Six month review

There’s a Judge in this Judicial Circuit I think might be a few bricks shy of a wall (the ones on the bottom… that make it stable). I can’t tell you why due to agency policy about discussing work in public forums. It says I can’t.

But imagine my surprise when I looked at the original order of comitment for my mother (when she was shipped off to the state hospital) and saw a familiar name. When I got over the irony, it reminded me how important our Judiciary is – as if it’s not already obvious. (Not that I feel the judge made a mistake, I was just surprised to see he’d been assigned to the case.)


Ah, but that’s not really why I’m writing this post. I’m doing a little writing today for the same reason I often write: to work through a little pain. Today was the day mom’s case was set for a review hearing (this time with an adminstrative law Judge, rather than Circuit Court) to extend the term of her commitment. Yeah, good times.

In part, I’m writing because I’d recently gone through the affidavits filed by her physicians (in support of further commitment), and they were beyond description… or full comprehension. It’s hard to reconcile descriptions of your mother that society at large would characterize dismissively, derisively, or in unflattering or insensitive terms.

I was speaking to a Judge I know the other day and the conversation conveniently lent itself to a question about psychiatric review hearings. “Have you ever done any?” I asked. “Oh, yeah,” he replied, “but those hearings don’t take very long because those people are crazy… and I mean REALLY crazy.”

I know he didn’t mean anything by his comment. I’ve known and worked with him for years, and he’s a genuinely nice guy. But it still stung. I didn’t think it was fair to say anything; in part because I wasn’t up front with him when I asked – turning my question into a kind of ambush. But on the inside I was reeling.

On top of that I have the words of those affidavits and my mother’s social worker circling in my mind. From the time she was committed she’s gone from general statements suggesting suicide, to very specific statements about how she’d do it, to trying to hurt herself… just like she said she would.

Her social worker’s reasurances that she’s improving sound very hollow.


With my father out of town for a couple days to attend the hearing (it’s a six hour drive to the state hospital in north Florida), I was over at The House* to take care of poor Ted**. I took the kids with me since they love looking through all the old stuff me and my sisters collected over the years… and we ended up staying a while. I decided it would be cool to have some of my old soccer team photos, so I did a little snooping of my own. I only found one of the pictures I was looking for, but I found boxes of stuff my mom kept when my grandmother died. It was filled with hand written notes about my grandmother’s family (one of the branches of my tree I haven’t been able to fill in), old letters and postcards, and old pictures of my mother. I recognized her face in every picture, but not the eyes. The eyes were somehow different.

And then it hit me.

Her eyes expressed emotion. There was a presence to them. They weren’t haunted, or vacant.

And then my eyes showed a little emotion of their own.

*When your parents still live in the house you spent the better part of your childhood, there’s only one house you refer to as The House.

**Mom was a northeast, Massachusetts liberal. She named the cats Ted and Joan to get a rise out of my dad – who she suspects voted for Nixon – twice (to her eternal shame).

By the way, can you guess which one I am?


Give the gift of words.