Excerpt 33

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 32


Then the car crash, the close personal encounter with an enormous Mack

truck,  weeks in the hospital,  treatment for internal injuries, and a return to public school.

In the ambulance ride to the hospital, I prayed:  “Dear God, please let me die. Dear God, please let me die.”

He refused to listen.

My survival was a miracle; the Vista Cruiser station wagon was completely demolished.

My parents stopped by daily at the hospital  for about ten minutes on their way to  their restaurant dinner.

The nurse yelled at my mother:  “You are a terrible mother!  You brought nothing from home that your daughter needs—her own pajamas, robe, toothbrush, hairbrush, some books—anything to make her feel better!”

My mother refused my opportunity to speak with a psychiatrist.  She was afraid that I would reveal some of the family secrets.

The gossip. The rumors. My boyfriend dumped me because he wanted to date other girls. My horse died from colic.

My defeat was complete.

My seventeenth year was HELL, and it took its toll on 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.