Archive for March, 2011

# 7 – What about those bank statements?

Posted in Family, nonfiction, relationships, siblings, true crime, true stories, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 30, 2011 by tenaciousbitch

The next day, I was sitting at Danny’s desk at my Grandmother’s, editing a manuscript, when the phone rang. The caller i.d. said – NEW HORIZONS REHAB. My heart began grinding rapidly against my chest.

Nana Maude had an old answering machine with a micro cassette, so I could hear him leaving a message. Man, was he PISSED! 🙂

“I heard you were trying to sell my car. And that’s not gonna happen! Dad wanted me to have it, and you’ve got no fucking right to sell it! I know what I did to Grandma was wrong, but I’ll pay Nana back*. I’ve gotta have a car to get to work.” Followed by a steely CLICK and the dial tone…

My heavy heartbeat seemed to punctuate the silence. Taking a huge GULP of oxygen, I tried to calm my breathing to a less than catastrophic rate.

Aside from paying Nana’s utilities, I had already amassed more than $1,000 in credit card  debt at this point, and I’d already spent my last check, so she and I both really NEEDED the money because she didn’t have a dime until her next Social Security check in 2 weeks or so.

AND when I drove the BMW down to Georgia last year, he never gave me a cent for gas, etc. So, that’s $500 I hadn’t been reimbursed for…

But none of that mattered to Danny, so things were gonna GET UGLY…

Later that day, I signed Nana out of New Haven, and we went over to her house, so she could get some more of her clothes.

When we arrived, I noticed the front door was not only unlocked, but it was WIDE open. You could see right into the front hallway. At which point, Nana mumbled, “Oh, God, I hope your brother’s not here.”

“He’s in rehab, Nana, remember? It’s only been a couple of days.”

“I know, but still…”

Once inside, I locked the door, and we found Connie in the kitchen in the same dirty shorts as the previous day. A moment later, a tall, rather heavy-set brunette in overalls walked with a bottle of toilet bowl cleaner. She smiled pleasantly at me, and Connie introduced her as Vicky (I think).

“Hi, Maude, so good to see you,” Connie said, giving Nana a big hug.

My stomach curdled.  I know I shouldn’t assume just because Danny is walking on the crack side, that ALL of his friends are too. But I just had a really bad feeling about this girl from the GET GO.

I immediately noticed that neither of them were wearing gloves. “Didn’t Danny tell you he has MRSA? You should be-”

“Oh, my God. No, he didn’t,” Connie replied.  They both were flat-eyed with SHOCK.

Nana Maude apologized and said, “There are some plastic gloves out yonder in the laundry room.”

Connie moved her fast ass in that direction right quick. I felt bad that I hadn’t mentioned it the previous day, but I was a little unsettled when I met her.

It seemed very ODD that Connie had come back a second day to clean because Nana’s house is only 1200 square feet, AND I discovered later that they hadn’t cleaned Danny’s bathroom at all. So were they gargling the toilet bowl cleaner or what? And the kitchen floor was STICKY… didn’t even wanna know why.

As we were leaving, Connie had the NERVE to ask Nana if she could borrow the BMW to take Danny some clothes at rehab. And before I could object, Nana blurted out, “Sure, go right ahead.”

“You’ll bring it back tomorrow, right?” Nana asked.

“Of course,” Connie replied, smiling.

But I knew she wouldn’t.

The next day, I was, once again, at Danny’s desk working when the phone rang.  I didn’t recognize the number. Thinking it might be Everett, the man who wanted to buy the BMW, I answered it.

“Hey, sis, how ya doin’?” Danny’s voice hit me like a 50-pound slab of frozen meat.

“Fine. You?” I asked in a rather staccato tone.

“I’m outta rehab. I’m going to do outpatient therapy.”

Yeah, heard that before, but somehow sobriety seems to allude him every time.

“So, what’s this about you selling MY car?” He asked in a venomous voice.

“The car is still owned by Dad’s Estate,” I replied.

“That don’t matter,” he replied going on and on about what a bitch I am..bla, bla, bla.

So, that’s why Connie and Vicky were really here. They came to usurp Dad’s car, which, btw, Connie hadn’t returned as promised.

“So, where’s the title to the BMW?”

“I don’t have any idea where the title is, Danny.” I said calmly, knowing God would forgive me the lie, given the circumstances, especially considering they were about to shut off Nana’s electric. I couldn’t even afford her plane ticket to Ohio if we didn’t sell Dad’s car. My credit card was almost maxed.

Danny exploded, of course, knowing he’d left the title on the dining room table, which was now in my purse. I set the receiver down and sat there shaking my head as he continued a blue streak of rage and profanity until he said, “I’m coming home.”

I snatched up the receiver. “No, Danny, you’re not. Nana doesn’t want you here.”

“That is just as much MY house as Nana’s! You can’t kick me out. I know the law. I’m a RESIDENT!” He bellowed.

“You have NO legal right to this house. Nana changed her Will. She gave me Power of Attorney. I’m now her sole beneficiary. It’s not YOURS any more.” In the previous, 47th revision of Nana’s Will, Danny had been designated to inherit her house, which I knew Danny would take to mean he was half owner despite the fact that Nana was still very much alive.

During his rage-stoked monologue he blurted out, “You’ll have to evict me”… to-wit, I replied, “Whatever, Danny, I’m trying to work.” And I SLAMMED the phone so hard, a tiny shard of plastic broke off the 20-year-old receiver and embedded itself in my arm. I was such a wreck, I didn’t even notice. I dialed 911 and tried to explain the situation, knowing that Danny was probably en route to Nana’s at breakneck speed.

The 911 dispatcher had a kind and soothing voice, and she told me that a Deputy was on the way. And did I want to stay on the line until he got there? “Yes, please so that there will be a recording of my death should Danny arrive first.”

“Are you serious, miss?” asked the 911 dispatcher.

“I don’t know,” I said wondering why there was a rapid trickle of blood drooling down my arm and onto my jeans. I grabbed a napkin from Dominoes in the top drawer of Danny’s desk and held it against my now-throbbing arm.

“He hates me,” I replied to the 911 Dispatcher, “And he’s a drug addict, so anything’s possible especially if he’s high.”

Luckily, the deputy arrived a few minutes later. He confirmed my worst fears that because Danny had lived with Nana for almost a year, and since he was getting his mail there, he was considered a resident. And that we would have to evict him if he did elect to stay there. Awesome. Can you hand me a couple more nails for my coffin?

Danny showed up not 20 minutes after I called 911. He was very polite to the officer and stated that he was only there to get some clothes and such.

“So, where do you plan to stay, Mr. Smith?” the deputy asked.

“A halfway house. The social worker at the hospital recommended it.”

I nodded, knowing there was NO WAY in hell that Danny would live somewhere like that. He would be bunking with his drug buddies, either Connie and her boyfriend… or someone of her ilk. The doubt on the deputy’s face was a reflection of my obvious disbelief.

“Which one? Huckleberry House over in Mt. Sterling?” the deputy asked.

Danny stumbled, “Uh, no, it’s over in Henderson.”

The deputy nodded.  “I see,” he said flatly.

Then, as he was leaving, Danny took an envelope out of his jacket pocket and tossed it on the kitchen counter. The Citibank logo was evident on the envelope even from across the room. And very nonchalantly, he said, “I made copies of those statements for my taxes.”

So as not to PRICKLE Danny’s easily rankled temper, I just nodded and feigned  acceptance of his stupid and RIDICULOUS notion that he had EVER deposited any money in Nana’s account to warrant making copies of said bank records for his tax return.

Instead, I couldn’t help myself, and I said, “So, you’re actually filing this year, then?” Danny had recently told his ex-wife, Belinda, that he hadn’t done his taxes since they split up in 2006, and that info trickled down to me via the Facebook grapevine because there’s no such thing as a secret below the Mason-Dixon line…

Danny sputtered a weak-sounding, “Of course,” with a scoffing laugh for emphasis. “Gotta file… yer taxes.”

I smiled when he walked out, relieved that I could resume my regular pattern of pumping oxygen in and out of my lungs. I glanced out the window. Danny was leaving in this old shabby-looking green truck. He was hiding the beamer, God knows where, probably at Connie’s.

“There’s no halfway house in Henderson, that I know of, at least not one funded by the state.”

“I figured. Deputy Wilson, could you possibly locate someone for me?” I asked the young officer.

“I’m not a private detective, Miss Smith.” At that point, I wondered why everyone kept calling me MISS Smith… I’m wearing a 2-karat diamond AND a wedding ring… the South, go figure…

“I know. I just…” and I explained how Connie had procured Dad’s car.

“Well, if she doesn’t return it tomorrow, go down to the Sheriff’s Office out on Route 40 and report it stolen.”

With a feeling of trepidation,  I watched the deputy drive off. After removing the black sliver of plastic (from the phone) from my arm and applying a band-aid, I headed out to the garage to find Dad’s golf clubs. From that moment on, I slept with a golf club beside my bed even AFTER changing the locks.

More later, boys and girls, as my brain and my carpel tunnel need to rest… 🙂

Peace out from the bat cave!

~Kennedy Smith

* Please note as of the date of this revision (which I did to make it SHORTER) on 2/09/13, Danny has yet to give Nana one RED CENT to pay her back for all of the money he stole.


# 6 – The Theft, the THUG and more Mayhem this way comes…

Posted in Family, grandmothers, nonfiction, relationships, true stories, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 28, 2011 by tenaciousbitch

Telling Nana Maude that Danny tried to kill himself was a tad less painful than throwing salty mud in her eye. She immediately started crying, and then the bile of anger crept into her voice. “So, who’s going to take care of me now?” she wailed, trying not to sob.

“I really think we need to look at nursing homes because I don’t think-”

“No, you might as well bury me.”

“But, Nana, you can’t live by yourself, and I’m sure there are some very nice nursing homes here. I’m sure they’re not all like this one.”

“Well, it’s all the same. I’d be sitting alone all day, and I’ll bet the food’s no better elsewhere.”

After a lengthy and difficult conversation, Nana Maude asked if she could come and live with me, Charlie, and Max.

“But you HATE the cold weather.”

“I hate it here worse, and I love going to your house.”

I paused a moment trying to think of the right words that wouldn’t hurt her feelings. “You don’t understand. When you come to visit, everything changes. We don’t eat the same food. We don’t watch the same TV. Everything revolves around you. And I work all day.”

“All day?”

“Yes, upstairs, eight to ten hours a day. So, you’d be sitting by yourself all day.”

“Oh, well, I’d hate that, but…” her voice trailed off. “But I can’t stay here.”

At that point, I truly felt like my life as I knew it, was over. I already felt as if my family were sucking the life out of me, and now this? I love my Grandmother, but I did NOT want her living with me.

The maddening daily routine of trying to figure out what to cook for her is enough to beget over-serving one’s self hard liquor every day. Her list of entrees is currently less than a dozen, and it gets shorter every day. Nana likes “country food” – beans and cornbread and anything FRIED. Charlie and I are relatively health conscious, and she is MOST certainly not…

She also hates anything the slightest bit violent in TV or movies. She didn’t like Miss Congeniality because it had ONE scene with a gun. She doesn’t even like movies where people argue!

Ugh…and mine and Charlie’s favorite shows are:  CSI, White Collar, Dog the Bounty Hunter, Fringe, True Blood…yeah, I can see us all sitting down to dinner to watch the latest with Sooki and Bill…

But after discussing it with my husband, we decided that Nana would come up to Ohio. I hung up the phone after talking to Charlie and burst into tears.

After discussing Danny’s suicide attempt, we went to Citibank to close the joint bank accounts that she’d had with Danny. The account manager was kind enough to print out copies of all the bank statements for the last six months since Danny had been stealing Nana’s mail (again). She wanted to make sure there weren’t other bills that hadn’t been paid. I put the statements in my suitcase, to mull over later.

That evening, I heard Nana on the phone talking about Danny.

“Who was that?” I asked when Nana hung up.

“Connie, that friend of Danny’s I told you about, her boyfriend lives down the street from here. She says Danny’s going to rehab. Can you believe it?”

“God, I hope he’s serious this time,” I said, and I meant it. This was also his THIRD stretch in rehab.

The next morning, a man named Everett called saying that he’d been talking to Danny for a couple of weeks about buying Dad’s BMW. I’d driven down to Georgia a year ago, and Danny still hadn’t registered it in his name. I’d seen the for sale sign on the BMW at Nana’s house, but I didn’t know WHY Danny was trying to sell it until I found all the cut off notices for Nana’s utilities…

Everett said that his bank required that the registration be current on the car before they would approve the loan.

“Well, Danny’s in the hospital, so I’ll be glad to take care of that and sell you the car. It’s actually still owned by my Dad’s estate,” I told Everett on the phone.

“I see,” Everett replied, obviously, a little confused. “Well, I don’t want to cheat Danny or anything.”

“Oh, don’t worry about it. I’ll clear it with Danny. He can’t sell it himself because he doesn’t have the money to register it or insure it.”

Yeah, because doing so previously would’ve cut into his crack budget.

“So, I’ll have to title it in my name, and then, I’ll…make sure he gets what he’s owed,” I said, very carefully, so as not to tip him off to the fact that ALL of the money would go to my Grandmother and/or to pay her bills.

“Oh, okay, I see.” Everett said.

“What price had you agreed to?”

“Sixty-three hundred,” he replied.

YIPPEE…that meant, perhaps, I could escape without going over my credit card limit…since I was buying EVERYTHING Nana needed as well as my own groceries and not making any money while I was in Georgia. When it was all said and done, I put over $2K on my credit card that month I was in Georgia.

After Danny’s suicide attempt, I checked out of the hotel and went to stay at Nana’s, and I researched the BMW situation. By GEORGIA law, Danny was required to TITLE the car in his name and INSURED it within 10 days of receipt. Since he hadn’t, he didn’t legally own the car – though he’d bought it from Dad’s estate, technically.

“That sounds fair,” I replied making a mental note to look up the Blue Book value of the car.

“Is Danny all right?”

“Uh,”… My mother would’ve lied and said he had appendicitis or something, but I don’t play that game. “He’s in rehab. Danny has a drug problem.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. Well, just give me a call when you get all the paperwork straightened out.”

We said our goodbyes, and I walked into the kitchen to get a glass of water where I was startled to see a sloppy-looking woman, with bad acne, in dirty-looking shorts and a very tight-fitting t-shirt. She had the rather yellowed teeth of a Meth addict, but, maybe, she just didn’t have a dental plan.  Either way, I immediately assumed she was a member of Danny’s baggage/a girlfriend.

“Who are you? And what are you doing here?”

“I’m Connie. I have a key,” she said, holding up a key to the front door. “Maude asked me to come by and clean. I’ve been, you know… helping out, and-”

“Yeah, you talked to her last night, right?”

Connie nodded.

“I’m Kennedy, Danny’s sister. You’re a friend of his, right?”

She nodded, then disappeared saying going to clean the bathrooms. Okay…she seemed nice, but…

I thought it was odd that this woman who barely knew Nana – now has a key and suddenly appeared to clean the house. However, I soon learned…she did more than that…

A couple days later I came back to the house after visiting Nana, and I couldn’t find those bank statements from Citibank ANYWHERE. AND all the new bank info from the account that we opened in mine and Nana’s name was also GONE…at the time, I thought Connie took them. However, it was worse than that…

Stay tuned, boys and girls… things are JUST getting good!

~Tenaciousbitch/Kennedy Smith

#5 – The DREADED call at midnight…

Posted in Family, nonfiction, relationships, true stories, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 27, 2011 by tenaciousbitch

After visiting Nana, I tossed the Red Lobster leftovers in the fridge at the Marriott and gratefully crashed onto my queen-sized bed. I sipped my Merlot and laid on the bed reading The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. I really have no love for Larsen’s writing style, which I thought was bargain basement shitty, but I had to finish the series, so I could go on with my life… 🙂

Around midnight, the phone rang. It was Nancy, Nana’s best friend who would ordinarily NEVER call this late, so I was a tad vexed when I answered the phone, worrying it was the call about Nana that ends with –my condolences…but it wasn’t…

“The police and EMS are at Maude’s house. Danny tried to kill himself.”

“Oh, my God! Is he okay?”

“I don’t know.  They said he was unconscious.”

“Is he at Memorial Hospital?”

“I don’t know.”

“Well, thanks for letting me know.”

Perhaps, this is incredibly selfish, but at that moment in time, I was really PISSED at Danny. It was bad enough that he pilfered ALL of Nana’s money, but now this. And this is the third time he’s tried to end it all (more on the other attempts in future posts).

I called Memorial, and because of HIPPA, they wouldn’t confirm or deny that Danny had been admitted, which actually was kind of a relief.

Maybe, I was being unkind, but without knowing if he was there or not gave me an excuse NOT to go over there. It would’ve been illogical to take him to St. Ann’s. It was 20 miles away…and they probably wouldn’t let me see him anyway, not that I wanted to. WHAT the hell would I have said? I’m glad you didn’t off yourself, but I still can’t stand the sight of you??

I took a DEEP breath and explained to the receptionist at Memorial, that “Danny has MRSA. The staff need to know if he’s there.”

The receptionist assured me she’d pass the info along, “If he’s here,” she said, but she didn’t. The next day, I called back and just asked for Danny, without mentioning the suicide attempt, and, luckily, I was transferred to ICU.

I informed the nurse named Winona that Danny had MRSA.

“Thanks,” Winona replied. “It’s not on his chart. We test for MRSA, but we haven’t gotten the results back yet.”

“How is he?”

“He’s awake and stable.”

I nodded, not sure what else to say. “What did he do exactly?”

“I’m not at liberty to say.” I knew that…doesn’t hurt to ask.

The nurse explained that Danny was on a 72-hour hold and that I could see him after that.

“Okay, thanks.”

I hung up. The anger soured in my mouth, knowing this turn of events annihilated any chance that Danny could move back in with Nana. And for those who wonder why, check out this post:

Yes, I knew I was being a selfish bitch, but I’m okay with that. I know I should cry, feel badly that my brother almost died, but I think he’s just bullied it out of me over the years.

However, every suicidal incident has occurred immediately after committing another royal fuck-up. Only this time, Nana and I are the ones in his bear trap and not Mom or Dad. And if Nana won’t go to an assisted living facility or a nursing home, and she does move in with me, our finances will be a disaster. And I don’t need anyone or anything tossing more chores on my plate.

My contract with the production company in the U.K. had dwindled to around 10-15 hours/week because of the downturn in the economy, so I’d been looking for a “regular” job. But there’s no way I could possibly work outside the house if Nana moves in with us. We couldn’t afford to hire someone to take care of her all day. DAMMIT!

Plus, as it is, I’m already struggling to equalize my time between my freelance work, my writing and my family obligations while trying to keep my house at least sanitary.

A couple of days later, I went to the hospital, with the intent of seeing Danny. I sat in my car wondering what to say, especially after speaking with Nana’s mortgage company confirming that he’d liquidated and spent ALL of the equity in Nana’s house (around $50,000). Her checking account was overdrawn, and her savings was nonexistent, not to mention he’d spent her January Social Security check as well. So, she was penniless until February 3rd, 26 days away!

Without looking at her bank statements, I knew he’d spent all her money on booze, drugs, new clothes and strippers.  There were pages of charges to Macy’s, the Liquor Barn (a mile from Nana’s) and a place called The Cheetah Lounge, which probably wasn’t associated with the local zoo 🙂 – as well as numerous ATM withdrawals for $300 each time, the limit for her account.

I’d also found cut-off notices for her utilities and her phone bill. So, not only did he STEAL all of her money, he hadn’t even bothered to pay her bills either. I had to put about $900 on my credit card just to keep the lights on, etc.

Aside from spending Nana’s life savings, Danny had run up Dad’s credit cards, (without permission) and fraudulently opened credit cards in Dad’s name and forged Dad’s name on a double-wide trailer that Danny and his ex-wife bought sometime around 2003. How is that, you ask? Well, Danny was a mortgage broker at the time, so it was pretty easy for him to close the loan without Dad’ presence.

The double-wide trailer and a single-wide that Dad had co-signed for – both got foreclosed on, so Dad received a bill for more than $60,000 in storage fees, back lot rent, etc. on Danny’s trailers sometime around 2005. And though Dad had paid off our childhood home in West Virginia in ’96, he had to take out TWO mortgages to pay all of Danny’s debts, and Danny just strutted away into the sunset – just another day in HIS universe where the rules of God and Man don’t apply to Daniel P Smith.

When Dad died, Ben, Danny and I decided to sell Mom and Dad’s house. Emptying the house required 3 estate sales, half a dozen grueling weekends driving 300 miles round trip to Dad’s in WV over five months, and hauling furniture home that didn’t sell and donating the highest volume of knick knacks this side of Martha Stewart’s basement – to Goodwill.

Then, TWO days before the closing, Ben had to cancel the sale. With Danny’s fraudulent credit card debt in Dad’s name, the two mortgages and $3,000 of Mom’s credit card debt, Dad owed over $100K, and the house appraised at $60,000. So, thanks, Danny…we just lost $20K a piece. AWESOME…

So, what did I say to Danny after he’d used our dad like an ATM machine for around 15 years? Not much.

Sitting in my car in Memorial Hospital’s parking lot, I wrote him a note telling him to STAY AWAY from ME and Nana Maude, or I would convince Ben to press charges against him for identity theft and forgery.

Sadly, since Nana had given Danny Power of Attorney, no prosecutor would go after him for THEFT… but Ben could file charges as the executor of Dad’s Will for all the debt Danny took out in Dad’s name…

I didn’t hear from Danny for a couple of days after leaving the note with one of the nurses on his floor… little did I know he never got it.

More later… about the TSUNAMI left in Danny’s wake…


~Tenacious Bitch and Company…

#3/4 – MRSA, the ONIONs, and the lack of RED LOBSTER…

Posted in Family, nonfiction, relationships, true stories, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 24, 2011 by tenaciousbitch

After driving for 14 LONG hours and leaving 6 or 7 messages on Nana’s home phone and Danny’s cell, I finally got a hold of Danny as I crossed the Chatham County line (in Georgia) about 20 minutes from Nana’s house.

“Danny, Jesus, haven’t you gotten my messages? I’ve been calling you for almost two weeks!”

“Yeah, I’m sorry. I was in the hospital. I just got home like two hours ago.”

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that,” I said flatly, hoping he didn’t notice my lack of sincerity.”Are you okay?”

“I’ve got MRSA.”

“What? Are you serious?”

“Yeah, I feel like shit, never felt so bad in my life.”

“How the hell did you get MRSA?” I asked WONDERING if this was another fabrication, of which, Danny had already CREATED a couple NOVELS’ worth.

“Didn’t Nana tell you? She got it from the nasty, old crow in the bed next to her when she was in the hospital last week, and I got it from Nana.”

“No, Nana didn’t say anything about it,” I replied. “I guess I’ll go to a motel, then, but I’m going over to see Nana first. Where’s the nursing home?” I asked.

He gave me some rather vague directions, and then, he asked, “Could you maybe stop by the house and get some of Nana’s clothes? She’s been bugging the shit out of me to bring more blouses and whatever, but she’s already got HALF her damned wardrobe over there.”

I went to Nana’s, got some heavier pants and a couple sweaters. And Danny DID look like hell lying on the couch when I walked in. He’d lost at least 40 pounds, and he looked really pale and hollow-eyed, but that was just as likely from a three-day Crack binge as from MRSA. He did have an impressive array of prescription bottles on the floor next to him though.

After visiting Nana briefly, I grabbed a cheeseburger at Wendy’s, then drove over to the beach. I sat in my car next to a bowling alley surfing for motels on my I-Phone.

At midnight, I checked into a one-bedroom suite at an older Marriott, with a fully equipped kitchen for $80/night. The carpet was old, and it had very outdated heating/AC units attached to the wall, but I didn’t care. It was clean, and it was quiet. The staff was friendly and for the price, not too SHABBY, and it actually had a fridge and a microwave, which definitely saved me money. I had breakfast and sometimes lunch in the room. It was two blocks from the beach, not that I had time to tool around for cool seashells or take leisurely sojourns in the surf.

A couple of days after I arrived, I was surprised to hear Nana Maude say. “I’ve been thinking about it, and if Danny will go to the AA, he… he can still live with me.”

“Nana, I really don’t think that’s a good idea. He’s been horrible to you. Aside from him taking advantage, he’s so ill-tempered.”

“Yeah, remember that one day when I was talking to you, and all I said was that he was in a bad mood. And he started screaming and and slamming the kitchen cabinets, and I hate that. But, he’s got nowhere else to go.”

“He’s 41 years old. He can figure that out for himself, and he’s not your responsibility.”

She frowned. I knew what she was thinking. So, who was going to take care of her?

“Nana, I think you need to think about a nursing home.”

“Not here. I hate this place. It’s filthy, and the food isn’t fit for rats.”

“I’m sure there are other nicer places.”

Her forehead wrinkled, deep in thought, “Well, the one where Edith lived was beautiful.”

“Who’s Edith?”

“My pastor’s mother.”

“Oh, never met her.”

That was as far as we got in discussing nursing homes for awhile. I started to get settled in, and Nana Maude started to look a little better. Since the food was so bad at New Haven, I frequently brought her carryout from Denny’s or Olive Garden or wherever, which she appreciated, but she’s extremely particular about food to the point of being psychotic… so she didn’t always eat the take out either.

I took her to Applebee’s for lunch one day. She ordered a chicken sandwich, and I could tell by the taut lines on her face, she wasn’t enjoying the cuisine.

“What is it? Is it too peppery?”

“I can’t chew it. It’s too tough.”

“Well, why don’t we have the waitress bring you something else. Maybe, the French Onion soup? You like that right?”

“Yeah, that sounds good.”

I flagged down the waitress, who brought the French onion soup a few minutes later. I was almost finished with my Oriental salad when I noticed Nana Maude was stirring her soup around and not eating much of it. I really DIDN’T want to know what was wrong with it. I waited patiently for the announcement of the atrocious ingredient… the massive conspiracy to over-season everything was certainly at work here.

Nana sighed, “This sure has a lot of onions.”

I burst out laughing, and she gave me her signature, buttoned-lip frown of disapproval. What did she expect? Turnips? I laughed so hard, I started coughing, half choking on a crouton.

A few minutes later, the 22ish waitress, who was as sweet as Georgia pie, came back to the table to check on us.

“Is the soup okay?”

“No, not really,” Nana huffed.

The waitress threw me a wide-eyed look of panic. I smiled and shook my head, and the young server smiled. Between the large tip I left and my eyes rolled, head-shaking she’s crazy look, I’m sure she figured out that Nana is a schizophrenic eater….. 🙂

But, I digress… three days after I arrived in Georgia, I bought take out at Red Lobster for me and Nana Maude for dinner. Nana Maude barely ate half of her Admiral’s Feast. So even though I pretty much loathed Danny, I called him anyway and asked if he wanted the rest of Nana’s dinner. Knowing he was unemployed, and Nana’s account was overdrawn, and there was nothing in the fridge but condiments and cheese, I figured he’d be thrilled to get her leftovers. However, he said-

“Nah, I’m good.”

“Are you sure?”


“Okay, talk to you later.”

I was stunned and oddly unsettled by his lack of interest in Nana’s leftovers. Danny had NEVER, to my knowledge, EVER turned down free food. And he, like Nana, LOVES Red Lobster. But I tried to tell myself that, perhaps, my presence would simply ruin his buzz was his rationale for denying himself the joy of fried fish.

However, I couldn’t have been more wrong…

Post #2…Danny, the stolen cash and the stripper…

Posted in Family, nonfiction, relationships, true stories, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 16, 2011 by tenaciousbitch

I knew that my life would never be the same after my mother died in 2007, but the worst was dealing with my brother, Danny. Mom had always managed to keep his obnoxiousness and his temper on a short leash, especially during the holidays.

Then, after Dad was also usurped by cancer in 2009, I wanted nothing to do with Danny. Unfortunately, being 1,000 miles away from him just wasn’t far enough. The following Christmas of 2010, I attempted to submerge the holiday blues by treadmilling through the usual holiday rot, so to speak, decorating the tree, shopping and all that.

After spending one very cold Saturday wrapping gifts, I had just poured a glass of Merlot and turned on the TV… when my cell phone rang. “Dammit,” I grumbled seeing Danny’s number on the caller i.d.

He was blowing up my phone again for the third time that week. My stomach clenched. I took a deep breath. “Hey, Danny, what’s up?” I asked endeavoring, but not succeeding, to sound nonchalant.

“I’m done,” he sputtered in a very agitated voice.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“I can’t deal with her anymore. She’s going to a nursing home.”

“What happened?”

“She’s a fucking bitch. That’s what happened!”

“Danny don’t call her that.”

“I don’t care. She’s NEVER happy, no matter what! I’ll let you know where she is!” he hollered. And CLICK, the line went dead. I called him back, but it went straight to voicemail.

The person whom he so elegantly referred to as “that fucking bitch” was our 93-year-old Grandmother, Nana Maude. I left 20 messages on his cell and at Nana’s house for days. But nothing from Danny.

After Dad died, Danny had gone down to Georgia to live with Nana. This was a shocking turn since Maude and Danny have had an intermittent hate fest for decades. Not only due to Danny’s mad dog personality, but also because he’s been in love with drugs since he was 13. He hasn’t been sober for more than 4-5 months in 20 years. And his soup de jour is a 12-pack of beer, followed by crack for dinner and dessert.

However, he said he was going to AA, that he’d found God while watching Joel Osteen with Nana. He even went to church with Dad a couple times. I wanted to believe he’d changed. But I wouldn’t have bet my Escalade that his sobriety was permanent.

Nana, unfortunately, bought Danny’s dog and pony show because she was desperate to stay in her house. Danny needed a new sponsor for his life of indolence, and the fact that Nana lived 20 minutes from the beach didn’t hurt any. And she needed someone to take care of her. Danny, of course, was not a suitable caregiver, but what could I do? For a woman in her ninth decade of life, Nana’s intellect was relatively in tact. Yes, she was forgetful, but she’d never shown any signs of dementia at that point in time anyway, but she wasn’t physically able to take care of herself anymore.  

And I knew there was NO WAY in hell that Nana would agree to live in a nursing home.  She’s never lived alone, and the mere idea frightened her to the bone. That said, she had few options. Her only family was me, my older brother, Ben, who lives in L.A, and Nana’s niece, Caroline, who lives in West Virginia. Nana always said that Caroline’s four dogs would “drive her batty”. And Ben works 12 hours/day, and can’t afford full-time help to take care of her…so, dear friends, that stomach grinding terror was caused by the fear she’d wanna be my housemate.

But why would a rather frail woman who can’t fight her way out of a paper bag create such apprehension? This post kinda says it all:

Finally, after three difficult days, Danny called me back saying he was just upset, that everything was okay for now.  And we made plans for me to drive down after Christmas.

“Have you talked to Nana about a nursing home?”

“No.” A comment followed by a bloated silence. “I know she loves this house, but I’m not gonna be her slave anymore. I have no life, here, Kennedy.”

“I understand that, but you can’t force her to live in a nursing home.”

He laughed. “Watch me.”

After he ranted for a few more minutes about how awful Nana is, we said our goodbyes…

I thought that maybe if I took Nana to visit a few nursing homes, maybe she’d warm up to the idea of living among people her own age since she complains nonstop about being lonely. However, the day before Christmas Eve, I received a phone call that tossed a grenade into that pipe dream…

“Your brother took all my money and skipped town, ” Nana squawked. Too stunned to answer, my brain scrambled to think of a response while nursing the possibility that Nana had finally fallen into the senility fountain.

“What’re you talking about? He called me yesterday from your house. What’s going on?”

“I’m in a nursin’ home, that’s what. And it’s the filthiest place I’ve ever seen – in my whole life, and the food isn’t fit for roaches.  I been asking him to bring me my purse from the house and my bank card for days, and all he’s done is drop some clothes off at the nurse’s desk up yonder and didn’t even come say hi or anythin’. I don’t have a dime to my name, and I haven’t gotten my check from the mortgage company either.”

I nearly dropped my nearly full glass of Merlot.

Nana had taken out a reverse mortgage a couple years before. She’d been getting $680/month, plus her Social Security.

“Plus, he’s tellin’ everybody I got the Alzheimer’s.”

“No, you don’t,” I scoffed.

“I know that, but they keep giving me all these tests, asking who the president is and all this crap.”

“Well, don’t worry about that,” I said. “But why do you think Danny left town?”

“I just assumed so because he never answers the phone at my house.”

“Oh,” I said. “Well, maybe, he’s shacked up with some girl.”

“Yeah, maybe, that stripper, what’s her name?”

“What stripper?”

“Debbie something.”

“He told me she was a waitress.”

“Yeah, but nobody wears sequined eye makeup at a restaurant, and she used to leave my house in these really trashy clothes, well, more like costumes, saying she’s going to work. But I don’t think they wear Playboy bunny outfits at Longhorn.”

I laughed. “No.” Danny had mentioned Debbie quite a bit but nothing about her being a dancer, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

“I may be old, but I’m not stupid,” Nana snapped.

We chatted for a few more minutes, and I told her I’d get a hold of Danny and that I’d drive down as soon as I could.

As I hung up, I thought… I stand corrected. You can force an old lady into a nursing home if your biggest skill is lying. He probably convinced the nursing home she had Alzheimer’s, the bastard.

I called Nana’s best friend, Nancy, and asked her to take Nana out for dinner on Christmas Eve, so she wouldn’t be alone on the holidays. She happily agreed. That made me feel much better.

On January 2, 2011, I packed a bag and lit out for Georgia, not having a clue the clusterfuck my life was about to turn into…

Stay tuned boys and girls. Your journey into crazy-town is just beginning…


As my mother lay dying…

Posted in Family, friends, nonfiction, relationships, true stories, true stories, Uncategorized, writing with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 10, 2011 by tenaciousbitch

On May 3, 2007, my world as I knew it, was irrevocably altered with the utterance of one sentence.

My husband, Charlie, was between jobs at the time. He’d been unemployed for 6 weeks, and was scheduled to start a new job at Metropolitan Insurance in a couple of weeks. Of course, whenever money was tight, something always broke. This time as we stretched our budget to the point of piano wire thin, the dishwasher’s innards imploded with a CA-KINK the day I received the life-shattering phone call.

I was helping Charlie finish installing the new dishwasher we’d had to buy (oh, good, more debt heaped upon on our already top-heavy Visa) when the phone rang.

I looked at the caller i.d., surprised to see it was my parents’ number. Mom rarely called these days. She usually emailed.

“Hi, Mom, how’s it goin’?”

“Honey, it’s your dad,” he replied in a really strained tone.

I think my dad has called me twice in the 20+ years since I moved out when I was 18. So, I was immediately concerned. “What’s wrong, Dad?”

“Dammit,” Charlie sputtered in the background. He had dropped a screw down inside the mechanism of the dishwasher. An important screw, the one that secured the inside of the dishwasher to the framework of our kitchen counter.  He leaned inside the dishwasher, fishing around in the hole in the bottom of it where all the water drains out.

“It’s your mother. She has cancer,” Dad said softly.

“Oh, my God. How bad is it?” I asked, barely able to speak as new tears dampened my eyes.

Lung cancer. Bone cancer. Cancer and more cancer. Such ugly words to hear on a beautiful, spring day. The doctors gave her two months’ at most to live because it had now metastasized to her liver.

Mom and Nana flew back to West Virginia a week later, which is where Mom was born and raised (and where my brothers and I grew up as well).

I picked them up at the airport. The next day, Mom was admitted to St. Mary’s Hospital, and they did what they could to make her comfortable. People came by to see her in droves, her sorority sisters, relatives from three different states, dozens and dozens of friends.

But some people stood back away from Mom, giving her sidelong glances, just talking to me, watching Mom talk to my son, Rory, who was 21 at the time. But they didn’t actually speak to her, which really annoyed me.

I didn’t want to make a fuss because I know it’s difficult for a friend of 4o+ years to wrap his/her brain around the idea that such a beautiful soul who was only 71 years old was going to slip away from us so soon. But I wanted to shout, “She’s still here! And death isn’t contagious!”

But I didn’t.

Two days later, with Mom’s approval, she was transferred to a hospice facility near the hospital. It was quieter there, and the nurse said it would be easier to manage her pain meds there because it took TEN hours for the on-call oncologist to sign the order to switch her to Morphine instead of Delaudid, which gave her a terrible rash.

Dad had driven from their condo on the border of Georgia and Florida, and the traffic had been sluggish through several construction zones in South Carolina. And an accident had detoured him off I-77 onto a heavily traveled back road in North Carolina because of a lethal spill from a truck of some sort, so it took him two, almost 3 days to get back to WV. He finally arrived her first day at the beautiful hospice house. The next day, Mom slipped into a coma.

She had been unconscious for several days when the doctor warned us that she could go at any time. I tried to say my goodbyes, to tell her how much I loved her and what a great MOM she was, but I couldn’t because Nana Maude (my mother’s mother) was there, complaining the afternoon away…

“And he pees all over the damned floor, stinks to high heaven. You can smell it halfway down the hall,” Nana chirped angrily.

She was talking about my Dad. Nana had moved in with Mom and Dad about 3 years before Mom got cancer, and she made sure everyone and anyone within earshot knew how unhappy she was that she’d had to move in with them after my mother’s sister died in 2004. Nana was 92 at the time and not able to take care of herself anymore.

I was staring at a tug boat lazily lulling down the river as we sat in rocking chairs on the porch off the room where Mom lay dying not five feet away. It was a blistering HOT day, around 90 degrees as I recall, which is really warm for May.

All I wanted to do was wake Mom up and ask her if she wanted to go swimming. If she could talk, I’m sure she’d smile and say what a great idea that was. She would’ve played along as though the grim reaper wasn’t the next name on her dance card.

Dad had gone home to take a shower. We were all pretty weary at this point. Mom had only found out she was terminal 16 days prior.

“Have you talked to Dad about this?” I asked, not that I really wanted to know if Nana had broached the subject of Dad’s lack of aim in the loo.

“Your father…” she began, and then Nana looked at me with those SHARP blue eyes and said, “You know, I didn’t approve of your mother marrying your father.”

I couldn’t speak. I merely gasped, trying to suppress the fireball of emotion bursting at the seams of my heart.

“Excuse me. Need to, the bathroom,” I managed to mumble. I rushed into the ladies room that was to the left of Mom’s bed, practically hyperventilating from trying to hold back a storm of sobs. I sank onto the toilet wept in silence for a minute or 2 until the sobs broke free in clunky bursts. I didn’t want Nana to hear me for fear it would break the denial she’d wrapped herself in. She was convinced God would save my mother. I couldn’t bear the idea of comforting HER should she hear me crying in the ladies room which might destroy that lofty wish.

I didn’t confront Nana regarding those heart-crushing words she’d spoken about my saintly father until years later. And the thing is, my dad is a good man. He was a hardworking individual who retired as the Director of Engineering for Ashland Oil in 1997 after a distinguished 38-year career there. He never cheated on my mother nor would he ever considered such a thing. He was a very religious, very kind person.

He had never mistreated her in any way and never said an unkind word to her or anyone that I’m aware of – though I’m sure there were times he had bruises on his tongue in order to avoid lashing out at Nana when she felt the need to blurt out other mean-spirited comments.

For the 411 on why my Dad was such a KEEPER, check out this post: about how Dad rescued his family from homelessness at the age of 10.

My parents were happy, and they loved each other very much. And there was enough turmoil with Mom’s illness without having to deal with Nana’s bullshit.

Nana had said some awful things over the years, but I had no idea that she didn’t “approve” of my parents’ marriage until that moment.

And then…

Less than 24 hours later, Mom was gone.

And I’m sure Nana didn’t realize by negating my parents’ marriage, she was, in essence, saying she’d wished I’d never been born. I realize that’s a little bit existential for her feeble brain. But that’s how I felt at the time…

And there you have it, the beginning of the end via one sentence:

Your mother has cancer. 

And try as he might, Charlie never did find that screw that fell inside the drain in the new dishwasher. I kind of took that as a sign that things were falling apart, and no matter how hard we tried…things would never be the same.

And I was right as will be revealed as the saga goes on…:)