The Bad Day……

A small scrap of paper, tucked away in a drawer, with child-like handwriting that read September 11, The Bad Day.  This memory that my mother did not want to forget was neatly rubber-banded with a few torn photographs and greeting cards that had scrawled next to the sender’s name.  She kept the cards because they were pretty but had no idea who sent them.

It was January of 2003.  Two weeks earlier, my mother was found wandering, early on a frigid, snowy morning by the local police, dressed in her nightgown and slippers……with a New York Times tucked under her arm.  Outside temperatures, at 2:30 a.m., hovered at 16 degrees which did not factor into her incessant banging on the door of a house located not far from her apartment.  The homeowners, obviously terrified at the sight of this tiny, frail, elderly woman, armed with a newspaper, called the authorities and cowered behind their door as my mother kept knocking.

The phone ringing in the middle of anyone’s night is never a sign of good news waiting to be shared at the other end.  As my husband answered the call, I heard silence and watched him shake his head as he looked in my direction; “yes, that’s my mother-in-law, uh-huh, I see; thank you for calling, we’re leaving now to come pick her up”.

Frantically, we both dressed for the fifty mile trip, rushed out the door and my husband attempted to fill me in on the details as we pulled out of our driveway.  He was talking but it was impossible to focus on anything he was saying until he mentioned the address of the home my mother had been found at…131 Church Street.  This house had been my mother’s childhood home and suddenly I knew….it was Alzheimer’s, nothing else could be responsible for her midnight stroll, attempted home invasion and so many other incidents that I had, too easily, passed off to the woman’s advancing years.  What I couldn’t figure out is where she got the New York Times from, my mother never read anything outside of the local paper and that was just to check the obituaries each day.  I cringed in my seat thinking that she must have lifted it from someone’s doorstep as she roamed the streets that morning.  Whatever the situation, one thing could not be denied, Mom’s living alone was now out of the question. There was nowhere else for her to go other than to come and live in my home, that was it!  Done deal!

All I could think about was that my life was over.  Selfish, I know.

Standing in the midst of boxes, as I packed up her belongings, I kept glancing down at that scrap of paper, that one brief written touch with reality that my mother chose to record two years prior.  I thought back to that horrific day when so many lives disappeared into huge, wailing clouds of smoke and dust. Life as we had come to know it, up to that fateful day, would never be the same.  I knew that what I was facing, as I became a caregiver to my mother, was totally insignificant compared to the events of 9/11/01.

It was……a Bad Day.




  1. No. 7 says:

    Very moving, Patty and so well written. Amazing to think that people wouldn't answer the door in a situation like that. Don't belittle the commitment you made to care for your mother, its completely normal for anyone in that situation to think of themselves and the impact that commitment would have on their life.

    • Patty says:

      My apologies for the 49 week delay in responding to your comment, No.7; for some reason, back in my Blogger-days it never appeared. With my response to RememberRED today, I suddenly see comments with yours at the top.

      Years after my mother's wandering, I'm still reeling at the insensitivity of those cowards at the house that early morning. I went back there during the time that I was packing up my mother's apartment, in the daylight, but, either no one was at home or they again refused to open the door. I did leave a scathing letter in their mailbox, with all my contact info and advised the local police of what I did. Never, ever received a response.

      Still, my frustrations in caring for my mom do not, in any way, compare to the thousands who died on 9/11. Her note will never let me forget that.

  2. Kisatrtle says:

    A powerful post

  3. Frelle says:

    I agree with the above poster, that you should be gentle with yourself and know that the undertaking of that new season of your life is no less significant than the loss many suffered later in the month. And clearly, a terrible memory for you. Thank you for sharing it with us.

    • Patty says:

      Sometimes, when people are caught up in difficult situations, the frustrations are overwhelming and…they complain.
      I blogged once about a story I was reminded of where a woman complained to God about the cross she bore in life. He gave her a chance to pick a new one and she stood next to Him, watching all the crosses of the world pass in front of her. She picked the smallest one, at the end. He told her that "it was the cross she had been carrying, all along."
      When 9/11 happened, that story changed my personal perspective on how hard I thought things were…for me.

      Thank you for stopping by, Frelle!

  4. I cannot believe they would not open the door to a confused, elderly woman when it was so cold outside.

    I cannot imagine the pain of the realization of your mother's illness. What a difficult, difficult time.

    • Patty says:

      We live in a society where people react with fear, even at what couldn't possibly harm them. That is the excuse I held onto regarding the people living in that house, Cheryl but, I'm still angry to this very day that they allowed my mother to stand outside for more than twenty minutes in frigid temps that morning.
      But, I'm grateful that at least they contacted the police instead of letting her wander away to die out on the streets.

      I've written several posts about my mother's dementia and how, until that wandering incident, there was little out of the norm with her; so much of her personality and behavior, had not changed in all the years she was my parent. Or, none that alluded to dementia creeping-in.

  5. Amy says:

    That would be so scary. I am with Cheryl, I can't believe they didn't open the door.

    • Patty says:

      As I responded to No.7, I went back to that house and ended up leaving a letter for those people. Never received a reply of any sort. My mother weighed about 102 lbs. and from what the police told me, the people inside that house were large and gave off the appearance of being well-able to stand up for themselves. Yet, they chose to ignore a small, elderly, woman standing outside in the freezing cold.

  6. sweetbutterbliss says:

    I also agree, what was she going to do to them in her bathrobe for goodness sake! I am glad she ended up safe though. I'm sorry that you have to go through it though.

    • Patty says:

      If she had been wearing a bathrobe, I might have understood the reluctance of those people in not answering the door when she kept banging. After all, hidden underneath it, she might have been carrying an assault weapon, or worse…all 5 feet of her.

      All she had on was a thin cotton nightgown and slippers, that was it! By the time the police arrived, she was shaking from the cold and her hands and feet were turning blue.

  7. Chasing Joy says:

    Wow. I cannot imagine how afraid you were during that 50 mile drive. I think it is inevitable that the children grow up to become their parent's parents. Stopping by from Remembered.

  8. I'm always amazed at what people suffering from memory loss hold on to. That note, since I know you read my piece yesterday, resonates withe me.

    It must have hurt to know your mom couldn't be alone anymore. And that people who saw her didn't recognize a woman in need.

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