ask.

“It’s Lisa, Josephine. I’m wondering if perhaps you would like to read the paper with me today.”

Moments later she’d open the door, genuinely pleased to see me. “Of course I would. Thank you for inviting me.”

And so it went—the same knock, the same invitation, the same acceptance, over and over again. Until one morning she said no.

“Really?” I asked.

“My stomach feels bad. I think I need to stay close to my bathroom.”

“Gotcha,” I replied. “Next time then.”

But there was no next time. Josephine continued to “feel” sick, although she was perfectly healthy. She grew more confused and doleful, and was eventually transferred

stairs

UPSTAIRS

Before entering the locked memory care wing on the top floor of the facility, I punch in a 4-digit key code.

I walk in and immediately the air changes. It slows. It thickens. It smells yeasty. I pass by the caged bird, donated by a relative who believes animals are soothing for people with dementia, and all of the residents up here are afflicted with severe dementia. Most have late-stage Alzheimer’s disease.

I glance at the impressive artwork on the wall. Two of the pieces were painted by Francis, one of the residents. She painted them before her brain could no longer distinguish one color from another. Before she forgot how to hold a paintbrush in her hand.

Breakfast is just ending so I go down to the dining room and shout a spirited “good morning” to everyone. I feel genuinely gratified when Leon says, “hello,” or when Margery waves her napkin at me.

As I grab a slice of bacon off the warming tray, Amina, the lovely Bosnian LPN asks me if I would pay Eva a visit. “She’s in a bad mood,” Amina says, concerned. “You always cheer her up.”

The door is slightly ajar and I can see Eva, a still-beautiful, poised woman in her eighties, sitting on her bed, a look of panic on her face.

“Good morning, Eva,” I say, knocking. “Do you mind if I come in?”

She immediately brightens. “Yes, yes. Please.” She has no idea who I am, but she politely gestures me to the chair across from the bed. The room is tiny, cramped, but tastefully furnished. Eva comes from money—a lot of it. I know this because every time I visit Eva she invites me to look through her photo albums. After twenty times, I have all but memorized the pictures of her family’s lavish home on the beach, her many trips abroad, the cotillions where she danced in dresses made for a princess.

Unlike me, Eva no longer has them memorized. She barely recognizes the people in them. She is aware that the memories belong to her—she just doesn’t understand how they do. alzheimersbrainThat’s what Alzheimer’s does to the brain—it robs one’s connection to the past; those precious personal stories that make up the very essence of social beings. Eventually, Alzheimer’s will probably purloin Eva’s ability to communicate altogether. She is one of only three people here who can still string words together into complete sentences.

Today, Eva is agitated. Before I reach the chair she jumps up and announces that she needs to find her purse.

trainstation“Why?” I ask gently.

“I have to get to the train station,” she says hurriedly. “I promised my mother I’d meet her there and she’ll be angry if I am late.”

As I reach out to take her hand in mine, I understand that Eva’s thoughts are no longer securely bolted to her past. Nor is her damaged brain allowing them to make much sense of the present. It’s as if she’s frozen in a liminal state; a timeless and incoherent

InbetweenHeader

IN BETWEEN

My mother, who has recently begun a slow steady slide into dementia, started to see her own mother in bed with her every night. Having delusions is highly typical of someone with cognitive impairment.

Initially, the mirages my mother saw were innocuous. My dead grandmother. The red flowering bush across the lake appeared to her as a tall woman playing with her grandson. The rock outside her kitchen door morphed into a dead dog whose dog friends often came to mourn him. One always showed up wearing a bow.

But then last week something in her hallucinations shifted. They became scorched by paranoia—again, quite common in early-stage Alzheimer’s. My father—the ex-spouse she’s hated for thirty years—started breaking in.

“He left his empty cereal bowl on the kitchen table, so I know he was here!” she shouted into the phone. “I’m calling the police.”

I tried to stop her, but I live in Vermont and she lives in Florida, and my arms can’t reach that far. Her home companion—an amiable, soothing woman named Pamela—also failed to calm her fears. Mom phoned the police, who came and took a report. Afterward, at her desperate urging, I hired a locksmith to change the locks on her door.

My father did not show up the next day, and we all breathed a sigh of relief. But for the last two nights now, three teenagers have broken in through the lanai, stealing a bottle of wine before exiting through the front door. When she told me about the robberies, she sounded more annoyed than frightened, as if it were a burden she could live with.

numberconfusionIn addition to becoming delusional, she’s also losing all sense of time. Dates mean nothing to her. Numbers are often foreign objects. She can no longer read a book, a deprivation that has amplified her ever-growing depression.

She’s still very talkative, particularly when it comes to politics: the vitriol she hurls toward our President is as keen and biting as ever. She remembers names and has no problem recognizing faces. She can regale a listener with stories from her past as easily as a teenager can. While she is, in a sense, fully independent at the moment, I anticipate a time in the not-too-distant future when she’ll no longer be able to stay in her own home.

How and when will I know it’s the right time to move her into a facility; one where she can be safe? One where someone will read to her? One where no one will steal her wine?

One that has both a downstairs and an upstairs.

*Names have been changed.