Midsummer’s Nightmare at the Alamo:
An excerpt from Elder Rage, or Take My Father...Please! How to Survive
Caring for Aging Parents
By Jacqueline Marcell
Posted 14 April 2003
Late one night my father leaned over my bed, softly rocking me back and forth, and
waking me up at four o’clock in the morning. "Are those two guys still here?" he
"Huh? Oh, Dad, I think you’ve been dreaming. I’m sure there’s no one else in the
house." He looked so lost so I got up to walk him back to their bedroom, just as
he had walked me back to mine after I had seen the Bogeyman so many years before.
"Yes they were! They were sitting with me right there at the kitchen table and I
even gave one of them a cookie—see for yourself."
"Oh, I think you probably just had a really vivid dream. I know they can seem so
real sometimes, huh?" I said as I put my arm around him. "So then… what did they
look like?" I asked, practicing my psychoanalysis.
"Well, one had on a coons-skin hat!" he said, surprising himself.
"You mean like Davy Crockett?" I was thinking I’d check the TV Guide in the morning
and see if ol’ Davy had been on the tube.
"Yeah, and the other guy was from the government—maybe even the FBI!"
"Oh-oh, not J. Edgar Hoover in drag I hope."
"No… I’m not sure who he was or what he wanted."
I was diagnosing: Okay, he’s contrasting the free-spirited Davy with an authority
figure. It’s obvious that he’s in emotional conflict with a deep-seated desire for…
Thank you, Dr. Freudeline.
"Well, let’s go see if Mom saw them. She’ll tell us if they were real or if you
just had a vivid dream." We walked into their bedroom and when I turned on the light
he got very excited.
"There! There’s one of those guys right there," he said, pointing to Mom in their
bed, who’s looking at him, arms crossed, shaking her head, "tisk-ing" up a storm
in complete disbelief.
"Are you sure about that? Let’s get a little closer so you can see who it is better,"
I said as I led him over to Mom’s side of the bed.
"Oh, that’s no guy, that’s my wife. Well then… where’d that guy go?"
I thought I’d die when Mom piped up indignantly, "Well… he most certainly isn’t
in here with me!"
"Mommy, there were two guys right here. I know what I saw."
She rolled her eyes. "Next he’ll be telling us he saw Harvey with the Easter Bunny."
I put him to bed, kissed him goodnight and tried to calm his fears. He held onto
me like a frightened child, begging me to believe him with such a tortured look,
I couldn’t bear to leave him.
Instant replay: I’m nine—my new white Persian cat had gotten out and I was so afraid
something would happen to him. As Dad leaned over my bed at midnight, I held onto
him and begged him to let me go look for my cat. After hearing my case, I was so
grateful when he said we could go look for him. I remember Mom saying, "Oh, for
heaven sakes you two, it’s dark outside, you can’t find him. He’ll come home when
he’s good and ready." Dad whispered to me that we’d go take a look anyway, and that
Mom just didn’t understand how important it was to me. He bundled me up, gave me
a flashlight, and we went outside waking up all the neighbors calling, "Cindy, come
here, Cindy!" (We thought Cindy was a girl when we first got him. We had to officially
change his name to "Cinderfella" for formal affairs.)
Dad said, "I’ve got an idea. Let’s open the kitchen window and turn on the electric
can opener like we’re opening him a can of food. Maybe he’ll hear it and come home
to eat." Wow, what a great idea—my daddy was a genius. I’m sure the cat was evaluating.
Let’s see: sex? … food? … sex? … food? Hmmm. Finally, we saw him take a big leap
over the fence as he came running home and I was so overjoyed that my cat was safe.
We quickly locked the doors together and I saw my dad’s face beaming that I was
so grateful to him. He was my hero.
It had been many years since I remembered that feeling of being so relieved that
he had believed me. Now it was like it was yesterday. The tables were now turned
as I leaned over my father’s bed, and the love in my heart overflowed. "Okay then,
Dad—let’s get up and look for them, just in case." I helped him up and took him
on a thorough search of the house, turning on all the lights and giving him a flashlight.
Mom shook her head as she "tisked" us. "Oh, for heaven sakes you two—there’s no
one else in the house."
"We’ll just make sure that Davy and J. Edgar left, okay? Mom doesn’t really understand
how important it is to you," I whispered.
He looked at me so relieved. "Thanks, honey. You know, I think they must have left
now, but they were here. Please, you gotta believe me, sweetheart."
"You know, I think you’re absolutely right, Dad. I think there is a cookie missing
here. It looks like those guys are gone now though, and nothing else seems to be
missing. They must have been nice guys, not thieves or anything. Let’s lock all
the doors together so you know that no one can get in and you can sleep better,
"Okay, yeah, that’s good," he whispered. I finally got him back into bed and kissed
him goodnight as Mom shook her head. I went back to my bed and intensely studied
the texture of the ceiling as tears streamed down the sides of my face and clogged
my ears. I’d have never guessed that I’d have to be my parents’ parent, and wasn’t
it amazing that I was an absolute natural at it… but then again—I had very good
As I laid there soaking my pillow, I marveled that there were so many things I found
myself knowing that I should do for my parents, because they had done them for me.
An early childhood memory surfaced about the first night I went from my crib to
a regular bed. Dad got lots of pillows and put them all around me so I would feel
more secure. "There you go, don’t be afraid," he said as he kissed me goodnight.
"Call us right away if you get scared, honey."
Now, Dad was the one rolling out of bed, so I put pillows all around him—but he’d
just toss them on the floor. I put big pillows on the floor to soften his landings.
That didn’t work because he’d trip over them when he got up. I thought I had the
answer with children’s side-rails that secured between the mattresses. They easily
folded up and down, which would prevent them from accidentally rolling out in their
sleep. Wrong again, almighty ka-boom breath.
One night I was sound asleep and BOOM, I thought the "Big One" had hit. No, he had
forgotten to pull up the side rail after he’d gotten back into bed and he rolled
right out. I rushed in, he was okay, nothing broken but his pride. I finally got
him back into bed and he crawled over to cuddle Mom. He looked up at me and asked,
"What time is it?"
"Two-thirty in the morning, Dad."
"Oh, good, I’ll get a few more hours of sleep before I have to get up to go to work
at the yard." Mom and I raised our eyebrows at each other and then we looked at
him—and then we all burst out laughing.
"Where’d that come from, Dad? You haven’t worked for years."
"Hell, don’t ask me," he giggled, as he hugged Mom close and we all had a belly
laugh. I smiled as I covered them up and went back tomy own bed humming, "Memories…
in the corners of our minds," as moisture started to cloud my vision againand
I realized how absolutely true that sweet song was.