dear friendlies…final

It was only one month ago I wrote part two of this series thinking it to be the last. I mark this one final -a somewhat hopeful plea for 2020.

Today, I got a call from my sister who had been contacted by the care center where our mother resides telling us that she had passed away this morning. The duty nurse last saw her at 3 am when she popped her head out of her doorway and into the hall. The nurse says she told her that it wasn’t yet time to get up and mom dutifully went back to bed, where she was found having passed away in her sleep later in the morning. I can just picture her popping her head out-Hey I’m here! Perhaps she just wanted to say a final goodbye.

My mother’s story is a long and complicated one. Her life was made more arduous by a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia as a young woman in the early 60’s. I have written variously of it over the years and some of you have corresponded privately with me on the ravages that mental illness has taken in your own families. I always say that we were fairly spared the worst that it can be. She was taken in and committed to a mental institution around 1960. I can remember the day, though I was only 4 at the time. Sister was only 2, her memories of mom less clear. An ambulance arrived, mommy was escorted to the car. We were crying-we didn’t really know what it meant except that we were told she was not well. There had been instances that even as a 4 year old, I was able to discern as signs that things were not normal in our house. Apparently, it came to a point where my dad was forced to have her committed for everyone’s safety, including her own. Fortunately, in those days, there was a place for those suffering from mental illness to be housed, to get treatment, and to be safe. We were able to visit occasionally on weekends when “she was doing ok”. I recall there was a lovely garden that we would walk in during our visits. She was there for 10 years. Mental institutions at that time were known for their experimental and sometimes abusive treatment of patients. Not everyone came out the other side, she was fortunate. We never knew what she may have endured nor did she ever want to speak about her experience there.
In the intererum, my dad remarried, we gained 4 siblings, a stepmother and moved to Japan in 1965.
Upon her release into a halfway house, we had returned for a visit to the US and had a short supervised visit with her. Details I can clearly remember from that day were that she made us round ice cubes and put them in our milk. Other things from that visit blur. She had written to us at least weekly since 1965. So here she was, the woman behind the letters (always signed, “Your Very Own Loving Mother, Sharon L Carter”) in the flesh! I somewhat viewed her as a curiosity during this visit. She was not “cured” of course, just transitioning. Later during that same US visit at a friend’s house, we watched the first moon landing on TV. It was 1969. And, I was 11.
Then, back to Japan we went!

Upon returning from Japan in 1972, we passed through California and had a short visit with her in the main public square in Chico ,where she had moved to live with her mother, our Nana. Again, after reams of letters since the last meet-up, here she was again, in the park, in the flesh. Our mom, doing ok, having transitioned into small town life with her mother to look over her. She had made it through the institutional system with her health intact, her mental well being improved and a growing ability to operate within society given her subdued mental illness. I was 14 and wasn’t quite sure what to think. Mind you, we were just returning to the US after having lived in Japan since 1965. Everything was unusual to us at the time. After about an hour or two visit- we were off again-this time to Virginia!
After a stint in Virginia, it was 1975 and back to California where I stayed, ending up at UC Davis which was close enough to Chico to afford myself weekend visits to see both my Nana and mother. By this time I had read a number of books on mental illness (favorite was The Eden Express by Mark Vonnegut), I’d seen One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and had volunteered to work with UCD students who had mental illness, lived on campus and were attending college. I was a bit more aware of what she had gone through this time around. I was 17. Yet still, she was a stranger to me really and over the next 50 years of long distance communications and more frequent visits I got to know her a bit. As those who have paranoid schizophrenics in their lives know, they never really trust which proved very difficult as she aged, needed help, and couldn’t accept it.
She was able to live on her own after her mother passed away. She worked in a warehouse, cleaned houses for extra pocket money, acted as a personal aid to an elderly woman and long time friend of her mother’s, volunteered as a Foster Grandparent for the Chico schools, and went every year to Bidwell Park with her binoculars to participate in Audubon’s Great Backyard Bird Count. She had a BA in Education from Chico State and taught elementary school for a brief time before she married and had children. The Foster Grandparent program was really a pleasure for her. Plus she enjoyed the free lunches!
Over time however, as is often the case with schizophrenia, hoarding becomes an issue. Such was the case for Sharon and especially so once Nana was no longer there to keep a lid on it. My sister and I dealt with it numerous times, clearing out her house completely after having it declared uninhabitable. Eventually it became clear that she was unable to continue living on her own and we found a path forward to having her conserved and placed in a locked care unit. She was safe, cared for, and still loved from afar. Every phone conversation I had with her over the past several years since she was moved, ended with her telling me that she was “getting out of here tomorrow”. She told me she had a new cat and even a dog! (she thought) waiting for her, not sure where she gotten it from though. Ha!
She would have been 90 in January- well past the expected lifespan of those diagnosed with schizophrenia early on in their lives. She was remarkably persistent, smart, independent and she was,
-our very own loving mother.
Sharon L. Carter
passed in peace November 9, 2020


past entries… there are probably more

https://shiborigirl.wordpress.com/2010/05/08/the-moms-in-our-lives/

https://shiborigirl.wordpress.com/2010/11/15/moonwalking-read-at-your-own-risk/

https://shiborigirl.wordpress.com/2010/11/21/and-so-it-goes/

https://shiborigirl.wordpress.com/2010/12/02/feeling-the-warmth/

46 thoughts on “dear friendlies…final

  1. Betty Eilat

    So so sorry for your loss… It is not easy to grow up without your own mom, not understanding what was happening until later in life. I know mental illness from my family and I understand your mom was a strong woman after all she’s been through. Not an easy life. Passing away in her sleep, this is how my mom went… May she rest in peace. Betty.

    http://www.bettyeilat.com

    Liked by 1 person

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  2. Morna Crites-Moore

    Glennis – You write so beautifully of your mother and your life. The relationship with our mother is complicated for so many of us and in so many different ways. I feel for your Mother and for you and your loss, including the losses that marked your relationship for years before your mother passed on. Life is beautiful, and bittersweet. xo

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  3. Vickie Clontz

    What an interesting life you have led, and I”m so very sorry for the loss of your mom. I see your resemblance to her, a beautiful lady! I’ll be praying for you and your sis in the days to come, wishing you all the best.

    Liked by 1 person

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  4. taichi2012

    What a long road–with your mom. My adopted step-son is schizophrenic ( his birth mother was also). Hard life–he is so sweet (age 52 now) but is barely coping.
    Blessings to you and your sister and your mother–who always loved you–but just couldn’t live in this world happily. Janet

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. shiborigirl Post author

      Thanks Janet. What an arduous road for him. I hope his symptoms fade with time and life gets easier for him soon. If one does not have a strong advocate it’s very difficult. We had to trick the system many times.

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  5. lucille fukuda

    Thank you for telling your story.  It was very moving.I never purchased any of your moons or moon cards.  Is it still possible to do so? How can I maintain contact with you? Thank-you,Lucille Fukuda

    Liked by 1 person

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  6. Kathy (Bennion) Mills

    Dear Glennis,
    Wow! You went thru this at a much earlier age than I did. I was at the opposite end of this illness. My first husband got I’ll just s few days after Valentine’s day in 1991. It was very scary what with four children under the age of 9.5 years of age. Youngest wasn’t even 1 y/o yet.
    It was beyond my comprehension. I only knew that I wanted him home. Bad choice. Things only ever got much worse after that.

    The police were frequently called. Always handcuffed and put in the police car. I could write a book about it but I won’t. One thing I will share with you is that I used to sleep with a knife between my mattress and box springs. I was petrified because of the things coming out of his mouth.

    I survived and after 7 breakdowns I finally called it quits. There was no reason to stay married to a man I almost think I never really loved (17.5 years of marriage).

    One of the couple of straws that broke the camel’s back was my second oldest (15 y/o at the time asked me, ‘mom when are you going to leave dad?’ And I thought everyone wanted me to stay!

    Well Glennis, so I am sad to learn of your loss. Your mom is now no longer afflicted by this disease. I am so happy for her! She is free from all suffering at long last. She is resting in peace.

    Kathy

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    1. shiborigirl Post author

      Kathy- I’m sorry for what you went through. It’s never easy extracting oneself from that kind of situation-hoping perhaps that it will change. With children the decision becomes more complicated-maybe easier in some situations. My dad did the right thing at the time. I think it started to become scarier for him to go to work in the morning and leave us in her care, not knowing what to expect when he returned home. That made the decision much easier for him, thankfully. That and he was the breadwinner in the family since my mom did not work at that time. As the stay at home mom that maybe you were at the time, that was a scarier proposition.
      I’m glad you were able to leave and preserve yours and your children’s safety and sanity in the difficult process.

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    1. shiborigirl Post author

      fortunately and interestingly, she seemed at peace most of her life since she never saw herself as ill. and we are fine. glad she was such a model of health until her quick passing.

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  7. BarbFox

    My deepest sympathy to you as you remember your mom. May those memories be what is needed during this time. Peace and comfort to you.

    Warm regards, Barbara Fox

    >

    Liked by 1 person

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  8. Tobie

    Condolences to you and your family. My mother was also institutionalized for mental illness. She suffered from depression for most of her life. It’s so hard to grow up with that in your home.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  9. Carol Tummon

    So very sorry to hear of your mother passing away. I hope that despite the very difficult times your mum had she did enjoy that part of life that she was able to. Long distance hugs to both you and your sister.

    Liked by 1 person

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  10. Margaret S Mills

    Thank you Glennis for writing about your relationship with your Mother Sharon and how it evolved over both her lifetime and yours. Reading your tribute allows me to understand my attraction to Shibori and indigo dyeing as my Mother was a wonderful folk artist. And it is in
    her honor that I pursue the pleasure art brings to life.

    Liked by 1 person

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