16 November 2007


Part Seven

When I began feeling like a junkie looking for a fix---I knew I had a problem---with SUGAR. The addiction symptoms were: anger, self-hatred, depression, lack of energy, sweet cravings, bloating, out of control eating and weight gain.

Having battled a food addiction for over 20 years (food my drug of choice) and while temporarily living with my sister after the death of my mother, I gained back 20 pounds and 10 of the 12 inches I lost while diligently working-out for the last 8 years. All the hard work I did vanished, by the daily temptation (of the Drake's isle in my sister's kitchen) and endless consumption of the over-the-counter drug: pure white (co)cane sugar.

Over 10 years ago a friend introduced me to the book "Sugar Blues," by William Dufty. She passed out copies like lollipops and preached about the psychological and physical addiction. I ignored her zealot attempts to convert me shunning a copy of the book she swore by. I figured I knew it all because I ate honey or brown sugar (refined white sugar dyed brown with Molasses). Never considering what she was trying to enlighten me to was the dangerous white substance traded on Wall Street. It was lurking in the cyclical ice cream, Funny Bones, holiday desserts, M&M's, and birthday cakes (my favorite) I made excuses to inhale. Except, I wasn't aware enough to see the correlation between my inability to lose weight and the physical symptoms of the sweet junk. That is until I was unplugged from NYC and living in the country trying to reinvent myself while mourning my mother.

Everyone experiences going home for the holidays and overeating because you are out of your element, seduced by your favorite childhood foods. But when the holidays are over and you're still there---and so are the goodies, coupled with those less health and body conscious---it can equal disaster. If your constitution is built on a flaky foundation of pastry crust---you will crumble---becoming "one" with the donuts.

My observation of the negative emotions associated with sweets became prevalent when I began eating insatiably after a morsel or two of the three C's: chocolate, cookies or cake. I'd say to myself, "I'll only have two Oreo's" (or one slice of cake or three pieces of chocolate). Then before the first bite slid down my gullet, I'd up the ante to 4 cookies then 6. Of course after a lightening speed consumption (similar to the initial rush of drugs)---I'd become sick from the sugar. A nauseous feeling came over my stomach as I swore I'd never do it again.

This went in circles for months. Arguing with my sister to stop buying the junk food and seductive desserts. She reasoned her husband liked sweets (so did she and her Poodles) after dinner, before dinner, for lunch and sometime for breakfast. I began hating myself for not being able to pass it by. It was the first time I felt like an alcoholic, unable to pass a cookie jar or chocolate layered cake without having a binge. I thought maybe I should adopt AA's philosophy by taking, "one day at a time." But how could I master control over the dreaded thousand mile walk through the "pastry shop" in her kitchen?

I managed to make the conscious choice and stop due to weight gain. For two months I felt energized, confident, hopeful, euphoric, centered, a general sense of well being. Feeling elated and in control of my life and eating, I decided to test myself at a function by eating only 2 bite size squares of a brownie and cheese cake. I remembered the taste---and it remembered me as I walked back to the table popping a few more in my mouth. Instantly I was sucked right back into the void of empty calories.

This pattern repeated itself over the last 24 months---until the tape measure expanded compounded by the strangulation of my clothes. I once focused on every curve and prided myself on finally seeing my hip bones---I observed the disconnection from my body. Ignoring the outer manifestations of the miserable life I was temporarily leading, in a household spiraling out of control with carelessness and intentional sabotage. I wondered why their self-destructive ways were more encroaching to me than my conscious, healthy organic life style on them? They were a combined force like a blender whipping cream. I had to fight for my life and piece together the cause and effect of my sugar habit.

Over the Christmas holiday [2004] it began to take root as I monitored my emotions and bodily symptoms after I'd eaten sweets. Like Einstein creating the atom---I saw the connection ---and felt it when I woke on the 5th day after my last affair with chocolate on New Years eve. Finally kicking my addiction to a crack pipe of burnt sugar cubes. Feelings of being in control again, happy, almost speeding with adrenaline, no longer felt obsessive and indulgent. The sensation of being healthy, whole and alive had been lacking. The motivation and desire to reconnect to the positive side of life once again emerged. Leaving me possessed with the ability to make things happen. I was no longer ignorant to my sucrose bondage. And the negative symptoms superceded the momentary desires of---my aching sweet tooth.

It may only be a forkful for some, but others a handful leads to a trough. Dr. Phil's mission this season focuses on this countries overweight epidemic, making us understand these foods were "created to be addictive." A legal and cheap way of hooking millions of people, while making billions of dollars. Sugar is big business---a commodity which produced 147.1 million tons world wide in 2002/2003. And we consumed 139.1 million tons of the decaying substance. Which is the real crack cocaine here?

Originally written: 5 January 2004
Copyright 2004, R. B. STUART. All rights reserved. No reproduction of this blog in any form.

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03 October 2007


The Sixth Anniversary of the World Trade Center Tragedy
Part Six

On September 11th 2001, while living in New York City I watched the terrorist attack the World Trade Center on television. After an hour, when the numbness and denial faded, an urgency to volunteer swelled within, needing to care for the city the way she comforted me over the years. I would go to her rescue in any way possible and aid the two limbs that had been taken without warning. The Mother of all cities, was herself, crumbling down to the marrow below her streets. The solid bedrock which sprouted two of her tallest beauties, were savagely destroyed---taking with them the many children of her city.

The Twin Towers were akin to California Redwood Trees, only in an urban environment. The destruction of our Redwoods brought about an equal amount of emotion--just as tree-huggers feel watching the electric saw chip and cut away the thick brown skin of natures grandest. The disbelief while watching the calamity brought upon the defenseless, helpless victims---who sat perched on each of the 110 floors as they attempted to fly---becoming One with the towers. Kept the world standing in silence enveloped by a quiet banding together of those experiencing the traumatic event of mass devastation and sadness.

For a brief moment the grief and sorrow had given way to love and peacefulness. It was as though an intertwining between Pearl Harbor and Woodstock had occurred---lifting consciousness with prayers, white candlelight and solidarity. Emerging from the pain and suffering of our forefathers past and present who have fought in those very wars, most, needlessly by sending many to their grave and psychologically maiming others for the rest of their life. It was their history coming forth, and in so doing brought volunteers from across the country and from the foreign lands where those battles were once fought.

The unity had begun. A New World was forming. In the dark of the night as volunteers we worked side by side unloading trucks at the donation center at the Jacob Javits Center. Crews of construction workers and out-of-town cops, women and men, shoulder to shoulder---white collar and blue. All suspended in a new reality. Tied together by the red, white and blue ribbons that were pinned on our breast. A quiet sadness filled our hearts, and a peacefulness flowed from our Spirits---for once, we were all equal. The Hero's that died, united us, in compassion.

Some volunteers slept overnight on the cold sidewalks; the voluntary homeless with make-shift beds made out of newspaper and faded denim jackets, colored bandannas tied around their necks, scuffed yellow-buck work boots fastened at their ankles, pillows of blue plastic hard hats, with rows of white candlelight looming over head on the cement walls. The country was built on the backs of these men, and they were willing to break their backs once again by sleeping on the gray concrete their brothers mixed and poured years before. Even still---they would wake with ease. Then in the early morning hours at Ground Zero they would gather the ruins that were laced with sweat and toil from their forefathers. Which was now soiled with the blood of our beloved---and our enemy. And they would do so lovingly for well over a year.

The financial downturn that occurred in the aftermath of the city lead many New Yorkers to re- evaluate their lives as they knew it. The future of the city was uncertain and my own life took on a gloomy air. People seemed more caring in the weeks after the tragedy but it didn't last. The lack of connectedness takes its toll on you after awhile, you begin to absorb the cement from the sidewalks and the only way to rescue yourself---is to leave.

Hiring freezes happened immediately. The avenues became barren as stores posted "Going Out of Business" banners in the windows. Filled U-Haul trucks peppered the desolate streets as taxi cabs rode empty---a sign people were leaving. The city simply wasn't the same, and neither were the lives that lived within it.

Within four months my trepidation's about leaving became clear when my mother suffered a third stroke. The possible loss of one's mother shifts the order of your priority list. She would be the reason for weaning myself from NYC after 13 years. The magnetic pull of her failing heart brought us to her bedside for six weeks. We stood holding her hands---she was barely able to gaze at us one last time before dying.

She watched September 11th and its effects on her daughter, living long enough to see me come home safely to care for her. Not knowing six months after The World Trade Center tragedy, I'd witness my own tower collapse---my mother. If the survivors of September 11th can go on with the unexpected tragic loss of loved ones in their life---then I can certainly be grateful as I mourn, for the fortunate six weeks I had watching my mother make the transition to death. Breathing her sweet scent, caressing her brow, kissing her motherly hand while gazing at her childlike face and loving eyes one last time---is more than the survivors of September 11th had. I must find the grace in knowing that.

Since then I've observed the loved ones talk about those that have senselessly and suddenly died in The World Trade Center. They spoke of similar characteristics and qualities the deceased possessed: a good person, happy, humorous, a heart of gold willing to do anything for anybody, kind, considerate and loving. It sounded as if God was calling his favorite children, back home..... Maybe, just maybe---they can find peace knowing that.

Copyright September 2001, R. B. STUART. All Rights reserved. No reproduction of this blog in any form. Above photo of rock in the sand taken at the beach 2005, "An Angel in The Sand."

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15 August 2007


A Daughters Journey Through Self-Discovery and Loss
Part Five

Several years ago when my mother suffered her second stroke I began bartering with God, "Please let her stay alive for another ten years so she can see her daughters finally marry and maybe have children."

To atleast have one of her remaining four daughters marry and give her grandchildren was a long held wish. If we could give her that by the time she turns 80, her life would have been complete. Seeing her beautiful daughters have what she had: a wonderful loving husband and adorable children. Her mission in life would have been satisfied.

But as one knows what we pray for sometimes does not come into fruition. God has his own reasons why he takes those that we love at specific times. Whether we are ready to face that loss or not isn't his concern. No matter how many people love you---when he decides it's time to withdraw his last breath and stop your heart, as you were born into this life, you are born into another.

So in January of 2002 when my 73 year-old mother had a third relapse. I pondered my 13 years in New York City, my childhood, and the possible loss of my mother. I reached an under- standing; that in order for me to have a quality and healthy existence---I'd have to rescue my mother, my own life and leave New York. I thought I'd move in with her in New Hampshire where she spent the last thirty years.

In taking care of her disintegrating body I'd assist her as she made the transition into death. All the while still bartering with God that she'd recover from this one as she did the other two. My heart and mind were split in two while I listened to her yearn for the days as a teenager drinking bottles of Pepsi-Cola and eating Devil Dogs---in between her long swims in the cool ocean waters of Gun Rock Beach in Massachusetts. Mentally I knew she'd eventually die from refusing food, but in my heart I couldn't fathom the loss of my one and only--Mother. Yet, there was still so much I hadn't achieved in my life that I needed her to be around for. After all I owed her the happiness of seeing me marry a wonderful man, that is after I found one.

In the six weeks that followed she died. As her life had unexpectedly ended---mine began. Upon planning my mothers Memorial service---I planned my move out of NH where I restlessly left three decades before. During the first few months of mourning I'd experience waves of grief along with periods of acceptance and a sense of well being. But with emotions and their unpredictable manner, I felt consumed by the darkest moments. At midnight driving along quiet and still country roads listening to a Dean Martin cassette, remembering the old songs that she loved. I pictured her in the car beside me swaying to the music and singing in unison. That vision had put me into a tailspin of sorrow and grief. I missed her so. Riding down the blackened, barren roads howling in pain like a lone fox caught in a trap--no one to come into the cold, dark woods to rescue him in the deep of the night. Suffering---the ache tightly gripping my head from the forceful well of tears bursting from my heart---draining from my eyes. Sleep was the only remedy. She takes me back to Mum, and our family as it should be…

When I resuscitate myself from the tidal wave of pain, my memory ponders the last three years with my mother. I began to notice traits and tendencies of my own that I had apparently inherited from her. During the fall and winter months I'd always tuck a Kleenex tissue up the cuff of my left sleeve. On the last Christmas I spent with her I watched her stuff more than one tissue up the cuff of her awning-stripe, pale yellow and gray knit shirt, a handful of them bulging like a bull frog at her wrist. Like me, my mother recycled her unused tissues by placing them in a small plastic bag hidden in the bedroom closet or by squishing them like cotton balls into her blue tapestry tote bag, the one hanging on the back knob of her bedroom door with an aged wooden back-scratcher poking out. Both were overflowing with the white crumpled balls.

In February 2002 while she was in the NH hospital with her third relapse and bout of Congestive Heart Failure, she lamented that she needed her box of tissues from the TV table in the living room. As an environmentalist I continually lectured her on waste and recycling. In jest I tormented her by bringing to the hospital a large blue Kleenex box packed full of the white-balled tissues from the closet. When I placed it beside her on the hospital bed she gleamed and instantly reached for one. Having to dig her hand furiously into the tight, plastic-lipped cardboard wedge to fish one out is when she realized what I had done, in disbelief she looked at me with her widening hazel eyes and spouted, "What the hell is this?" I chuckled, "You know all the unused tissues that you've crammed in the bag in the closet." She interjected in her usual theatrical tone, "These are them? How embaarahsing!" I nodded and smirked at her apparent dissatisfaction with my recycled gall. She used them anyway.

Within moments a nurse entered to flush her I.V. lines and needed a tissue for the overflow. My mother moved the tissue box closer to the nurse and as the nurse reached in for a tissue she pulled out wrinkled ones and remarked, "Are these used?" Without hesitation my mother retorted, "I know Robin---how embarrassing!" Humored by my actions and her ability to still be feisty with such an uncertain situation. I explained to the nurse who remained preoccupied with her task at hand, that I was punishing her by using the bag of clean tissues from the closet that she'd collected from her purse and sleeve for the past two years. My mother with exaggerated dramatic Italian flair rolled her deep set bulging eyes and rested her gaze upon the nurse pricking her arm.

Out of her six children (five daughters) I was the only one who plucked a tissue from my sleeve in the cool months. Each night before bed I'd whisk my long sleeve shirt up and over my head and a white mass would tumble to the floor. Forgetting they were there---I'd wonder what had fallen. I looked down and the mere sight of a rumpled tissue laying at my feet, brings a memory that warms my heart. Remembering my holiday visits with Mum my eyes smile as I hear her voice tucked somewhere in my mind, with a faint glow on her face saying, "Just like Mummy." Inwardly, I gaze back at her contentedly watching me dress from her wheelchair while I slide a tissue up the sleeve of my turtleneck before going out. And now that she's gone---we're connected by traits. The tissues she wiped my nose with as a child, the tissues that I've sobbed in since her death. I am her---she is me.

From my nose to my toes she is there. I never liked my feet tucked tightly into the bottom of a bed sheet, I feel confined. The uncomfortable sensation of my feet being bound and trapped make me instantly kick the sheets off. While visiting my mother, after she changed into her nightie and pivoted herself from the wheelchair into the bed, I'd enter when she was settled and tuck her in.

With her left side paralysis from her first stroke she maintained her independent living, but her ability to do things as perfectly as before were no longer. Her days of synchronized swimming were over and simply turning onto her side in bed wasn't an easy feat. When I'd kiss her goodnight and bid her sweet dreams, I'd straighten out the pillow under her knees. Then position her feet against the pillow wedged between the mattress and foot board of the rented hospital bed. Her long 5-foot 10-inch frame made it difficult even with bed extensions to keep her long legs from pressing against the hard uncomfortable foot board. I'd carefully lift each leg propping her heel a top the pillow. Then gripping the lion throw along with her sheet I'd wave it into the air. Watching her short baby-fine white hair fly in the breeze as the bedware melted over her aging maternal body. She'd blurt out, "Don't cover my feet!" As she kicked the sheets off in unison to my response, "I know. I don't like mine tucked in either." I'd lightly pull back the bedding to her shins leaving her toes exposed and free. The same toes that I had. The same size 11 foot. The same hang nail on the big toe.

The same piggies she scolded me about as a child when I'd run around outside in the summer bare foot, and then try to go to bed with dirty feet. My late sister whom I shared a room with would tattletale more than once whaling out to Mum, "Robin's going to bed with dirty pigs feet again!" Mum would storm into our bedroom and yank me out of bed ridiculing me to wash those dirty rotten pigs feet. Adding, "What did I tell you about going to bed with dirty, black feet!" I never even noticed until they pointed it out to me. When I grew older I kept my toes manicured with red lacquer. Although Mum never let me forget those childhood instances, and as I walk through life---it is her feet that I will take with me. Even though she has passed, every cell of her remains alive within me. And it is her love and her humor that will stay lost inside---forever.

Copyright July 2002, R. B. STUART. All rights reserved. No reproduction of this blog in any form.

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15 July 2007


Part Four

As one matures hopefully becoming self-aware is inevitable. Bringing with it an observation, in this instance the submissive nature occurring between the sexes; American men are kowtowing to women. It became apparent to me while traveling with my sister to Greece in 2000. The emotional warmth, masculine confidence and aggressiveness that men are organically born with, that deep-seated nature is being squelched by women; mothers, wives and girlfriends in the American landscape. When it comes to the female contender that they love and care for, a percentage of American men have lost their voice and backbone.

Several years ago the author Sam Keen uncovered this topic in his book, "Fire in the Belly" as did Robert Bly in, "Iron John." Being a single New York City woman I encounter men of my generation and younger that are suppressing their natural essence when it comes to the opposite gender. In the last two years I have spoken to numerous single women of different ages, and back grounds in a variety of shapes and sizes. And when discussing men the grievances remain the same, 'he's afraid of women.' I was disturbingly surprised that it wasn't me after all. Although this realization saddens me because I adore all men, especially for their masculinity, quiet strength, aggressiveness and in moments, tough-guy attitude. I have gravitated towards those qualities in men from the seduction of the silver screen. The epitome of maleness exuding from Bogart, Gable, Cagney, Robinson, Pacino and DeNiro. I know it's not fair to say since they are actors playing a role, but equally so it isn't fair to be held up against the bathing beauties in "Sports Illustrated." As men use Super Models and Playboy Bunny’s to gauge the ideal woman.

But this isn't a retaliation for a society of impossible standards for the beautification of women. This isn't about appearances whatsoever---it's about character. There's something to say about the confidence in a mans ability to sweep you off your feet…and if only they knew how simple it was to do. In my life it’s only happened once. It was while I was at a friends house-party eyeing this thirty-something gentleman for hours. Flirting upon his leaving, I asked him for a kiss goodbye. He took me in his arms and dipped me backwards to the floor. I held onto him as I fell within inches of the hard wood. He pecked my cheek. I felt extremely girlish and giddy as I was enveloped in his manliness, his quiet strength, his confidence. I relinquished myself to him, trusting he would protect me and not drop me. In his spontaneous response to my request, I was taken by his sweeping goodbye---he could of effortlessly captured my heart, with a simple dip. I never saw him again and I hear he now lives in Singapore. It was his gallant goodbye I'll never forget.

During an uptown ride on a local Manhattan transit bus to Lincoln Center, I noticed a subordinate interaction occurring between an older woman and her white-haired fifty-something husband, boyfriend or maybe even son. When they stepped on the bus she sat in the front seat available for the elderly and handicapped. He sat beside her, as one would when out with another. I sat alone in a seat beside them. Repeatedly, she said to him, "Sit there, sit there," as she pointed to the vacant seat next to me. At first he didn't budge. After another command, "Sit there," he moved.

I watched this interaction with a critical eye then spouted, "Can't he sit where he wants to?" Flustered with my apparent intrusiveness she retorted, "I thought he'd be more comfortable if he sat there." I thought to myself, ‘Well why didn't you suggest it that way. And how do you know what's more comfortable for him?" I waited for her to make another remark to "mind my business" so I could add another four-cents and tell her, "Mothers, wives and girlfriends have done a nice job over the years at castrating the American male. And being a part of the single female population I have to contend with 80 percent of the heterosexual male population being afraid of women."

I don't understand why mothers want to raise their sons to fear women instead of respecting and honoring them. The girlfriends and wives take the reins from the mother and continue "whipping" the man, pulling back on the bit, keeping his blinders on so the man doesn't fall out of line or stray. A man is a wild horse, unbridled with a beautiful inherent power, strong, with a sleek, raw, bountiful energy. The woman throws a saddle on his back at an early age and rides him until she breaks him. After he relinquishes his innate, masculine power he has opted for a life saddled, running circles in a corral.

Women have for whatever reason repressed the essential male desire to live his potential as a capable, confident, fearless stallion. The God-given beauty only men possess is cloaked with the ashes of fear and doubt. As he is not being who he was born to be. This is a calling out to all women---let our men run peaceful and free. We need them to be the men God intended them to be, the caretaker of our hearts, the passion of our Spirits, and the lovely manliness that quenches and nourishes our Soul.

Because of the American society's rearing practices between son's and mother's. Father's unfortunately take a back seat to this ritual. And if they themselves fear women, the fear is simply passed down through the generations. Ultimately giving us a homogenized version of man, created by woman. As women we need to support our men and reassure them that we are nothing to fear. That we need their manliness, their power, their strength, their warmth, their protection, their support, their logic, their courage, bravery and their intelligence…mainly, their love. For without it, a woman would merely be a wo_ _ _. And man would be---extinct.

Originally written July 21, 2001

Copyright, R. B. STUART All Rights Reserved. No reproduction of this blog in any form.

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14 June 2007


Part Three

While attending The Marymount Manhattan Writers Conference in June 2001, 16 months after resigning from my clients to pursue a long held dream of being a writer. I never thought I was intelligent enough to write, never mind a book. Since I didn’t have the formal training; whether creative writing, English-Lit or journalism, nor read the works of the greats…the classics. Although, I was an avid reader, had written poetry since I was a child, horded pens and paper, wrote letters, journals and collected books. I had a couple of book ideas tumbling around my head, and attempted to write a few chapters and outlines in my 20’s. But when I set out to write a 400-page memoir, I didn’t know how to use a computer.

But all those limiting thoughts couldn’t stand up against my determination and will to do it now or never. The desire to live my passions and the age of 40 was the catalyst, as the milestone was only months away. So in 2000 my sister Dawn, sent me her 1993 Toshiba laptop, with its black and white screen, parallel port, floppy drive and printer. Ignorant to the depreciated value of electronics, in return I gave her $1,000. And for the next year she would become my telephone technical support advisor…. teaching me long distance, how to manipulate the robot sitting between my legs.

I studied the trades on writing and publishing, and one suggestion resonated with me, that ‘when you write, each time, you must hit a vein.’ As a novice to writing and publishing, I did it all backwards; first I wrote a book, then essays for magazines, then a column for a newspaper. It’s usually done in the reverse order, now the manuscript sits on a shelf cushioned by 100 rejection letters. I went from newspaper columnist to a fluke feature in a national woman’s magazine, back to newspapers, onto E-zine columnist, blogs and magazines. The training has been the work itself, the assignments I blundered my way through, learning what the AP style was, and how word count and clean copy is imperative. The latter an easy task, since I’m bi-anal and OCD…numbers and perfection are counterparts to my breathing.

I had been shopping my manuscript [What Is Your Soul Worth? The Challenges of A Woman Trying to Save Her Spirit and Ultimately Her Soul] around Manhattan when I discovered Marymount was having their annual writers conference, so I asked to volunteer. Marymount’s director of creative writing, Lewis Burke Frumkes said after taking a look at my work, “You can teach writing, but you can’t teach talent…and kid you have talent. You put this manuscript together all on your own…you’re one smart cookie.” It was just the stroking I needed as a young writer, and he allowed me to assist them at the conference.

In the auditorium, before a panel of professional writers, literary agents and authors, a young woman stood after the lecture to ask a question: “I'm 24, work two jobs and don't have the time to write. So how do I go about writing, if I can't find the time?” The panel of authors replied, “If you want to write you have to sit down and make time everyday.”

During the last twenty years when I only dreamed about writing a book. I became desperate to write and be heard, so I wrote complaint letters to CEO”s and Editor’s In Chief. At certain moments in my life, great inspirations would mount bringing forth an outline to several books. Each time they were propelled by unusual and meaningful life experiences. I must say, that as the young girl asking the question about finding the time. I not only didn't have the time and dedication, but most importantly, the time wasn't right. I hadn't ripened yet as a writer. When I did, dedicating myself to the totally consuming and solitary craft of writing was effortless. I found the time after twenty years, because the timing was right.

Miraculously, all the experiences and words I absorbed until that point imploded onto the page. Words that never linger in my mind during conversations---peeled from my fingertips as if flipping through a deck of playing cards. Without thought or knowing the exact meaning of the word, it somehow fit. As if it knew where it was suppose to go in each page and chapter. In the interim, I trusted the flow of consciousness and wrote what was triggered by a memory reel or emotion. Having never been able to communicate emotionally, the words, sentences and paragraphs brought prose to my hidden suffering and antiquated pain, that I'd been unable to articulate. Applying written words to the emotions gave me the courage and verbal intelligence to communicate--- accurately expressing my thoughts, ideas and emotions.

I could feel the words and sentences gathering in my mind, fermenting. Too premature to write, I sensed them being suspended until the opportune time---then unleashing them into my vessel. I searched lifetimes for the vessel to hold my repressed love, sorrow and pain. I always thought it was in the form of a man. Much to my surprise while hovering over the laptop rewriting my past, it was the book I was searching for, the pages of my life, my memoirs.

The paper was my vessel. I poured all the love, sorrow, regrets and heartache into it. It was strong enough to handle the abundance of painful words. In its silence it effortlessly absorbed the overflow of what I could no longer contain. Unconditionally accepting everything I offered. The paper remained unfettered by the stream of consciousness no matter how light or dark. Bending backwards and sideways for me as my body contorted with memories. All the while maintaining an un-bias stance of my prose. Watching my pen tickle across the lines of the page. Never changing its form or color. The vessel is the holder of my passions. And what I poured out, in its own way pours back into the Self in the form of self-expression, self-awareness, acceptance, understanding, accomplishment and unconditional love for who I am, the writer; a vessel for my Soul.

So after the conference, I ran into eight time author, Malachy McCourt [A Monk Swimming & Singing My Him Song], he was teaching a workshop. When I saddled up to him in the corridor I told him my inferior thoughts on writing. I was elated when he affirmed, “All writers have those fears. I too felt I wasn’t intelligent enough to write a book. Since I didn’t have the proper education.” He then invited me to sit in on his memoir writing class.

Norman Mailer, whom I met Labor Day weekend of 1986 in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and became pen pals. Corresponding for 14 years, I looked at him in an endearingly paternal way, since my own father had died when I was six. I longed for a wise, strong, male elder to comfort and guide me through my reckless life. I grabbed the crumbs I could from him, by sifting through his brief letters of encouragement.

When I turned onto another fork of the road at 40 to become a writer, I solicited Norman as a mentor for advice, he wrote back, “If you’re starting to write don’t think of agents or editors for the first five years. Think about learning how to write, read good writers, take classes in writing. Darling, learning to write well is as difficult as learning to play the piano well. But it can be done.”

I ignored his words of wisdom for I couldn’t abate the storm of memories, words, and chapters rushing into my mind. And wrote the 120,000 word manuscript, “What Is Your Soul Worth?” The Challenges Of A Woman Trying to Save Her Spirit and Ultimately Her Soul, in 15 months.

In 2005 at my five-year mark, I realized in an unconventional way, I had spent that time studying and learning how to write. After the book I began writing essay’s and pitching them to NY editors. My first, “Rescuing My Mother---Myself,” I used here as my first post. Was sent to Harper’s Magazine legendary EIC, Lewis Lapham, and was returned to me with a personal rejection letter from him, “As much as I enjoyed reading “Rescuing My Mother---Myself,” I can’t find a place for the text in Harper’s Magazine. I wish I could send more welcome news…and I send this with reluctance, admiration and regret.” His words welled my eyes….as I sensed I had hit the vein.

Now seven years later, I have over 200 clips in my portfolio; cover features, columns, articles, the NYT, GLAMOUR Magazine….and no longer need to call my sister for tech advice. Last year Norman wrote, “RB, Now that you’re a published author---that’s what I’m going to call you, I think it’s terrific. I know how hard you’ve worked and the disadvantages at which you started and you never gave up, which is the mark of somebody who’s going to become a writer and a good one.”

He continued, “If I have one bit of advice for you it’s not to level off. Now that you’ve moved on and gotten into print, enjoy it for a while. Do a few more stories, but don’t level off. The worse thing about leveling off in writing is when it begins to sink after a while. It could end up being tougher than anything you’ve done, even with your life, it could be tougher. But also, it could be the most enjoyable thing you’ve ever done. My best to you, and I mean it.”

In 2005 I relocated to the Hampton’s area to freelance full-time. The toughest aspect thus far is with the newspapers and some start-up magazines in local markets with circulations under 20,000. As ten – twenty cents a word doesn’t pay the rent. Some offer you columns for no pay. Or offer pay at five cents a word. Others will pay a flat fee as a weekly contributing writer, which is equivalent to ten cents a word, but then dance around the check book when it’s time to pay for the work. The publisher, editor, comptroller, bookkeeper play hot potato with the invoice when it’s time to ante up.

As I see it freelance writers aren’t much respected unless it’s a National publication and over 150,000 circulation. Magazines pay more than newspapers, from one – four dollars per word and pay you on time…but you have to sign your rights away with a Work for Hire contract. Publishing appears to be a flaky business, as many editors make promises with doubletalk. Without writers they’d have no pages for adverstisers to run ads on. And the Mast Heads at the top need to remember that. I think the only way to help them treat freelance writers fairly is to form a union…with nominal dues, that will institute our own guidelines that include fair treatment and fair pay.

So my fermentation has froth at the top, I’ve boiled out all the words and have come up with Passion has a price, I’m now $30,000 in credit card debt. And as I’ve lost money, I’ve gained 40 pounds. I may be healthier psychologically, more attuned communicatively…but suffer physically. And still, I haven’t found a vehicle which my “voice” searches for.

So you want to be a writer…..

Originally written July 2001, updated June 10, 2007

Copyright 2001, R. B. STUART, All rights reserved. No reproduction of this blog in any form.

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14 May 2007

"OBSESSION (and I don't mean the perfume)"

Part Two

Over the years I took my idealistic notions of love and romance to such a degree, I'd literally carry on a romantic conversation and fantasy sexual encounters with my latest conquest, in my own mind. In time, the disinterest and endless rejection from my object of affection, would eventually slap me back to reality. That is after I realized my lovely wasn't able to wake-up and smell the obsession. The hope of my desires being returned would ultimately go unfulfilled and the heartwrenching discovery became apparent that once again I latched onto unrequited love.

It wasn't until I was able to detach from my constant longings and talk freely and humorously about them, did I finally perceive that it wasn't normal. That was the day I plucked the Merck Manual (a Physician’s Reference) from my bookshelf and stumbled across a medical term for my neurosis: Schizoid Fantasy. In black and white I read that my symptoms were of a psychological illness. In horror and amusement, I deemed myself mentally ill. The description of this neurotic disorder was: "One who imagines and creates fantasy relationships in order to avoid loneliness." Loneliness? I never considered myself as lonely. I'd always perceived myself as an extrovert since I am extremely social, optimistic and carry an organic sense of humor and joy in my heart.

Seven months later and still in denial, feeling locked in extreme sadness and depression. A friend sensed in my voice that something was wrong. Over the telephone I shared with him my lowly thoughts. He replied, "Darling, you're lonely." I am? I thought as a dam of tears burst forth. We hung-up. While laying in the hammock of my loneliness I cried uncontrollably for quiet some time. I reached for my journal to write what I was uncovering. I wrote about the empty loneliness I felt.

It was then I observed my own mind, it wasn't cluttered with the obsessive thoughts of a man. The fantasy obsessions were for many years a distraction for the lack of a man ----the void of love in my life. Without the daily pining over a man, whom didn't want me I was finally alone with the emptiness of my own heart and mind. Strung along with it was my dejected spirit and negative feelings of self-worth and unattractiveness. The more I scribed and reflected, I began to put the pieces of my emotional and psychological puzzle together.

I had many fictional relationships begin and end in my mind. Each ending was as traumatic as in real life. Aware of my regrets and my mistakes, with each termination I learned more about myself. I'd joke with my siblings that I was the only person to have relationships in my mind, causing infliction upon myself and learning from it without ever touching or involving the other person. Saving myself from a partner with unsuspecting sexual dysfunction's or diseases, pregnancy or the dreaded, awkward confrontation of clearing out your clothes or his, and asking for the return of apartment keys. My way was less messy. There was only one hurt partner. One side of the story. And after I woke from my hypnotic obsession, I'd wonder what I ever saw in him anyway.

It wasn't until 2000 while writing my memoirs did the emotional eruption clear the dead wood hanging around the attic of my heart and mind. It had been gaining momentum with each memory unleashed and relived. In order to write about it I had to re-experience it. During a moment of being stuck in a deep fog of emotional pain from the past. I came to realize while walking through the fire---that somewhere along the way I stopped needing people. The endings of important relationships, the loss, the deaths stacked upon one another until I closed my heart and stopped needing and loving others. In the interim it was safer to fantasize relationships. Ending a fictional relationship was still hurtful for my young heart, but less permanent. The obsession was created as a need to not feel any more pain or loss, I was already filled to capacity and needed to empty.

The vessel I searched my lifetime for, to pour my love and adoration into, wasn't a man after all. I mislead my heart in a continual quest for "the one" who could handle such powerful love and devotion. The prose tumbled around my heart while I waited for him. I had so much to share with this creature, where is he?

The years of suppressed emotions saddled with the inability to communicate laid dormant no longer. As I hovered over my laptop rewriting the past, the sorrow and pain surfaced. A cluster of tears dripped from my eyes and through them I found my way clearly---the vessel I searched lifetimes for was written in the pages of my life. The paper was my vessel. I poured all the love, sorrow, regrets and heartache into my memoirs; it was strong enough to handle the abundance of painful words. In its silence, effortlessly absorbing the overflow of what I could no longer contain. Unconditionally accepting everything I offered.

The stream of consciousness no matter how light or dark---the paper remained unfettered. Bending backwards and sideways for me as my body contorted with memories. All the while maintaining an un-bias stance of my prose. Watching my pen tickle across the lines of the page---never changing its form or color. This vessel is the holder of my passions. And what I poured out, in its own way pours back into the Self in the form of self-expression, self-awareness, acceptance, understanding, accomplishment and unconditional love for who I am; a vessel for my Soul.
(My new obsession is writing.)

Originally written in 2001.

Copyright 2001 R. B. STUART, All rights reserved. No reproduction of this blog in any form.

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

14 April 2007



Part One

My mother had a stroke several years ago leaving her 70-year old body paralyzed on the left side, and wheel chair bound for the rest of her life. It wasn't until then did I realize how much I loved and cared for her. Our mother/ daughter relationship had an invisible strain for nearly 30 years of my life. And out of the other four daughters she bore (and one son), I was the one she neglected and ignored. I'd often ask myself, "Why doesn't she love me like the others? Is it because I resemble her mother?" Later, when I found the courage to ask, she'd refute the claim. But how does a child reason away the pain of not being unconditionally loved and treated equally by one's parent, their beloved Mother.

In retrospect I have found her stroke to be a blessing, for as it paralyzed her---it also cracked our hearts wide open giving us the ability to finally love each other as never before. Although, it didn't happen immediately. It was during the first year of living life from a seated position; the new form of her physical body was unknowingly ravaging her once active spirit, and casting a shameful shadow over her Soul. For she was now disabled---dependent on others to do what she so effortlessly did for many years.

Years after my father died my mother relocated to a remote New Hampshire town, which she eventually came to adore. She lived alone in a small subsidized one bedroom apartment for the elderly. Her six children all grown, living their lives independently across the 50 States, corresponded regularly by telephone and bi-yearly visits. Her facade of, "I'm doing fine," with each conversation was a lie we'd uncover a year later upon her relapse. Unknowingly she'd spent the year with her new companion the television, and by her side comforting her, a "pet" bowl of chocolates or ice cream. Surviving being shut-in, locked away from life of the healthy taking place outside. A life she so recently participated in herself, only to struggle daily in her new "half-dead" body, as she called it.

So when I received the telephone call from my sister that Mum had a relapse. The Doctor conveyed that she had Congestive Heart Failure and was intubated (oxygen tubes inserted up her nose and down her throat) and in I.C.U. And it would be wise for the family to come at once for her days were numbered. We all dropped our lives and flew home. I was the first to arrive via New York City. My eldest sister from Boston another from Florida, and one from San Diego would arrive the next day.

My mother laid fully tubed, hooked up to oxygen, nutrition and catheter. Drifting in and out of consciousness from the constant Morphine injections to relieve the discomfort caused by the intubation. Her Mothers ring, a ten karat oval Ruby and gold nugget ring had been cut off in the emergency room. Her fingers and body swollen with 60 pounds of weight from the year of sedentary living and poor eating habits. Insulating and anesthetizing her from life as a cripple. The only other time in her life that her rings were cut off was in the delivery room. Seeing her hands discolored with bruises and swollen, tied down to the bed with cloth straps to keep her from pulling the tubes out, still soft to the touch with a motherly air about them.

Once my sister's and aunt arrived, we held daily vigils at the hospital. Watching Mum drift in and out from her drug induced haze. We stayed at my mothers apartment and spent nights shuffling through her personal belongings, claiming some as our own. With our aunts guidance we learned the business of death. We placed an account with The Cremation Society, my baby sister, a Navy chaplain wrote an obituary in preparation for the day Mum would expire.

Between our sobs and fear of losing Mum we rekindled laughter from the joy of everyone except for my brother, home. Crammed together in Mum's apartment, we nestled in bed and found daily amusement from the previous nights bout of manly snoring and flatulence. We were finally able to make light of our foibles and idiosyncrasies acquired in adulthood, even still nuzzling up to one another like a litter of snow white kittens. Feeling the tickle of my sisters hair pressing against my face, the scratch of her toe nails against my calf, the warmth of her breath, her womanly body crowding me like a blanket. We found one another again---in the mist of losing our mother.

One night I came across a grey scrap book. I opened it to find the pages pasted with cards, letters and pictures of me. I was taken aback. Had she loved me all along? Each page was a moment from my life in New York City. Mum began the scrap book in 1989 when I moved from Boston, venturing to the city in lieu of the dream of becoming a Movie Star. How could it be? Why me? I flipped each meticulously glued page pasted with my greeting cards and post cards from over ten years. There it was, years of my life cataloged by the loving hands of my mother. Caressing each page with her hands as she glued them in---spending private hours loving me.

Because of my sour childhood so many years passed with hidden anger and resentment towards her and women---but it all seemed to vanish in between the scrapbook and hospital room. The thoughts of never seeing her again and becoming an orphan loomed overhead. For it was Mum that always brought us home for the holidays. What would happen to us as a unit without her presence? Even though we were all in our thirties and forties, fully grown adults, underneath we were still her children, and as children, still loving and needing their mother.

As the days wore on we lit candles and prayed. The doctor in-charge wanted a conference with us about Mum's health. The discussion brought to light my concerns about the intubation and Morphine. It was impossible to converse with Mum without her eyes rolling back nodding in and out of consciousness. We never knew if she was slipping away into the death state or simply "high." The doctor's only concern was Mum's adamant request of "Do Not Resuscitate" written on her chart. She felt as if Mum was depressed and suicidal. I was appalled at her assumptions, since Mum drilled into us from childhood that she didn't want to be an invalid in a Nursing Home. She'd much rather be in Heaven with her beloved husband and daughter. So we suggested after a certain amount of time we would take her home to die peacefully in her own bed with her children around. The doctor agreed but only after she came off the oxygen and spoke to Mum about her depression, "Do Not Resuscitate," and prescribe her anti-depressants.

As Mum stabilized the doctor slowly weaned her off the oxygen and Morphine. So slow in fact, we had to leave. After seven days we decided to go back to our lives and work---leaving the eldest to remain by Mum's side and in charge. We expected the phone to ring any day. And it did the afternoon we returned. The doctor conveniently removed the tubes the day we left and started her on anti-depressants. The doctor said, "Besides your mothers throat and nostrils being sore, she's sitting up eating ice cream recuperating. I asked her about the resuscitation and she insisted she didn't want it." Without saying I told you so to the doctor who claimed to know my mother better then me. I took satisfaction in my mothers flat out refusal even on anti-depressants to stand her moral ground. Unknowingly my mother remained on the mood elevators and the depression symptoms the doctor perceived, were scribed in her medical records.

When my sister told Mum of the week long vigil she was barely able to grasp it, as if she woke from a dream. Within a week Mum was transferred to a Rehabilitation Center for three months of rehab. My sister went back to her life in Boston. During her days at the rehab her new doctor followed the previous doctor's notes and continued to treat Mum as depressed. Adding anti-anxiety pills to help her with they believed was nervousness, my mother like Edith Bunker was naturally dramatic, high strung and a worrier, it was nothing new from the stroke or relapse. Adding a pill at night to help her sleep, one more for her leg cramps, another because she felt itchy. The doctor's provided a Band-Aid treatment of pills to soothe her every complaint. By the time Mum was discharged she was up to 22 pills a day. The new and unnecessary ones would within weeks and months become so toxic, she would be ready for a Nursing Home.

They discharged her under the condition that my sister be there 24 hours a day. My sister had the time and the experience to handle such a request and it was during that period did she observed my mothers physical and mental decline. Not only did Mum return home wearing diapers but a new host of fears had been instilled: from the fear of wetting the bed, to choking, falling, drowning in the tub and rolling off the bed. She could only swallow pills if they were crushed and smothered in apple sauce, she now needed a straw to drink, her food had to be cut into baby size portions. These new crutches had developed while she was in the hospital and inrehab.

It was after my sister witnessed Mum looking out of the window in July at the snow. Then telling my sister to be quiet so she didn't wake the baby sleeping on the couch. At another time asking when the kids were coming home for supper. She'd ask my sister if she was going shopping at "Spags," a store Mum shopped at 30 years before when we lived in Massachusetts. My sister asked her where she lived. Mum replied with the address in Massachusetts, the house we were raised in. My sister realized something was gravely wrong and relayed these conversations to me. In turn I quizzed Mum by phone where she failed terribly. With the instances mounting we began to believe Mum had finally developed Alzheimer’s, just as her mother had.

With Mum's physical energy and mind deteriorating, my sister advised more rehab. After a family conference and with her doctor's referral we placed her in another rehab with a nursing facility attached. Mum was leery with our request since it was a rehab wing of a nursing home. But we insisted she need a few more weeks of strengthening. She complied. Her medical records were requested from the hospital and former rehab to the new one where she would be assigned another team of doctor's. She was doing great until they gave her a T.B. test which catapulted her into bed with vomiting and diarrhea. Further weakening her and setting back her progress. When I spoke to the doctor in-charge he started spouting off to me my mothers angst and nervous behavior. I insisted it was her nature, he disagreed. Adding that he prescribed other anti-anxiety pills and increased the milligrams to her sleeping pills. I requested that they be discontinued. He stated she would need to be weaned off them gradually. When we hung up my mind started to click.

I called the nurse in-charge and asked her for the list of Mum's daily pill intake. When I scribed the 25 pills I was aghast to find her on the same pills I took recreationally 10 years before. I wondered, "Are Mum's hallucinations, excessive fears, sleeplessness, itching and dry mouth caused by the cocktail of pharmaceuticals she's on?" I walked to my book case and plucked the P.D.R. (Physician’s Desk Reference that doctor's are suppose to use when prescribing drugs) off the shelf and sat down for hours reading and cross referencing the adverse side effects, precautions and overdose symptoms from the pharmaceuticals Mum was ingesting willingly, every day. The more I read the more it was apparent, that her symptoms were in fact drug induced and not physical, emotional or psychological. I was irate, overwhelmed and on a crusade to rescue my mother from the unsuspecting hands of the trusted men and women in white.

Of course no one would listen to the hysterical daughter calling from New York. Not my sister's, the doctor, nurses, or social worker. Everyone was in agreement that she was never going to recover and I must accept it. Their recommendation was that she be placed there permanently. I defied and was desperately out of control, a wild horse kicking and bucking at the corral of limited thinking that was penning me in. As they tried to rip my mother from my arms, I clutched tighter. For this was the only mother I will ever have. I pleaded, "We cannot ignore her ingrained wishes of never being committed to a Nursing Home. As her children we owe her that." I whaled, cursed and sobbed over the telephone to these people in authority over my mothers life.

It wasn't until I convinced my brother, then my sister in Florida who was Mum's Power of Attorney, that it was the drugs and NOT Mum. They gave me the reins to do as I see fit. I knew we needed legal advice so I called New Hampshire Social Services, the Ombudsman’s office, Legal Aid for the Elderly and lastly the hospital where her personal doctor's worked and the reputable rehabilitation facility she graduated from on her initial stroke, C.M.C. I passionately pleaded for their assistance and discovered my case wasn't uncommon. With legal support, an appointment scheduled with the Director of Rehabilitation, my backbone in place I hatched a plan: I would fly there have her sign out A.M.A. (Against Medical Approval), get her off the mind altering drugs and take her to the director for an evaluation. It had to be done clandestine without Mum, the nursing staff, doctor's or social workers knowing. I deliberately withheld the plan from my elder sisters who were in agreement with Mum's nursing home placement.

When I arrived in N.H. I contacted the legal team and planned the next day to execute my capture. At nine the next morning my sister in Florida called Mum to tell her she withdraws as Power of Attorney and to change it to me. And when the doctor comes in tell him your wishes. She then called the doctor in-charge telling him that she is no longer in control, I am. They had created many roadblocks for me since I wasn't the Power of Attorney, at times refusing to speak with me regarding Mum's health. That wouldn't be the case any longer. Their nightmare was realized, I was in charge and in town. At 9:45 A.M. I called the nurses station to tell them I was in town for a visit and wanted to take Mum out for a day pass, to please have her ready. The legal team was standing by in case I had problems, then the big-guns would arrive. The leering eyes from the staff cloaked me as I walked down the corridor. When I entered Mum's room much to my dismay she was still in bed with an oxygen mask on, a nurse by her side. The nurse spoke for my mother telling me she couldn't go because she had trouble breathing this morning and needed to be monitored. Maybe in a few days she'd be better.

The blood coursed through my body as the nurse tried to throw a wrench into my plan. She prompted Mum to take off her mask to tell me the same. I looked at the nurse and asked her for some privacy. Reluctantly, she left the room. I leaned into my mother's face and in a quiet but forceful tone said, "Mum the family knows that I'm here to take you home. But I need you to tell the nurse you want to leave A.M.A." She responded, "But I don't want to leave. Didn't the nurse tell you I need to stay here on oxygen." With a deadly stare I leaned in once more with an ultimatum, "Mum, if you don't leave here with me now, you'll never see me again. Because you'll die in here, they're killing you." Just then she said, "Okay. I'll go." I retrieved the nurse and Mum told her that she wanted to leave A.M.A. The nurse replied, "Are you sure? You know we like having you here." I blurted out, "She already told you she wants to leave A.M.A. How many times does she have to say it!" With that the nurse abruptly turned on her heel and walked out.

I told Mum we were going to the emergency room of the hospital where her doctor's were affiliated and from there we'd go home. I quickly ransacked the drawers and closet, cramming her personal property in the overnighter and plastic bags. The nurse returned with forms for Mum to sign and asked where we were going. My throat tightened, the nervous energy of uncertainty consumed my body. I wondered if they were going to prevent my attempts at saving my mother. Mum replied, "To C.M.C. where my regular doctor's are." The nurse informed that the ambulance will be here to transfer you. Within moments the emergency double doors opened and two E.M.T.'s entered with a stretcher. They took the paper work from the nurse, put in on my mothers lap, hoisted her over to the portable bed and whisked her out the doors into the ambulance. I passed by the nurses station for a copy of her med. sheet.

My strategy was to reassess her medicine with the E.R. doctor and take her off all the unnecessary ones. They of course couldn't locate her chart, claiming it already went downstairs to the archives. I had them copy it from the wall chart. With the scrap of paper in hand I walked down the corridor passing the others parked by the walls, slumped over in wheel chairs, unconscious and over medicated. The last stop before dying, the unfinished lives of the elderly.

I put her clothes in the car trunk, jumped in the front seat and a sense of relief washed over me, I headed for Mum. When I arrived at C.M.C. she was off the oxygen, hooked up to a heart monitor and ordering lunch. The E.R. doctor was running tests and assessing her health. I explained about the excess prescribing of drugs and handed him her medicine list. He shook his head in dismay, "She has Congestive Heart Failure her breathing is already compromised. Some of these pills repress her respiratory system even further. She doesn't need to be on most of them." Finally a doctor who understands. Hours later he said she could go home, there was no need to keep her. He gave me the most pertinent prescriptions, which totaled to four. Four pills from 25, amazing.

In a wheel chair we maneuvered to the parking lot, a waist belt wrapped around her for safety she pivoted into the car. While we drove I explained the course of events that occurred between me and the others. I let her know about the appointment with the director of rehabilitation for an evaluation. In hopes drug free, she'd be a good candidate for their program. She was astonished at all the goings on. I turned to ask, "Mum why were you so reluctant to come with me?" Frankly she replied, "I thought "you" Bitches were trying to commit me to a Nursing Home. Because I knew I was a Bitch to you children growing up." I was dumbfounded and saddened by her candid insightful remark. Because after years of ridicule she finally admitted she wasn't a very good parent. Even though, how could a mother think her children would act in any other way then with love and compassion to the woman who bore them? It saddened me to think she truly believed we harbored such larceny in our hearts for her. She muttered, "I was so stupid to think that." My sentiments exactly.

In actuality I think it was me she couldn't fathom having such love and empathy for her. Why me, out of all of her favorites would be so unstoppable when it came to her health and welfare? The child whom she treated like the runt, as a female dog does when she pushes the less then perfect puppy to the side, my mother thumbed her nose to me time and time again, year after year. The one she couldn't find a crumb of love for would reach back 39 years later to rescue her with an open, loving and forgiving heart. Which gave us a second chance at living and loving each other fully. And all because she laid at the crossroads of death and dying, she has been reborn as my loving and accepting mother and I---as her devoted daughter.

It has been almost two years since her relapse occurred. Days after I discontinued the unnecessary pills, Mum was taken off the diapers and she was back to swallowing pills with her beloved O.J. Her hallucinations ended, the idiotic fears lessened and her memory, mind and sense of humor returned. Mum drug-free, went through the 10-day evaluation at C.M.C. with such promise, the director extended her program for another four weeks. In the interim I fired off a complaint letter to her social workers manager, discharging her from the case. Terminated her contract with the Home Health Care Agency who in agreement with everybody else, believed Mum was dying and incapable of being home alone.

Due to negligent accusations against her former Internist, her Doctor of 8 years resigned from her case in fear of a law suit. I replaced her with another Internist who is aware of our over-medicated concerns and I stay involved to be certain she practices conservative medicine with my mother. Of course Mum didn't take any of this lightly, she resented my taking charge of her life. But after she witnessed that she was able to return home and live independently with only a few hours of assistance a week. Her dismay was quickly replaced with happiness to have a second chance at life. As her body and mind strengthened from the rehab, she was more confident in her own capabilities and in turn began trusting me.

It is understood throughout the family and her dealings with governmental agencies that I be included on any and all decisions. As her health was a mess, so were her finances. So I am now as she calls it, "her secretary." And assist her with all financial transactions. It may seem like a lot of work, but it's not. Getting it all in place was the most difficult, but now two years later all I have to do is maintain organization of her affairs.

We are closer than ever as mother and daughter, friends, client and assistant, drill sergeant and subordinate. But we do it joyfully, lovingly. She no longer sits in front of the television eating chocolates. She realizes how far she's come and doesn't want to lose what we take for granted every day: independence and health. And when I do catch her in a white lie, and she's getting lazy with her exercises one remark always seems to work, "Well Mum, you could always go into a Nursing Home."

I would have never known that the time spent with my sister drugging and partying would have played a significant part of my life 15 years later. Though my sister, a drug addict and I.V. drug user died from AIDS in 1987, I had come to learn a lot about drugs. In my 20's I had a pharmacists wall drug chart with the names and pictures of significant drugs. It was cool to have I thought, then eventually a P.D.R., which proved to be invaluable.

I have researched medicines for family and friends, finding drug interactions and adverse side affects unbeknownst to their doctors. I believe that most doctors treat the elderly especially, with numerous unneeded drugs that will sooner or later put them in nursing homes. All because they give prescriptions out like candy instead of taking the time to find out what the root of the problem really is. A whole new set of symptoms are created just by taking a couple of unnecessary pills. And if the person complains too much, then sleeping pills, anti-anxiety or anti-depressants are added as a Band-Aid only making matters worse. Before you know it your mother or father appears to be more frightened and forgetful than usual and has shown symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Starts wetting the bed and can't remember their address or even what day it is. Usually at this point the unsuspecting and unknowledgeable children of these elderly people are faced with the fact that their parent may be dying.

The doctor's confirm these thoughts and fears suggesting other living arrangements. Finally, when at these crossroads with a loved one do we start to take interest in their life. If some of you are able and lucky enough, with great effort, to become an activist for their health and welfare; then what you will find with the right research will be astounding. For you will have uncovered like Sherlock Holmes, a pattern and a list of new found reasons for those symptoms that your parent is displaying. You discover it's the drugs that they take faithfully with no questions asked. Why should they doubt the authority of their revered doctor. For without them where would they be? If you are able to intervene, while your parent is still living independently. Whether via phone, fax or letter, long distance or local, your efforts will be successful and your parents can remain as before--living at home.

Once the "unnecessary" drugs are discontinued the previous symptoms will disappear. Believe me once you start corresponding with the doctor with some cold hard facts. They will graciously aid you and will continue being on their toes as they assist with the health care of your parent. If they resent that you are intervening and try to turn your parent against you, then consider threatening the doctor with a Malpractice lawsuit and they will conveniently resign from the case.

Your parent may be angry with you for interfering in their life and ruining the relations with their adored doctor. Once you show them the proof of why they weren't "acting" like themself, and the next recourse for you is to commit them to a nursing home. Then in a short period of time they will come to their senses (that is after the mind-altering drugs are stopped with a doctors knowledge and assistance). As long as you allow them to choose another doctor on their own and make it clear to the new doctor that you will remain involved, but in the background. There shouldn't be any protest from the new doctor as to your requirements for "conservative" practices. Any further medications should be discussed at length with you and your parent, so as not to produce the same results as the subsequent colleagues had done with their lack of good judgment.

We are raised in this culture not to question our Medical Practioners, as if they were some sacred or holy figure incapable of being careless or making misjudgments. The majority of the time the Medical Industry answers to no one but themselves. Unless of course you are fortunate enough to be financially independent and are able through the courts to fight for your rights. But most of us are not that financially able nor are medically astute and the Medical Industry knows that. Therefore we must believe and trust in ourselves first and foremost and ask them many questions no matter how idiotic they sound, for it is our life or a loved ones at stake. Ask questions NOW while you and they are still alive. Because if anything should happen, believe me you will track them down and you will be asking: Why? How could you? What happened? By then my friend, it will be much too late.

This elderly person is not some disposable old woman or man or merely a case number, they are someone's sister or brother, your father, my Mother. They are not orphan's alone in the world, left in the hands of the Medical Industry to do as they wish, with nobody to answer to. Too many of our parents and grandparents are sentenced away to nursing homes, as they wait to die. They are the only parents we will ever have and it is up to us as their children to care for them as much as possible.

For in the not too distant future we will grow old and the children we had will have gone to live their own lives and we will be faced with the same uncertainties. To live at home or wait to die while in a nursing home? Hopefully with Gods grace we will all be spared and die at home in our own bed, amidst the dreams of our children as they laugh and play before your eyes, as if just yesterday, and old age was, far...far...away.

Originally written in July 2001.

Copyright 2001, R. B. Stuart. All rights reserved. No reproduction of this blog in any form.

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape