The Elusive Culprit V

📅 August 13, 2020

The necessary business of selling the car brings up a key point I have not yet highlighted and it is crucial to anyone facing a loved one’s declining mental capacity. Months before this critical juncture, I had asked my mother where her will was. Of course, she had no idea. And searching her house was an untenable prospect. I contacted a lawyer friend, who said, “If you can’t find the will, it’s the same as not having one.” He advised me to get to a lawyer sooner rather than later.

Again: the good ladies advising me suggested a lawyer and I made an appointment. The lawyer informed me about documents and permissions I did not even know I needed, including processes involved with eventually selling my mother’s house. After the initial appointment, we waited for the final document to be prepared. When I brought her back, the lawyer made me leave the room while she signed on all the required lines. In this way “coercion” could not be claimed.

I cannot stress enough the importance of having all legal documents, including Durable Power of Attorney in hand. Pretending you are not “where you are” can be a hazardous position. The old adage: “Prepare for the worst; hope for the best” is appropriate here. When the critical moment comes that you need permissions to act on behalf of your loved one, you will be saved the stress of wondering where important papers are, if you prepare ahead of time.

Again: this is part of obeying the commandment, “Honor thy father and mother.”

With the car safely parked in my garage, I began doing all Nana’s grocery shopping, taking down lists over the phone and then arriving with my car full of what she needed. Every time I bought groceries, I would purchase a turkey sub, custom made according to her directions, with cheese, mayonnaise, oil and vinegar, and plenty of veggies. I would assign her to eat half, while I put the groceries away, and then I would stow the other half in the refrigerator for her to eat for supper.

But again, though she had good food on hand, she needed constant reminders to eat. I would remind her, for instance, about the sandwich. She would take the sandwich out of the fridge, and then get distracted by her constant need to be on the phone, and it would sit uneaten on the bar. Once, I found an uneaten sandwich in the cabinet above the bar.

She never stopped stewing over loss of the car and insisting that she should have it back. The verbal beatings I received over this issue are still a bleak memory. She would call. I would answer. The question was always the same, “Why can’t I have my car?” I would explain, including ‘you don’t have a license anymore.’ She would argue, scolding me, and hang up.

For my father’s sake, to whom I made a promise to “look after your Mama,” I endured this. Finally, one day, when she hung up on me once too often, I called immediately back to tell her she had to stop hanging up on me. She was honestly baffled about what I was talking about.

The other problem, made worse by her refusal to eat, were the increased falls. She still had multiple canes to use, but clearly these were not “steadying” enough. I suggested a walker many times. She always flatly refused. Finally, I bought one anyway, brought it over, put it together and taught her how to use it. She was more amenable to the idea than I had imagined, and I hoped for the best.

But there was no denying she was growing more frail in every regard.

A final last desperate attempt to allow her to stay home was to hire a part-time caregiver. I got a reference from a friend and called the woman, who was perfect for the job. I could only persuade Nana to allow Evelyn [name changed] to come two days a week. We interviewed her and Nana immediately liked her and approved the plan.

Then only hours later, she called and argued she didn’t need anyone, that she didn’t want anyone in her house, there was nothing for her to do, and they would just “sit at the bar and stare at each other.”

Evelyn was a godsend. Right away, she began plowing through the desperate uncleanliness of the house. She tackled the refrigerator first, cleaned it out and scoured it till it was spic and span. She was worth every penny we paid her.

But she worked at the house only a few weeks before Nana fell in the middle of the night.

And this time, June 23, 2018, she broke her hip.


  1. Kathy

    very good Holly. A reminder to be prepared to get our house in order

    • Holly Bebernitz

      Thanks, Kathy. I’ve learned a lot over the last few years.


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Holly Bebernitz

Native Texan Holly Bebernitz moved to Jacksonville, Florida in 1967. After thirty years of teaching speech, English, and history on the secondary and college levels, she retired from classroom teaching to become a full-time grandmother. The change in schedule allowed the time needed to complete the novel she had begun writing in 1998. When Trevorode the Defender was published in March 2013, the author realized the story of the Magnolia Arms was not yet complete.


Semi-Finalist - 2021 Royal Palm Literary Award Competition - Florida Writer's Association