Excerpt 32

I had been waiting for THE EMERGENCY for years. I had predicted that only a crisis would make it possible for me to move her out of her home and into an assisted- living facility.

When I entered her house– with the help of her lawyer (because she refused to give me a key; I might steal something!—and I was afraid that she would sue me)– I was horrified.

The walls were lined with empty half-gallon plastic jugs of cheap Scotch. The handle of each jug was precisely pointed to the right. Even in the throes of alcoholism and dementia, my mother’s obsessive-compulsive nature reigned.

Cigarette butts covered the once beautiful parquet floor in the hallway that I had frequently polished on my hands and knees when I was a child, as she glowered above me like the Colossus of Rhodes. Large black garbage bags filled every room; she never took the garbage out. But each bag was meticulously tied at the top with string. Stains in the shape of inchoate embryos covered the wooden floor and bedroom carpets upstairs. She was incontinent and had urinated everywhere. All of the toilets were stopped up and overflowing with shit. She had been using plastic buckets, which were never emptied.

The kitchen appliances were almost black with filth; the dishwasher had not been used for more than a decade. The rubber and plastic inside of it had disintegrated like the yellowed pages from an ancient library book.

Excerpt 31

[music: Albinoni’s Adagio]

As a teenager, I desperately tried to be perfect to earn my parents’ love.

I became a very devout Episcopalian and prayed repeatedly, “Dear God, Please make me as perfect as is humanly possible.”

Then, I would make a mistake, according to the rules that I had created for myself,  and would repeat the Dear God mantra over and over.

If I were perfect, then maybe they would love me.


 Nancy never told me anything about boys or sex.

Without any explanation, one night she dropped off a classmate  and me in front of a movie theater….

Albert Finney in the role of  Tom Jones cinematically introduced me to carnal pleasures.


Come to think of it…just about everything I knew about life as a young girl, I learned at the movies.