Welcome all you caregivers, and children who are now taking care of their parents. You’ve landed on Lisa Burton Radio, the only show that brings you characters from the books you love. I’m your host, Lisa the robot girl. My special guest today is Michelle DePalma. She has an elderly parent who requires round-the-clock care. “Welcome to the show, Michelle.”
“Thanks so much for having me, Lisa. I admit I was a little apprehensive about being interviewed by a robot. I didn’t know what to expect. But you seem pretty normal to me. At least, as normal as any of us can be…”
“My bio indicates that Two Wells, Texas is a very small town. The kind of place it’s good to be from, if you know what I mean. Something has pulled you back to Two Wells. Can you tell us about that?”
“Certainly. Two Wells was founded during the East Texas oil boom, and a lot of its residents see it as the center of the universe; they’ve never left. People I grew up with have changed very little since we were in high school. Two Wells is very clique-y. My parents moved there from New York when I was five years old. In the 1960s when I grew up, even though the Civil War had been over for 100 years, the citizens of Two Wells never really accepted the outcome. Because I was a Yankee, as well as a shy, studious kid, I didn’t fit in. My mom didn’t believe me when I told her the kids—and even my teachers–picked on me for being a Yankee, but it was true.
“I got out of Two Wells as soon as I was able. My parents stayed, so I could never escape it completely. Lately, I’ve been back there a lot—every couple of weeks.”
“And the increased visits have to do with your mother, Lola’s, health?”
“Yes, my mom has had a lot of health problems lately. Last year, she had breast cancer surgery and I swear, I don’t think she ever got the anesthesia out of her system. She went to a nursing home for several months to recover, and she seemed to have lost the will to live. She wouldn’t eat, she wouldn’t do her physical therapy. My brother and I figured she’d be happier at home, so we got her out of there. But she needs round-the-clock caregivers… Sorry… In the past few months, we’ve noticed her memory is really bad. She can’t remember what she had for lunch or how to put her clothes on right. You can have a rational conversation with her and five minutes later, she can’t remember a word of it. You have to start all over… Sorry…I don’t know how this happened. I guess we’ve been absorbed in our own lives, not paying enough attention to her. Our dad died, Mom got a boyfriend, then he died… she’s always been so self-sufficient. Never asked for our help. Sorry…it’s just hard to think of my mother this way… that she might have…Alzheimer’s.”
“It’s okay. Take your time. Tell us what you found when you visited Lola.”
“I hadn’t been home for a few weeks, not since before the attacks of September 11. My husband Roberto and I both work for an airline, and life had been crazy. But I was finally able to take a couple days off to fly back to Two Wells and check on Mom.
“I walked in the front door and there was Mom, standing over the body of a young woman sprawled on the tile floor. I figured out it was Brittany Landers, one of Mom’s caregivers. There was blood… too much blood. Brittany’s skin had this grayish-blue color…she did not look good. She wasn’t breathing. I couldn’t find a pulse.
Mom just stared at us. I asked her what happened, but she didn’t answer.
“I asked her if she’d called 911 yet, but she just looked at me as if that was the craziest idea she’d ever heard.
“I ran to the phone in the kitchen and dialed 911, and the dispatcher told me to start CPR, which I did. But it didn’t help.
“The paramedics got there really fast, but they couldn’t revive her, either. Brittany was dead.
Then the cops came. Keith Matthews and Greg Dobbins… I hadn’t seen those jerks since our ten-year high school reunion. I couldn’t believe it, but they thought my mother had killed Brittany!”
“That’s horrible. Is Lola strong enough to do something like that? I mean, she’s elderly now.”
“My mom probably weighs less than ninety pounds. She can’t even wear her rings anymore, because they just fall off her fingers.
“Her caregivers tell me she’s surprisingly strong for her frail appearance, and she’s very possessive of her things. Brittany was bludgeoned to death with a brass pagoda, an heirloom that has been in my mother’s family for decades. But I know Mom is incapable of killing anyone. She may be forgetful, but she knows right from wrong!”
“So what do the police think?”
“You don’t want to know what the police think. They’re looking for easy closure to the case, and Mom is the most likely suspect. She was alone in the house when Brittany was attacked. Obviously, someone else was there, but Mom can’t remember anything about what happened that day.
“My old best friend, Elaine, came over to help me talk to Mom. Elaine never left Two Wells like I did, and she’s more chummy these days with my mother than I am. Made me feel like the lousy, uncaring daughter that I am.
“Elaine’s been married three times and has two kids by two different husbands. And it turns out she’s now dating Keith Matthews, one of the cops who’s investigating Brittany’s death. Keith was in the popular crowd! He never would have given one of us outcasts the time of day when we were in high school!
“But anyway, since Keith thinks Mom killed Brittany, Elaine assumes he’s right and tried to get Mom to confess.
“Keith completely ignored me when I showed him what I found in our yard–the business card of his former wife, Mary Lynn Hodges. New real estate agent. Self-righteous, stuck-up head cheerleader, wealthy Two Wells founder’s daughter. What was she doing at our house? The cops need to look at all the evidence.
“Of course, there’s the matter of the home equity loan papers that came in the mail… I don’t understand how Brittany got Mom to sign them, but it looks like Brittany was ripping her off. Now I don’t feel so sorry that Brittany is dead, but the cops think they might have a motive for murder…
“To make matters worse, there’s Giovanna.”
“Wait, who’s Giovanna?”
“Long story, but in the midst of all this chaos, trying to assume the role of caregiver and prove my mother’s innocence, I found out I’m a grandmother! I feel like I cheated somehow. Me, a grandmother! I never even raised a child.
“So I guess you’re wondering how that happened.
“When I was seventeen, I was dating Percy, a dreamy college guy who had me under his thumb. (He later turned out to be an abusive, manipulative philanderer, but we’re getting off track here.) Anyway, I got pregnant. Percy didn’t want to marry me—told me I’d never be good enough to be his wife–and I had no desire to become a mother at seventeen. Even in my naïve state, I must have realized marrying him and keeping the baby would be a disaster. (I wasn’t smart enough to dump Percy for a few more years, but at least the break was clean when I finally got the courage.)
“So, I went away to a home for unwed mothers and gave the baby up for adoption. Never looked back. Never told anyone outside my immediate family. Not even Roberto, my husband. I thought there was no need.
“But this week, Isabella found me. She was married to the son I gave up for adoption. They had a daughter. Giovanna. She’s ten, and Mom calls her “Michelle” sometimes, because there’s a photo of me on the mantle that looks just like Giovanna does now.”
“So in a perfect world, Mom is proven innocent, and your husband never finds out about the child you put up for adoption all those years ago.”
“It’s not a perfect world, though. Roberto’s on his way to Two Wells, and I won’t be able to hide Isabella and Giovanna from him. And I don’t want to. They’re my family, my glimpse of “the road not taken.” I just hope he understands. And that I can prove Mom didn’t kill Brittany before it’s too late.”
“It’s all so tragic. I wish we had more time, but we need to wrap this up. Any last thoughts for our listeners today?”
“Almost six million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s today, and it’s the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. We still don’t know how to prevent it, and there’s no cure. I know I’m not alone helplessly watching a loved one being robbed of her memories and the skills for daily living, but that’s not exactly comforting.”
“We wish you, and Lola, the best of luck. Listeners can learn more by picking up the book, Going Home, by Sharon Marchisello. I’ll post all the info on the website after I go off the air.
“Please consider using those sharing buttons today. It helps spread the word for my guests, and I know Sharon and Michelle would do it for you, when your character appears on the next Lisa Burton Radio.”
Michelle DePalma expects to jet home for a routine visit to Two Wells, Texas, to check on her elderly mother, Lola Hanson, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s. She walks in to find her mother hovering over the dead body of her caregiver, unable to offer a straight answer about what happened. Lola is quickly labeled a suspect, and Michelle must stay in her hometown much longer than planned to help unravel the mystery and clear her mother’s name. Going Home was inspired by the author’s own mother’s battle with Alzheimer’s, which prompted her to wonder what it would be like to interview a witness who could not rely on her memory.
Pick up your copy at the following locations:
Sharon Marchisello has written fiction all her life, but Going Home is her first published novel. She has written travel articles, corporate training manuals, and a personal finance e-book, Live Cheaply, Be Happy, Grow Wealthy. She earned a Masters in Professional Writing from the University of Southern California and is an active member of Atlanta Sisters in Crime, where she contributed a short story to their anthology, Mystery, Atlanta Style. Going Home was inspired by her mother’s battle with Alzheimer’s, which prompted her to wonder what it would be like to interview a witness unable to rely on her memory.
You can find Sharon at the following social media sites: