Saturday, September 03, 2011

Let the Good Times Roll

Disclaimer: Vulgar language abounds in this post. Only adults with strong stomachs need apply.

The nasty nursing home crone was stationed in the hall today, lurking in wait. As I took Flip for a walk to keep his blood moving, she yelled, "You have a lovely husband." Surprised, I said, "Thank you. He is lovely." I thought that maybe yesterday was an off-day, that she is really a nice old woman.

"You're a witch," she added.

"I'm glad we cleared that up," I said and tried to pull Flip away by his hand, but he was stalled in place.

"Too bad you're an ugly fucking bitch," she screeched. "You're a fucking piece of shit slut and everybody hates you. I hate you." (I could use coy asterisks, but what's the point?) Usually, people have to know me before they hate me. She was jumping the gun.

I pulled harder on Flip's hand and he decided he didn't want to be moved. Who could blame him? All the action in the place was right there. Everyone else was dozing in wheelchairs.

"Fucking slut asshole!" she yelled. "Eat shit and fuck you." She reprised all her insults, including some I've forgotten, cackling like the green broomstick witch in The Wizard of Oz. She could have been her understudy - she really had the laugh down. She kept on shrieking with hateful laughter as I dragged Flip down the hall, not nearly fast enough.

Latifa, one of the nurses' aids, sidled up to me, "Just give her the finger," she said. "She told me I was FAT. I told her 'You're much fatter than I am.'" She flounced off muttering "FAT."

"Fat and ugly. Fucking ugly!" screamed the old woman behind me. "Your husband hates you, too!"

I learned that her name is Roberta. It figures. Roberta is my middle name, which I've never liked. I dislike feminizations of male names in general, but I dislike it mostly because it sounds ugly unless you're Spanish, which I'm not. When my older daughter was a child, I once threatened her with writing a story about her and calling her character "Roberta" if she didn't stop whatever she was doing. It was effective. It's an icky name.

Latifa told the director of nursing that Roberta needed to be out of the way somewhere, preferably in the locked psych ward, and she was removed from her post in the hallway. Dementia has not been kind to her. Of course, dementia is not kind, ever, to anyone, but it's possible she was a lovely lady before. It's hard to imagine because she is so utterly hateful now. There is probably a cautionary tale here, but since we have no control over what happens to our minds as we age, I know of no way to ensure that we will not turn into Robertas. And that is a very chilling thought.

I snapped a picture of her today but my new iMac is running a different version of iPhoto than I've been using, and I can't figure out how to get it onto my desktop. But know that even in my moment of despair, my last thoughts were of my awesome blog friends.


English Rider said...

We're here, no matter what you throw at us. Glad to see you found your "Feisty" today.

mischief said...

Good lord. Reading this made me want to shout a string of expletives myself, and if it would help, I certainly would. In whatever direction necessary.

Molly said...

Scary how the veneer of civilized behavior has been rubbed away completely from this Roberta. Makes me think of women in one of Aleksander Solzhenitzen's books who were prisoners. Roberta sounds like she's a prisoner in her own head.

the only daughter said...

In my entire lifetime I've met (not known well, she was a co-worker) one Roberta. She seemed a lovely woman (at time time of our co-working) but I have to quantify that with 1. the nature of our acquaintance and 2. the very short time frame involved.

All that being said, no pictures necessary. The image created is more than enough to *see* what dementia has turned this Roberta into. Sad.

. . . prisoner in her own head. Y es.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Oh, I really wanted to smart mouth her, but also didn't want to descend to her level.


I couldn't remember everything she sad. That was just a sampling. I wonder if she was storing those words up for 80 years, or if she always talked like that. Shudder.


Your last sentence is perfectly stated and elegant. I wish I had thought of it as it's brilliant.


I rather doubt that all Robertas are horrible. I just always thought my parents could have done better when they named me.

I think you're right about pictures being unnecessary. She was clutching a stuffed animal as she reviled me, a strange and oddly pathetic image.

Anonymous said...

Reading your blog reminds me of all my mom went through when my dad was deteriorating. It really takes its toll on the caregivers, as you mentioned. There are some online support groups and I assume local groups as well. Hope you are able to take advantage of some of that.

When we put my dad in an assisted care place toward the very end, the comic relief was a lady who strolled the halls saying "okey dokey" over and over again. It brought some smiles into an otherwise bleak atmosphere.

Anonymous said...

For a few years, I had to cope with my mom telling close relatives that I was starving her to death. I once came home to find a cousin holding bags of groceries and expressing surprise that there was already food in the fridge. We really have little control if our minds do deteriorate.

nick said...

As you say, it's possible she was a lovely person once. If so, how horrible that she has turned into such an evil shrew. Her behaviour must be distressing to everyone, but of course keeping her in a locked ward would be equally distressing to her. Her vicious abuse must have been enough in itself to get Flip's blood moving.

Funny, I rather like the name Roberta, even though it's artificially feminised.

TechnoBabe said...

The Roberta encounter sounds like the best time so far. Compared to what you have been going through and struggling with lately anyway. It is different for me to read about the events but you are living them. I understand that some people who never ever cussed or spoke crudely take on that way of talking in their illness. For me, it wouldn't be much of a change. I already cuss. Maybe I am revving up for my Roberta life.

Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

At least Roberta had the excuse of dementia. I had been called similar and worse stuff by adolescents. Of course, it was back in the days that I was a state social worker and attempting to get the thugs off a drug-infested street corner.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Yes, it's terribly bleak in such places, made even worse by the fact that my husband is only in his 50's. He is precocious.

I don't think "okey dokey" is in Roberta's vocabulary as it's only "G" rated. Thank you for your visit!


Oh, my. I hope your cousin felt like a fool for believing you would starve your mother.


Roberta's behavior is certainly distressing to Latifa, who is not really fat, and to me because of the vehemence with which she hates me.


Cussing is one thing, attacking people another. I just hope I don't turn into someone hideously nasty, although of course, in Roberta's view I'm already there.

St. Nick,

You are lucky you were not knifed or shot. Words do hurt, but I think they hurt the one who employs them more.

Anonymous said...

This is another episode of Incredible and Amazing. Goodness. I am beside myself with respect -- how you have handled the weight of the everyday, the annoying and the unforeseen obstacles with great backbone and sense of humor. And incredible balance and insight.

And for what it's worth, you are not a fucking ugly bitch. I don't hate you, not at all. Quite the opposite on all accounts.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Your comment made me laugh out loud, sorely needed. Thank you for not hating me or even thinking I'm a fucking ugly bitch. That's what friends are for.


secret agent woman said...

I remember a woman just like this in a psych hospital where I did part of my internship. I had to remind myself she had no control over the vile things she said. And it actually is possible Roberta was a lovely woman before - people can have dramatic personality shifts with Alzheimer's. I think your calm "I'm glad we cleared that up" was the perfect response. But truly, why is she allowed to stand around in the halls?

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I suspect she was unchecked because they are short-staffed, or indifferent, or... fill in the blanks. And even though I understand that she can't help herself, it's unnerving and adds stress where more stress is not needed. Since there is no reasoning with her, I would vote for incarceration in the locked ward for the greater good. But of course I don't get a vote.

Jo said...

Oh, Susan...!!!! Omigawd. I can't believe some of the stuff you have encountered on this journey, and yet, you and Flip still maintain your dignity. I have so much respect for you. I have seen people weaken and crumble under much less adversity than you have had to endure.

You're my hero.

Maria said...

I worked in a psych ward for one of my rotations in med school. Actually, I worked in two, one for the older residents and another for the younger ones. I found that two things worked sometimes (nothing works all the time) when you are dealing with that stream of dementia. 1) Start talking nonsense. Say something like, "I will so shrink that lettuce twice!" It really, really shuts them up temporarily and 2) Make a facial tick and keep doing it while you look intensely at stick your tongue out and in or wrinkle your nose over and over...something with the repetition seems to calm their stream.

And on an off subject...I SO get what you mean about the keyboard's space bar not working. I looked up twice to see whole sentences run together. I hate this thing, I DETEST it.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I am not a hero, but if I get to be someone's, I'm glad it's yours.


Repetitive motions are dangerous for me as I become compulsive very quickly, but talking nonsense is easy. I do it all the time.

Do we have the same computer rig? The new iMac? See if an older, plug-in keyboard will work. I couldn't get used to the new one and it was like missing a limb. Now I can throw away my crutches!

Taradharma said...

thank you for thinking of your loyal readers -- you are giving the uninitiated quite a peak into what we all may eventually face. We had a "Roberta" when grandpa was in his last days at a nursing home. She would wheel herself to his doorway and yell at everyone in the room. I would give her a smile and say, "We need our privacy" and gently shut the big heavy door on her. That pissed her off even more, but she eventually moved on. I often heard other residents tell her to "Shut the FUCK up! We are tired of hearing you! Nobody cares!"

[fishcansuckit] said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

It must be hard for this family to see their wife, sister, mother in this state.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


It's unfortunate that nasty people often have the effect of making other people act unpleasant, too, usually at the worst of times.


I'm sure that's true if she hasn't already driven away everyone she knows.

♥ Braja said...

Hey, HISF....I'm Braja, from Lost & Found in India; I had a test site that my blog designer was using over a year ago to communicate with me about new blog looks; I didn't have it set up as a public blog, but I just went to delete it and saw a comment on there from you; you wrote that you'd tried to find me elsewhere but just kept connecting with an American woman with kids... that was the blog designer :) Well, I"m over here at Lost & Found, and at Braja's India, which is a photographic blog....come on over. Oh, and sorry for the delay in responding :)

Wanderlust Scarlett said...

Does Flip have any response to Roberta when she goes off at you?

I am glad that you have Pekoe with you during this trying time. I think this companion will be a good one; a comforting one, just when you need one like that.

Wish I could hug you tight and hold your hand. Wish I could come up with a brilliant plan to save you and Flip and make this alright again.

Through the darkest of moments, you continue to shine that positive, strong albeit weary light that glows so warmly from your heart and soul. What an amazing woman you are, Dearest of Hearts, you are quite often in my thoughts and every time you are there, I am sending you love, peace and compassion. Every time.

*enormous hugs*


Paula said...

Susan, after having read your story, I can never forget you. You will be in my thoughts and prayers as you struggle to do the best you can for your husband.

When my mother was hospitalized for four months, I spent a lot of time at her home caring for my step father, who was in the late stages of Parkinson's. It can become very like Alzheimer's near the end. Being a constant caregiver is very hard.

My own husband has had Parkinson's for a couple of years now. His mind is still clear, and he can do most things for himself, just slowly. The awareness is always with me that it is possible we will someday go down the road you are describing. If so, I hope it will be with as much grace.

You are the embodiment of what marriage vows are supposed to mean.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Thank you for coming by. It has been a while. It's great to know that you're still blogging, and I'll stay in touch.


Flip's responses are quite subdued these days, partly because they are drugging him to keep him passive. (No, I do not like this!) Normally, he would be upset if someone attacked me.

Today, there was a huge crash in the hallway. Roberta had hurled her lunch tray at someone and there was stuff all over the walls and floor. She hates everyone, not just me. It's a lesson in forbearance to remind myself that she can't help it because she is infuriating.


I'm so sorry that your husband has Parkinson's. I believe that with some people it doesn't progress to dementia, and hope he is one of them. I have wondered for a couple of years if Flip actually has Parkinson's, not AD, because his father and older sister both had it, and he has developed some of the physical mannerisms that characterize it. Yet, 6 neurologists concurred in the diagnosis. He is seeing another one in a few weeks to see if perhaps they should reconsider what he has.

Thank you so much for your kind thoughts and prayers. You and your husband are in mine, too. I'm glad you stopped by.

Paula said...

Susan, you said you wondered if your husband actually had Parkinson's. Doctors used to say it was not hereditary, now I read in Neurology Today that they are starting to rethink that. My husband's father had it. He was diagnosed in his 30's and lived to be about 59. He was told it was caused by a high fever when he was a child. My step father was told the same thing. My feeling is that the tendency must be hereditary, even if there is another contributing factor.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Thanks for coming back with that info. I believe the newest research has isolated genetic links for some forms of Parkinson's, and it seems likely to me that Flip's family has such a genetic component, while I know of no relatives with AD. I don't know if he ever had a high fever, but I had unexplained high fevers as a child, so now I have something else to worry about. My feeling is that these diseases are probably caused by multiple factors which may exacerbate each other.

Pam said...

The marginalized. Dealing with the marginalized. For every person who deals with being cursed at,hit and shat on - my daughter and I are quite familiar with it in our work at the extreme ends of special education and aged care respectively we have to remember to try and have patience with each other, and its hard but necessary.Compassion, the biggest lesson of all.

Anonymous said...

Thinking of you, Susan, hoping all is well.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


We could all use more compassion, both offering and receiving it, because nearly everyone is marginalized in some way.


Thank you! It's wonderful to have your distant shoulder to lean upon.

Anonymous said...

Ah, shit. What can a body say? Here for you, dear friend and may your nightmare abate.