The Troubled Brain


In this post of The Troubled Brain, I get a bit more personal as to how I dealt with the before and after of Mom’s death. The Dementia Chronicles deals with Mom’s illness, and the caregiving of her, throughout nineteen months of her living with us at our home. This post discusses that time but also goes past, in a way, because it deals with how I remember aspects of those days leading up to her death and those days just after. Therefore, this post deals with my troubled brain instead of others.

The Troubled Brain

The Troubled Brain – Before

I have to tell you I’m writing about this time frame, this before and after a death of someone close to you, as it might function in the novel I’m currently writing. The novel has a working title I’ve coined Moon Spyer. Thank you, Carol for helping me with the title.

About this “before and after” of the troubled brain: There are short periods of time which I remember clearly after Mom’s death. But, if you go about a week past her death, memories have dissipated. I’m sure, if I dare try hypno-therapy the memories will flood back but, at this point in my life, I’m scared to death of jostling those forgotten memories back to life.

The Troubled Brain - Installment 3

I think this is the cutest picture of Mom during her time of passing.

I think about how she was falling–falling and falling throughout the night and early morning. I think about those last few days and how she stopped eating Wednesday before she died the following Monday at 9:30A.

My sister had flown in Friday. It was a snowy December day. Black pavement on the airport driveway shone sloppy against the curb with dirty brown snow buttressing areas where rock salt hadn’t touched. When I pulled in, my sister was already getting her luggage at the end of the drive where they unload bags. Our airport is about the size of a street vendor’s kiosk. I remembering hugging Lizz and when she told me she could stay until everything was said and done, I yelled, “Oh thank God!” Help had been thin with the care of Mom. I can count the days on my hands and feet the number of days someone took over for me. So, hearing that my sister could stay to help through the end of Mom’s life felt like someone had pulled me out of a drowning pool.

The Troubled Brain – During

But back to the troubled brain aspect, I remember the days leading up to and those of the day Mom died. Lizz and I had both gotten only a few hours rest from Friday to Monday morning. I couldn’t eat. Neither of us could do much accept pump Mom full of palliative meds to help Mom pass relatively pain-free. I remember sleeping for maybe three hours after until, once again, my brain shook me to consciousness. I also remember I didn’t cry like when Dad died. I moaned like a sick dog back then. But, for Mom, I was in robot mode. In fact, I had been in robot-mode for nineteen months. Robot-mode was safe. I felt anger and exhaustion but not much else. I was robot. I turned on in the morning and off at night except when I woke in the wee hours to check on Mom, to let all the dogs out, her dog and ours, and to see if she was splattered on the ground somewhere, or if she were dead. I had readied myself for nineteen months to look into Mom’s room and find her body cold and still. So, when she did die? My emotions were set on pause.

The Troubled Brain – After

Then, a week of busy-ness followed. Lizz was still there. She helped with funeral arrangements. Then she left. And after she left, I went home but I don’t remember driving home. Nor, can I remember anything at all until I went to Glenn’s funeral in February, nearly two months later. Glenn was Bob’s uncle. I had to steel my emotions to make it through the service without exploding into one big cry-baby event. Mom had just died. I didn’t want to be there but had to for Bob, for his family.

After the funeral, I remember a select few events in fits and starts–James Rollins’ spot on Dialogue whose father also died of Alzheimer’s and who we talked about before his show. I lashed out at people I love. I sent a stupid email telling people no one was welcome at our house anymore. That if they wanted to visit, they’d have to get a hotel somewhere. Then, I started planning for Bob’s 70th birthday party and my memories begin to return around this time, in April 2017–four months later. One other thing I remember is going to Carol’s house. I’m not sure when. I was morose and unloaded on her about my past and our family, of Mom dying, spilling intimate details to the point of feeling embarrassed . And, so it is.

The Troubled Brain – A Very Short Summary

As I write, I think, this third (right?) installment of The Troubled Brain, I look out into our field and see a spotty fawn lying on a pillow of grass puffed around its small form. And I think, life goes on. It does. With and without us. The big old water wheel of life, a bittersweet wheel, it is. I hope, if my blessings continue, I’ll see you on the flip-flop.

Peace. Out.

The Troubled Brain - Installment 3

This is Mom’s memorial book filled with pictures of her art and places and people important to her. Interestingly, in 2011, my novel THE LAST MAHARAJAN was published. The story is about a mother and her two daughters. It may be the closest biographical novel I’ve written to date. It won the 2011 Forward National Literature Award for family drama.

Thank you for reading. -Susan.


  1. Alexander on May 30, 2018 at 3:51 pm

    Thank you for sharing with us

    • Susan Wingate on May 30, 2018 at 5:18 pm

      You’re welcome. I hope these posts not only help people understand the difficulty of caregiving but also helps them on a more practical level. Anyway, you’re welcome. Thank you for the note! 🙂

  2. Billie Hobbs on May 30, 2018 at 4:47 pm

    Hi Susan, my mom also had Alzheimer’s that lasted nine years. Actually, if she had not fallen and broken her hip, I feel that she would have lived to be 100. I managed her care long distance for those nine years, traveling from Georgia to Virginia every month to check on her and the caregivers, replenish everything in the house, etc. I had made her a promise that I would keep her in her home until she died if at all possible and I was able to do that. Oh, how very hard it was. I intend to read everything you have written about your journey. My mom has been gone for nine years but it is still hard. Thank you for sharing your story. Take care,

    • Susan Wingate on May 30, 2018 at 5:08 pm

      Oh Billie, I am so sorry about your mom but happy to hear you were able to keep her in her home. Mom didn’t have the means to have caregivers around the clock. I wish she had. She would’ve had a much better ending to her life but at least I could keep her with me and take care of her. We both shared a difficult learning curve. But, yes, I’m happy–well, more than happy, I feel honored to have been able to help her. Even through such a difficult stage, for all of us. Thanks for your message. My heart is with you.

  3. Jo on May 31, 2018 at 1:01 pm

    Keep sharing Cuz! I know it is hard but it does help to share the pain.

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