Goodenough Gismo

  • Gismo39
    This is the classic children's book, Goodenough Gismo, by Richmond I. Kelsey, published in 1948. Nearly unavailable in libraries and the collector's market, it is posted here with love as an "orphan work" so that it may be seen and appreciated -- and perhaps even republished, as it deserves to be. After you read this book, it won't surprise you to learn that Richmond Irwin Kelsey (1905-1987) was an accomplished artist, or that as Dick Kelsey, he was one of the great Disney art directors, breaking your heart with "Pinocchio," "Dumbo," and "Bambi."

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I just found your blog and -- after being drawn in to a number of posts here -- I wanted to say that I appreciate the stories you relate (my father has dementia) as well as the thought-provoking pieces (ie., intelligent design). It's not that I exactly agree with everything here, but I enjoy having my thoughts challenged ... and you do that! I look forward to reading more in the future!


One of my husband's grandfathers--the one he was so profoundly close to, the one I was just lucky enough to meet "in time" before his rapid descent into Alzheimer's, the one whose name I remember every time I speak to my son (I'm the one who suggested the namesake bit)--became a danger to himself and to others, even violent on occasion. In his case, he had not lost mobility, which is a key factor, in such situations--because he was able to get out of the house, and to flail, strike at out & etc. A complicating factor, for sure, however ironically and sadly.

Anyway, he required 24/7 energy, care and supervision,and it was sapping the life, health and energy from his wife, my husband's maternal grandmother. (She is alive and kicking today, both independently and on her own, into her '80s.) It was so hard, but she finally came to the conclusion that she had no choice, and she really didn't. However, it did not turn out be an all-or-nothing proposition. She visited three times a day, for two of those sessions hours at a time, and other family members--even a number from far away--came and visited, too. He was not abandoned, and the involvement from family was such that indifference had no ground in which to root.

This is not to comment on YOUR situation, Annie, or YOUR reaction. It's just to say that there's more than one situation, context and outcome--and I wouldn't necessarily want some random person out there to think otherwise. Not that you do either. Nor that you'd think I was saying you were. Well, damn it, I could continue on this qualifying loop forever, but--nah. I'm pretty sure everyone can get what I'm trying to point to.


Thanks, of course not -- but I should add a disclaimer to the post.

Donna B.

All situations are different. I have an aunt, age 88, who put herself into a nursing home 10 years ago. She's got numerous health problems, the hospital is right across the street and she enjoys the social life of card games and chitchat.

Of course, part of what makes this possible is that not only do numerous relatives visit her and take her home with them for holidays, but she has numerous relatives and friends in the home with her. Small towns, rural areas are good this way.

In contrast, my step-mother cared for her grandmother, her mother and father-in-law, and her first husband in her home until their deaths. It seemed unfair to put her in a nursing home when her cancer got to an advanced stage. My father was fortunate to be able to hire help, and my sister and I were fortunate to be able to be there too. The other thing about small towns is one almost needs a social director to keep up with visitors and food gifts.

There is no one right way.

Amba, I've often thought that what you need is someone like my disabled son, who is strong as an ox, sensitive, and willing and able to put up with someone who sometimes lives in the past to help out occasionally.

Would it matter to you that he limped, sweated excessively, talked... differently? Those things matter to McDonald's managers.

Well, I've gone on far beyond where I should have stopped. Blame Chablis.


she has numerous relatives and friends in the home with her. Small towns, rural areas are good this way.

Strangely enough, under certain circumstances urban neighborhoods can be, too. In Hyde Park near the University of Chicago is one of those "graduated" senior residences with all levels of independence to full care. (Absurdly, I'm drawing a blank on its name just now.) Many of the parents of my childhood friends who had houses in the neighborhood have moved in there to be near their old friends and neighbors. Something similar is true in a different way in Greenwich Village in New York.


Donna, I would love to have the help of someone like your son. Strong, sensitive, patient -- those are the qualities it takes. The fully able-bodied and -minded (myself at times included) are generally convinced that they have more important things to do. Like the businessman in The Little Prince who keeps saying, "I am concerned with matters of consequence."


I had a tour of an assisted living home the other day because my mother is demented, mentally ill, and alcoholic. She had been getting home care from Medicaid for a couple of years, but she has been falling and getting injured and her Medicaid nurse strongly recommended assisted living.

I feel judged and blamed by some of the Medicaid people because there is so little I can do. I am at work all day so even if my mother lived with me she would be alone and unattended all day.

If I wanted to take care of my mother I would have to get a much bigger and more expensive apartment, and I would have to quit my job and live on my savings.

My goal of semi-retirement would be destroyed, the demanding career I have worked so hard at would be history, and I would probably have to drink like my mother to dull the depressing hopelessness.

I am not an uncaring or selfish person, but I have to accept that society will despise me and judge me because I am not willing to sacrifice everything to keep my mother out of assisted living.

My brother and sister feel the same way I do, so at least I don't have to fight with them about it.

Amba, it's wonderful that you have done so much for your husband. But there will eventually be a point where you cannot take care of him by yourself. And what if your parents start to need help? How would you take care of him and them at the same time? I don't see how it would be possible.

The fact is that most of us are not health care professionals, and most of us have to work. We will put our demented disabled relatives in an assisted care or nursing home, and society will judge us like criminals as a result. Especially if we had the bad luck to be born female.

Donna B.


No way would *I* judge you. And I hope that it's your own unwarranted guilt at not being able to do all you would like to that's fueling your idea of how society will judge you.


It has often struck me that perhaps the least understood, most overlooked thing about caregiving is that EVERY SITUATION IS UNIQUE. This is a problem I had about joining a "support group." While there are certainly common stresses and issues, each situation is a development in a RELATIONSHIP, as well as an intersection of a particular individual with a particular illness, and that makes them individual and incomparable. We often say no outsider can understand what goes on in a marriage. Well, same here, whether it's a spouse, parent, or child you're caring for.

In order to judge, "society" (or whoever) has to generalize. And one size ill-fits all.


Every situation, and every relationship, is unique, but there are general and universal similarities.

The idea that children owe their parents is universal and ancient. But until recently extended families lived together and the responsibility was shared. Not as many people survived to old age, and if they got sick they usually died. Now it is probably much more likely for a sick demented old person to hang on for years or decades.

And there might not be any relatives around to help them. If there is a daughter around everyone assumes she stayed because her mother would need help some day. Everyone assumes she will give up everything.

It's all just random chance that I live near my mother. My boyfriend of 20 years is here, I found a graduate program here and then a job. I also think this is a nice place to live, although too expensive.

If I didn't have what I needed here I would have moved away like everyone else.

My boyfriend is very devoted to his mother, and stayed here mostly because of her. He loves to pile guilt on me because I am not devoted enough to my mother. I do what I feel capable of doing, and I complain about it.

Last week I became stressed and exhausted because of all the problems and phone calls, and going to the hospital before and after work. I felt so alone. And even though my life was revolving around my mother, I still managed to feel guilty.

I was doing a bad job at work, and that made me angry at myself and at the situation. Doing a good job, being good at something is the main thing I want out of life. I have always felt that way.

The most important thing in my life was being stolen from me.

Society judges me if I don't sacrifice everything for my mother. My mother is a nice person, a loving mother, but she never tried to be good at anything, and that's why she wound up poor.

If I did what society demands, I would end up like my mother. And then society would judge me for being worthless.

So this is a situation where I cannot please the world, or myself, no matter what I do.

The only answer is to balance everything somehow. But balancing requires constant attention and decision-making. Should I help my mother, or do my job? Should I help my mother, or spend my precious free time on hobbies I love? Can I spend time with friends, accept invitations, see my boyfriend, do my own chores?

Every single thing is an agonizing decision.

Well at least I have an excuse for being the miserable negative person I am.

The problem has been going on for at least 20 years, with alternating periods of calm and crisis. Now we're in the worst crisis yet.

I am glad to have a chance to talk about it here.

Marlys Styne

Each caregiving situation is, indeed, unique. See me earlier post on this topic:


Marlys Styne

Sorry! That should read "my." I have a typing problem due to an injured hand.


Oh, is that all, I thought you were a pirate . . . ;)

real, it's torture. Make sure to read Marlys' post (I linked it in an update above).

I do think that for all the traditions of obligation of children to parents, it's also a different situation from husband and wife. And there too it depends on the history of the relationship. I know a woman, a friend of my parents', whose daughter won't speak to her because she put her Alzheimer's-stricken husband in a nearby nursing home (and visits him about daily) instead of turning her apartment into a nursing home. This woman is an artist who started painting in her 60s or 70s. And I think a factor is that her husband was never very nice to her when he was intact. He used to bad-mouth and humiliate her in front of other people, cheated on her in a major way at least once, etc.

There's one way in which you are fortunate: your siblings don't guilt-trip you.


"your siblings don't guilt-trip you."

They have. There has been terrible tension between the three of us over this and it almost drove us apart. But we have been working on it. I am the kind of person who hates to ask for help with anything, but I ask them for help with this, because it is their mother. My sister is still great at finding excuses. I let them know that if my career is destroyed over this I will be glad to let them support me.

I get angry when I am dealing with hateful stuff and I know they are enjoying their lives and doing things they love. I make phone calls and send emails and make sure they are suffering as much as I am.

I explain, repeatedly, that I have to work full time, and that I also have just as many hobbies and interests as they have.

When all else fails I threaten suicide.



The assisted living home I visited the other day was very nice. They were obviously trying to keep the residents entertained and trying to attract new ones. Everything was decorated, not insitutional-looking. They even had a bar with happy hour every day. A schedule was posted and filled with activities for every day. Not just bingo.

And they take Medicaid patients.

Maybe you should think about getting your husband on Medicaid and see if there is a nice assisted living home nearby. You would probably have a lot more fun with him if you weren't so exhausted by the daily chores. Other people who are experts at health care -- who have chosen it as a career -- would be doing it instead. And you could help as much as you feel like, when you feel like it. Your husband might be happier because there would be so many people around all the time. And you would definitely be happier because you would be free to work and socialize and just get out of the house and take a walk, if you feel like it.


"It's all just random chance that I live near my mother. My boyfriend of 20 years is here, I found a graduate program here and then a job."

"The problem has been going on for at least 20 years, with alternating periods of calm and crisis. Now we're in the worst crisis yet."

I see a common denominator...

I'm going to make sure that i let my kids know it would be ok for me to go into a nursing home- even if it sucks. My life is my own, not theirs to take upon their shoulders.

Real-- i'm glad you can talk about it here, too. It's good for you to be able to be honest w/yourself and not be judged. You need support-- and we can be it for you. Life is hard.



Life is hard sometimes for some people. If it weren't for these problems with my mother -- and I am not blaming her -- my life would be pretty easy right now. I have put tremendous effort into making my own life sort of the way I want it. Now everyone is trying to grab everything away from me and I feel crazy.

For thousands of years, people were relatively healthy and then they dropped dead. And if they did become demented or disabled, there were dozens of relatives around to share the caretaking.

Until very recently, most families included a housewife, and after her children were grown she was available for caretaking and nursing anyone who was old and/or sick.

Society has changed drastically but things are still set up the same as before. If I take my mother to an evaluation or something, everyone assumes I am the caretaking housewife, and that I have a support system of relatives around to help me.

I have nothing, no one, to help me except distant siblings.

The drugs that can prolong life can also make people demented. Since almost everyone over age 40 or 50 is on these drugs now, we are heading for terrible unprecedented disasters in 20 or so years.

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