Judie, age 15

Mum has decided to spend the entire day on the patio. I get her set up in the lounge chair, with a pillow behind her head, and a lap robe to keep her from becoming chilled. Her lunch is on the table beside her, within easy reach. We settle in with our books.

Reading has become my therapy, and every spare minute I have, I grab a book and bury myself in it. Mum has a book as well—a Carol Higgins Clark book that she has been reading for at least three years. She brought it with her on her last visit with us, and the book mark had moved very little in all that time. I peek at her over my book to see if she is either reading or eating. She is doing neither.

“Mum, please try to eat some of your lunch!” I chide.

She tries to distract me. “How is your sister?” she asks.

“My sister died, Mum, almost three years ago.”

“How did she die?”

“Leukemia, Mum.”

“Oh,” she says. “Then how is Buz (my brother)?” she asks, determined to avoid her lunch.

“I don’t know, Mum.”

“And Bill (my other brother, 15 years my junior), does he live here? Have you seen him?”

“No, Mum, I haven’t. Please try to eat!”

She begins to pick at some apple slices.

The subject of my siblings is sticky. Mum has no concept of the term “dysfunctional family”, and I always try to avoid discussing mine, especially now. There would be endless questions, many of which have been asked and answered in years past. I particularly do not want to answer questions about my sister, who had always left a path of destruction in her wake, and who, over the years, had become more and more hostile toward me, more violent in her verbal attacks. She had gone to a psychiatrist, who gave her anti-psychotic drugs, anti-depressants, and God know what else, to keep her calm. Either they didn’t work, or she wouldn’t take them, I don’t know which.

I had long decided that when Mother died, I would make a run for it. I would break with my sister once and for all, and live a quiet and gentle life with Rod in Tucson. And so I did. This infuriated her even more, to the point that when she learned she was dying, she swore the rest of the family to secrecy. They were all WARNED that no one was to tell me she was dying. So no one did.–until the near end. Four days before she died, my brother Buz, 6 years my junior, call me and said in an over-dramatic tone, “Andrea is dying!” The word “dying’ was stretched out so long that in my head I could actually see each letter with a dash in between. He then went on to explain in a clipped and disdainful tone, everything that had happened, including the fact that HE had been a bone-marrow donor to his beloved sister (the same one to whom he had not spoken for five solid years, but with whom he had “made up” a couple of years before her illness.).

“Hmmm,” I told him, “well, keep me posted.” I was shocked that I was so calm and apathetic, and I was certain that there must be something seriously wrong with me. I had read case studies of abuse victims who, after finding the courage to finally escape for good, eventually had absolutely no empathy for their abuser. This was definitely me.

I never received a call from either of my brothers, and when my sister died, my cousin Sandra, with whom I am particularly close, called to tell me. I sent my brother-in-law a sympathy card.

I did receive an email from my sister-out-law, Buz’s ex-wife (see my post, dated Friday March 12). She likes me, she says, and always has. She says I am smart, and talented and more creative than anyone else in my family. She says that I got all the good genes, and they got all the crazy genes. She’s right about the crazy genes—I lucked out there.

Several months after my sister died, I got a scathing letter from Buz, telling me what a horrible person I was, and how I was the cause of all their problems (I have not lived in Atlanta since 1978), and so from now on, I could consider myself no longer a member of the family. The letter was long and rambling, and sounded as if he was in the manic phase of one of the several mental disorders which he and my sister had inherited from my father’s side of the family. I decided the best way to deal with him and his craziness, was not to deal with him at all. Actually, becoming a non-member was a relief for me. It meant that they had finally decided to stop trying to drag me back into the chaos.

All this is not something I want to get into with Mum, because 1. She would not understand the first thing about it and 2. She has always been a worrier and she would start worrying about me and my family day and night, trying to figure out a way to fix it so everyone was happy. Instead, I get my scissors and a comb and give Mum a badly needed haircut, hoping it would make her feel a little better about herself.

-By Judie.


Keep your shoes on.

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Or am I

Emily Marucci

I am not who you think I am. Or am I?

A constant struggle with self.

Sometimes I feel like I am the only one with a shipwrecked heart amongst a sea of people that don’t allow themselves to feel deeply enough.

I am fucking sensitive. But I’d rather feel and be misunderstood than be a shadow or glimpse of my true being.

When I feel like an unsubstantial street pin in the big city of lost souls, I remind myself who I am by thinking of things I believe in.

I believe bob dylan couldn’t sing, and that it’s possible I can’t write.

I believe things always change for the better.

I believe life is not to live in longing.

I believe in walking through the streets and pretending they are empty.

I believe in wondering “if it was really in my head.”

I believe in wisdom in old people.

I believe in losing myself for a few minutes a day.

I believe in watching my tears disappear in my hands within moments.

I believe in being fearless for the fall of love.

I believe in never painting my darkness golden.

I believe in never erasing my wrong words–i would be left silent.

I believe in fear.

I believe in collecting scars.

I believe that technology can sometimes create clouds around our beings that multiply into memories that we can no longer see.

I believe. Complex conquers simplicity.

Constantly wondering .. If you really knew me.

Am I dysfunctional? I sure hope I am.

-By Emily Marucci.



The days pass slowly, and I am operating on auto-pilot….getting Mum up every morning, moving her to and from the wheel chair, preparing meals that sit, barely touched on the plate, until she asks that they be put in the ‘fridge “for tomorrow,’ taking her to and from the bathroom, cleaning her up. Sometimes, when I am standing by to help her up, she takes my arm in both her hands, and rests her head against me. “I love you , Mum.” I tell her. She needs those words, as we all do, and I am only too glad to provide them. She gives them back in return.

We have a number of hospice workers coming through the house on any given day. They bathe her, take her blood pressure, weigh her, ask her questions about how she feels. She has been extremely modest all of her life, and she always balks when the bather comes, screwing up her face, and frowning like a child.

“Mum,” I tell her, “You will feel so much better after a bath!” I know how extremely modest she is, even to the point of adding a triangle of fabric to her bathing suit many years ago, so that her cleavage won’t show. She still balks, and bending down, I take her face in my hands. “Look at me, Mum. You are a dignified woman, and you will always have your dignity, but you need now to give a little with the modesty. This is for your own comfort!” She knows I am right, and she lets Beatrice roll her down the hall to the shower.

The house is over 50 years old, and when it was built, the plumbing fixtures were put in backwards, so instead of turning counterclockwise to get water, one must turn clockwise. Why this was never fixed over the years is a total mystery to me. It has become an issue with the aides who come to bathe Mum, one that no one has bothered to explain to them until now. Rod explains to each one who comes, just how to turn the water on and set the temperature before turning on the shower. It annoys him that other family members, all whom had lived in the house at some time, had not taken the time to explain just how to operate the shower.

I am way out of my comfort zone. I am two thousand miles away from the safety of my Catalina Mountains, and cannot see the horizon, and the gloom around me brings me down, making me depressed and constantly on edge. I seem to be always angry and sad at the same time. I hate these feelings! And I hate to think that this might be who I really am underneath. There ARE places that bring out the worst in a person.

At home, I am always in the middle of the action, and happy to be there. Even when Mum was with us, and we were getting her healthy after a winter of being cooped up in the dark, dusty house filled with mold spores and cat odors. I was happy to have her to take care of each day. I watched the color come back into her face from days of sitting in the Tucson sun, reading her Bible and talking with us. I took her to have her hair cut and permed, and to have her nails done. She was delighted by the results and the attention she was getting.

I would like to do those things again, but here, something is holding me back—her frail appearance, perhaps the risk of embarrassing other family members by doing what they should have. No, not that. I really don’t care what they think of me. I know I am pushy and opinionated.

Maybe all this stuff would not enrage me so much, had I not had my own personal family demons hanging around in the background, hissing and snapping at me all day long and into the night. They show up every year when I roll into town, and stay until I get on the other side of the Chattahoochee River.. I know that they can’t cross water, so by then I am safe again.

-By Judie of Rogue Artists.