Kathie Gagne died 2,310 days ago.

Bad Jokes
March 19th, 2018 @ 9:26 am

pith helmetI went to my nephew’s birthday party this weekend. He turned five and so the party was based on Disney’s Lion Guard series, which is a spin-off of The Lion King. There were zoologists on hand with a dozen exotic animals – an anteater, a boa constrictor, a hedgehog, etc. – and lots of safari-themed cupcakes and decorations. My sister-in-law also provided pith helmets for all the kids to wear.

Of course I was unable to resist making a classic dad joke: “You know what a pith helmet’s for, right? In case you need to take a pith!” Everyone groaned, as everyone has always done every time that joke has been made for the last two-hundred years.

As the words were coming out of my mouth, I remembered that it was one of mom’s favorite jokes. (She may have gotten it from her dad, Papa, who served in the China/Burma/India theater in the Pacific in WWII.) It was quite literally impossible for her to resist making that joke any and every time one of those pieces of headgear appeared or was even mentioned.

It was a poignant moment for me. Both my sons (and my nephews) were running around like little maniacal adventurers, full of life and wonder and joy. I love them and it will probably forever break my heart that they never got to know their grandmother, who would have been thrilled to have a captive audience for that terrible joke and a thousand others, and who would have worshiped the ground they walk on.

Why I Believe in Universal Healthcare

How Nursing Homes in the United States Overmedicate People with Dementia

How the Elderly Lose Their Rights

Five Years
August 12th, 2017 @ 4:36 pm

How curious it is that so often the most enormous days of our lives can simultaneously feel so close and so far away. Today marks half a decade since mom died and yet it seems both like it was only yesterday and like it was another lifetime. My two year old is now seven and I have a two year old again.

Neither of them will have any memories of their paternal grandmother. The older one only met her twice and long before he was forming legitimate long-term memories. The younger one was born years after her death. She’ll exist to them both only in the words I’ve written here, pictures in albums and shoeboxes, and the stories I tell; and that will forever make me a little sad.

I miss her as much today as I did in the months before she died, when she was already gone but still living. But it’s different now, of course. The cannon balls haven’t stopped, but they’re muffled and hazy most of the time, as if they’re happening to a different ship.

I miss you, mom. And I wish you were here. I’ll probably never understand why or accept that you’re not, but I don’t think you’d want me to be as sad as I was then. I’m not. But I still miss you.

Sixty-Eight
September 22nd, 2016 @ 10:28 am

MomI wish I could say something profound or meaningful or hopeful or joyous or poignant on what would have been mom’s 68th birthday. But I can’t think of anything at all. It’s been four years now and she has another grandson she’ll never get to see and more missed anniversaries and birthdays and holidays and diapers she would have been thrilled to change. Life is not fair but death is even worse. And grief never seems to die as much as we’d love for it to disappear and leave us alone for just one day.

I miss my mom. I miss her so much and I wish I could call her to tell her that the airline lost my luggage and I had to wear the same pair of jeans for five days even though her youngest grandson peed all over them and Venice is as amazing as she imagined and the new Star Wars movie was really good and I watched a documentary about great fastball pitchers and they referenced Ted Williams and Yaz and the Patriots are really good now still after all those years of losing to Marino over and over again and I got a haircut you’d like because it’s nice and short and Jesus Christ why did you die?

World Elephant Day
August 12th, 2016 @ 10:40 am

mother-elephant-baby-elephant-calfI had no idea that August 12th is World Elephant Day. I like to think that mom would have been happy about that.

It’s been four years now and I miss her as much today as I did the day she left. It breaks my heart that my two boys will never know their her, and that she never got to be their grandmother. She wanted so, so badly to be a Nana.

She loved The Jungle Cruise, especially the joke about seeing, “the backside of water.” That cracked her up every time, and I try to explain it to my son whenever we are there. But he just stares at me.

The world never looks as big as when someone is lost.

Volusia Nursing Home Residents Receive Risky Drugs for Dementia
April 18th, 2016 @ 9:01 am

pillsHere’s an article from the Daytona Beach News-Journal published in April 2015 that details a woman with a story that nearly exactly mimics what happened to mom. It’s heartbreaking to read because it confirms what I have been writing here all along, and what I was literally screaming at people before mom died. She was even in several of the same facilities and almost certainly under the “care” of the same doctors.

Volusia Nursing Home Residents Receive Risky Drugs for Dementia

“[S]he was told her mother would be placed on a few antidepressants, but she noticed a sudden change and suspected something wasn’t right.
Medical records show [her] mother was placed on Zyprexa and Risperidone, two powerful antipsychotic medications not approved for the treatment of dementia.
She refused food and her medication and exhibited ‘exit-seeking behavior.’ She lashed out at staff and hit an aide, according to her records. ‘If you are not going to help me get out of here, then I’ll kill myself,’ she was quoted in her medical records saying.”

Podcasts
March 16th, 2016 @ 7:56 am

microphoneI have been listening to the Radiolab and This American Life podcasts for years now. This morning while driving to work I heard a story about a young man who was suffering from delusions who was actually shot in his hospital room. I realized that of all the things I’ve done to try to get someone to care about my mom’s story, I’ve never attempted to contact a journalist. So I found the submissions pages for these podcasts and sent them the following:

Nursing homes and psychiatric care facilities in the state of Florida are using the uninsured elderly as unwitting participants in drug trials for multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical companies, often with fatal results.

If you are reading this, you are likely not elderly and / or suffering from dementia, but one day you will be or one of your parents will be. And it is when you are most vulnerable and voiceless that you will learn that this huge segment of our community is invisible.

I know this because my mother died at the very young age of 63 after a nine-month ordeal during which I vainly attempted to get her appropriate medical and psychiatric care. She was repeatedly given the experimental drug Risperdal for “off label” purposes even after I was made her “Guardian” and made it known that I did not want her taking that drug. She died of the exact known side effect of being administered the drug.

The conditions of most mental health facilities in Florida to this day almost exactly mimic those of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”. I would go days without being able to get in touch with my mother, she would be (literally) lost or misplaced, phones did not work or went unanswered, etc.

I finally called the Department of Children and Family Services to get help, and she died the day after an investigator — who never actually visited her — told me that there was nothing to investigate.

I have meticulous documentation of the entire experience, including names and phone numbers and email addresses of local, state, and federal employees and hospital personnel involved and notes and transcriptions of conversations.

I have been trying for over three years to get someone to care, but the laws in Florida are so horribly skewed against the elderly that it is impossible to get a lawyer to even consider investigating the case.

My mom is dead and she should not be. And I want her story to be told.