I am not a doctor. I am providing information based on experiences that my mom has with natural remedies. The purpose of this blog is to help folks to educate themselves. Use this information with your own discernment.

05 November 2009

The Crazy Gene

I think my mom secured me as her care giver when I was a little girl.  She often told me about "the Crazy Gene."  She worried that one of her kids would inherit it.

My mom has a wild story, it's more than likely the real reason I feel the need to care for her.

She grew up during the Great Depression in Roxbury, Massachusetts.  She was the youngest of 4 kids, born to Italian immigrants. 

My grandmother foraged for food, pulling dandelion greens, sorel and other food plants we would consider weeds today.  All foods that are rich in nutrients, which I believe my Grandmother intuitively knew would be good to help her kids ward off the "Crazy Gene."

My mom, never spoke a word to her mother in Italian, never.  Her mom never spoke a word of English to her.  They communicated somehow.  I still find it amazing that my mom never spoke to her mom.  It's sad that she never was given the chance to learn from her mom the things that could have helped her to raise a healthier family and avoid the illness herself.

When my mom was 6 years old, her dad passed away from pneumonia.  He worked in the sewers of Boston, he had a great job that afforded his family lots of luxury, one of the few who had a job during the Depression.

Life changed for my mom and her siblings when their dad died.  My grandmother didn't speak English.  She never had to worry about anything, my grandfather took care of it all.  Everything. 

Time passed, not a lot of time and my grandmother lost their house.  Homeless, she took her 4 kids to the local Catholic Church where they slept in the pews.  I don't know how long they slept in church before a family member took them in.

I remember my mom telling me that when she was 6 years old and her life turned upside down, she was laying in bed and saw the Infant of Prague appear above her bed.  The baby Jesus floated above her and scared the shit out of her.  She tried to close her eyes but she couldn't.  Then she told me she felt peace, that the Christ Child made her feel like she would be protected.

And she was....

The family moved in with cousins, I think one of the cousins was Louise of "Louise's Raviolli's."  My mom often told me stories about how great a cook Louise was, she made the biggest and best homemade raviolli's.  My mom will still talk about Louise's Raviolli's if I salt the conversation with the right words to jog her memory.

Living with relatives, attempting to get some assemblance back in to their lives, my grandmother began hallucinating.  Well, that's what the family believed so they had her committed to a mental institution, Gardner State Mental Institution in Gardner, Mass.  My mom was about 12 when her mom was locked up.

My mom's older sister Florence, she was locked up when she was 16, diagnosed with schizophrenia.  Mother and daughter were both institutionalized, leaving my mom and my Uncle Al to fend for themselves.

Flo pictured above, just before she was institutionalized.

No dad.  No mom.  No family.  No nothing.

I'm not sure of timing. 

My mom's oldest brother, Auggie, he loved my mom and often gave her advice.  Advice that my mom passed on to me and that I often didn't listen to, only later to have regrets. 

My Uncle Auggie would say to my mom, "words can cut like a knife.  Becareful of the words you use because you can never take them back."  Oh... wise words, words I wish I heeded before I got mad at my own sister a few weeks ago.   Emotions got the best of me.  I'm sorry, but these words could be too late.  Time will tell.

Auggie would have been an awesome uncle, if he survived.  He was in World War I but didn't make it.  He was the head of his platoon, in the US Army, honored to serve his country. 

My Grandmother, before she was institutionalized, didn't like the idea that Auggie was going off to war.  She had a preminition that he wasn't coming home so she hid his uniform.  My mom saw where she hid it.

It was time for Auggie to return to the Army, his leave was over.  He couldn't find his uniform.  He was freaking out and crying.  My mom, she loved her brother so much that she went and got his uniform for him, she didn't want to see him crying.

He left for the war, never to return.  He died in France.  He stepped on a landmine as he led his men through a mine field.  It was devastating for my mom, she always blamed herself for the death of her brother.   Of course it wasn't her fault, but for years she's held a bit of guilt for giving him his uniform.

When Auggie was killed, I think this is what pushed my Grandmother over the edge and to cross the line of sanity.  My mom, all she knew was that her mom was crazy.  Her sister was crazy.  Her brother was dead.  Her father was dead.  Her living brother Al, she wasn't a big fan.

My mom lived with relatives and when she was in high school she lived with a doctor and his family.  She took care of the doctors kids, she was the live in nanny.

Mom graduated from Lynn English High School in 1947.  She was great at accounting.  Her teacher thought she should become an accountant.  She didn't. 

My mom, she loved to dance.  At the Oceanview on Revere Beach every night, dancing, with a dance card filled with so many suitors.  My mom was stunning, beautiful and a fabulous dancer.  There was Mario, the short Italian guy that she fancied.  She believed she would marry him.  But, he went off to war and didn't stay in touch with my mom.

My mom, she wasn't a wall flower, my dad saw her and knew he had to be with Jo.  6 months later, they were married.  Mario came back.  Too late Mario. 

I'm grateful that my mom married a Polish man, I wouldn't want to go through life short.

My mom and dad had 5 kids.  I'm the 4th child, the youngest daughter. 

I wouldn't say any of us caught the crazy gene, it's more like acquiring it through poor nutrition.  My mom didn't learn about nutrition from her mom.  All the natural remedies that my grandmother brought over with her from Italy were lost.

My family in 1968, first time visiting my mom's mom in the mental institution. It totally freaked me out. Everything was painted battle ship gray, the TV's were behind chain link fence hanging off the ceiling.

Life happened. 

In a sense, I feel like I'm completing my mom's circle of life.  I'm learning about the natural remedies and nutrition, all the things my Gram would have taught my mom if she could. 

My mom's life is winding down.  She is a little crazy sometimes, but it's not genetic.  Poor nutrition, no exercise and a few hits on her head from falls have brought us to where we are today.

I've learned through my mom that it's never too late to take care of ourselves.  I wish I paid attention to her health sooner than I did so that my mom could have had a few REALLY great years.

But, it is what it is and all I can do is what I'm doing.

My mom's final curtain call will be one of grace and peace, one where she feels the love of family, something she lost when she was 6.  I am committed to my family, I love them all, especially my mom. 

She deserves to be loved. 

Uncle Al and my mom are the only 2 left now. 

Uncle Al is 83 and my mom is 80.  Uncle Al is in a nursing home with an Rx of Alzheimers.  I think he has the same thing as my mom because he hallucinates.  Uncle Al has a story too, a sad story that I'll save for the book that I'm currently editing.


  1. What a wonderful post. It was so interesting reading the history of your family. Terrific. I hope your day is going by without much stress. Jeanne

  2. Thank you Jeanne.

    Yes, my days are much better now that my mom is taking Ashwagandha in the morning and at night before bedtime. The Naturopath doctor is helping her to have more good days than bad - who could ask for more?!