The Unmentionables

Momma enjoys her quiet moments, and I relish the peace. By Jo Ann Bell

“No, I am not taking these off.” Momma was doing more pleading than pushing during one of our nightly battles as I changed her disposable underwear. “You cannot take these from me! They are not dirty. Look, all you need to do is wash them.” She pelted me with all this resistance, while taking wadded […]


Ruth takes in the tulips behind our house in West Oakland. Dimentia makes it hard for her to remeber her children, but Momma still knows she loves this beautiful tree. By Jo Ann Bell

My 3 siblings and I often become fictional or rearranged members of Momma’s imagination. Momma once told my youngest brother that he was “found by grandpa at the poker game.” I loved it when she said to me, with wide-eyed earnestness, “I want you to remember you are just like a member of the family. […]

The Decision

Watching Momma enjoy her simplest pleasures reminds me why I keep her by my side. By Jo Ann Bell

Last week, Momma and I visited Cousin Bernadette, who is in a nursing home suffering from ailments associated with dementia.  It was a pleasure to see her, even though Momma really didn’t quite comprehend the reason for the visit or Cousin Bernadette’s disability. To put a loved one in a facility, either temporarily or permanently, […]

5 Years After Katrina, Recalling Stories of Fear & Relief Over Loved Ones in New Orleans

Mary Lou Stelly and her husband Eugene. In the weeks following Hurricane Katrina, Mary Lou, an Oakland resident, called all over the country searching for her brother Antoine Schexnider after the storm forced his New Orleans nursing home to evacuate its residents. By Jo Ann Bell

By Jo Ann Bell Hurricane Katrina left Louisiana and Mississippi with memories of utter destruction. It’s been a month since those and other Gulf states marked the fifth year anniversary of the storm, and the floods that followed. The region was still reeling one month after Katrina. For two families in the Bay Area, the […]