Let me say this- I have and will always have great admiration and love for my mom. She did the best she knew how. She was terribly abused as a child and with a great innate talent from an early age, along with a stunning physical beauty that would gradually take hold, and an extraordinary sudden 'dream's-do-come-true' for her early in life... would all would mix for a grand dichotomy of passion and tragedy which is heretofore hard to explain...much less for me to understand.
I as well, do the best that I can.
It was the late spring of 1996 and my mother was increasingly having trouble with "life on life’s terms." Self-medicating-over medicating-over drinking…falling down stairs, falling on knives, 911 telephone tag, An increasing and obvious carousel of self-sabotage that she increasing played very well.
I was three thousand miles away and the only one she had left except for the fan or two who would always come out of the woodwork...which there were still many that genuinely care for her, helping when they could. Plus, she loved the attention. The Actors Fund of America helped pay her rent for years, would have an overseeing social worker check in with her from time to time and would occasionally help her with a financial stipend when necessity or histrionics demanded. But this year things got worse very fast. Los Angeles Adult Protective Services got involved. Apparently, one of her neighbors reported her to Protective Services, saying that she was causing constant commotion in the building where she lived. As far as my mother was concerned I was the one that reported her and the shit hit the fan....over the phone she could send shivers down my spine from three thousand miles away, she didn't have a dime to stand on. I was a forty something stand up guy that changed his life around but inherently I knew she was right..it was 'all my fault'. So like the good son, with a bunch of Alon-non meetings under his belt, I tried to do "the next right thing."
She fought everyone tooth and nail. That's why I was on the phone with the Actors Fund, Protective Services, the hospitals and at least two nursing homes that she was in and out of....on the phone with these people for hours and hours to ultimately, hopefully get her in the Motion Picture Hospital long term assisted living unit....or any assisted living facility....then maybe she would be at least... "safe." And then maybe I could have...yes selfishly...a little piece of mind. From the outside looking in, denial wrapped in faux dignity was her chronic dilemma at this point.
I had five thousand dollars in savings, it was all that I had...and spent every dime of it that summer going back and forth to California to try and make this happen! She was diagnosed that year with bi-polar disease, depression and alcoholism and I believe also (undiagnosed) with a kind of personality disorder that enveloped her in fear, self-loathing and a much deeper depression that kept everyone, and I mean everyone at bay except maybe, at one time.... the twenty cats and Barney the dog. We'll get into that later.
My last trip to California, my mother was in a nursing home and about to be released in three days. I stayed in her apartment. I was stunned with finding the copious amounts of memorabilia; boxes and papers and photographs and letters scattered everywhere...all that was left of our sad and tragic tale!
I had expressed my concern for the safety of this material after the return of my mother to her apartment, to her doctor and social worker. They cautioned me that it would be wise for me to get it all shipped back to my home in New York...as soon as possible. That next day, I packed it all up in a box the size of a small dishwasher and shipped it via UPS to my place in NY. I was relieved.
I picked my mother up on the day of her discharge, picked up a couple of sandwiches and headed back to her place. I didn't tell her of my "borrowing" all the memorabilia. I was hoping against hope that she wouldn't notice right away. I was leaving for New York that next day...with an overnight stop with my long lost cousin, to see The Letters, that I had heard so much about.
Mom was thrilled to be back home...the home she fought to stay in. She devoured her sandwich, happily yammered away (we did a 2 hour video interview) and she luckily didn't miss a thing...yet. Didn't notice anything was gone for close to a week. But soon she would find out and then wouldn't talk to me for several months...saving me...for the moment ....a few shivers, at least.