About Jo

Well, this is turning into a hell of a spring.

I’m okay with isolation, especially since nature is waking up and smelling the forsythia, but the news is kneecapping me, all the “this is going to get much, much worse” stuff from American media that is undoubtedly true and necessary to get people like me to put on a face mask. My house is dragging me down; it’s time to throw out everything, I’m thinking, well okay, not everything, you know, just a lot of it. I’m out of bok choy and celery. And then Monday, my mother died.

JoAnn Katherine Smith was 93, one month short of her 94th birthday.

Jo was a strong woman who embraced the fifties ideal of womanhood with a passion that brought us into headlong collision over and over. My friends from high school are writing to tell me their memories of how beautiful she was, how gracious she was, how bright her eyes were. I remember how hard she worked, how perfect her house and her hair always were, her steely determination and her old-fashioned values like be nice to everybody who isn’t family, pay your bills on time, never lie, never cheat, you are how you look so never go out in curlers, and always wear clean underwear or people will think your mother didn’t raise you right when you get hit by a truck. I am who I am because of my mother. And the eleven therapists who followed her.

I’m not in mourning because I’m happy that Jo is finally free of the prison that dementia had made of her body and her mind, and if there’s a heaven, she’s back in the fifties, drinking cocktails in a designer sheath, surrounded by adoring men and jealous women, beautiful as ever, sexy as all hell, and nobody is telling her what to do.

Rest in peace, Jo.

91 thoughts on “About Jo

  1. I hope you can be at peace, too, Jenny. My mom died in 2012. She is with me a lot more now than she was when living because there was too much stuff in the way back then.

    1. I find the same, Elizabeth. I have great conversations with my mother these days, ten years after she died, and have come to appreciate her in a way I never did before.

  2. Audrey Hepburn comes to mind looking at the photo of your mother. So sorry for your loss.

  3. My mother had dementia also, and I remember feeling relief when she passed.

    It was a long haul for her & me and I was glad to let her go. People who don’t know the anguish of dementia probably will think that is crass or unfeeling, but it’s not.

    She had a peaceful slid into the void.

    1. For Kaye55 & Jenny.
      It emphatically is not crass or unfeeling. Death is very often a release and a blessing. I remember my Grandma – hands & arms so crippled with arthritis that she couldn’t hold a spoon. Hands that had harvested crops, showed me how to pick & can vegetables, make pie crust, not startle a cow, catch a chicken. I used to read her the comics on Sundays. I would catch her quietly sobbing with the constant pain in her hands & joints, talking to the God she believed in. “Let me go home. I’m done here. My work is finished. Please let me go.” She did, finally, in her 96th year, after more than a decade of constant pain. I, too, was glad to let her go.

      I get it. Cherish the good stuff.


      1. Thanks for your kind thoughts – the truth was that I lost my Mom to the fog of dementia long before she slipped away.

        There were some people who had no experience with my experience who said some not nice things about me to my sister that got back to me.

        Needless to say I don’t know these people anymore.

  4. Lots of attitude in that picture!

    Sending you warm thoughts, Jenny – as you noted to Gin, even if you’re not mourning, it’s still a change that is going to filter into daily life, maybe in unexpected ways.

  5. There is no loss like losing your mother. I still miss mine and it’s been 35 yrs. I’m so sorry.

  6. Wow. That’s a big transition. Good luck with all the levels of that.

    My own mother died the year I graduated from college, which threw every plan that each of us in the family had for the next few years. It was very disruptive, and yet because she’d been really ill and medicated from encroaching cancer for a number of years, the death itself was more of a relief on her behalf than a shock of mourning.

    Plus the two of us had never really had what you might say was a positive relationship — I was always doing the wrong things in her eyes, and she tended to make me feel like I was just the wrong kind of person in general. I gradually came to recognize that some of her frustrations with my father played out with me, because I resembled him temperamentally much more than I did her. And of course she was always right, and he was usually wrong, so you see.

    It’s hard, though, when a parent feels the right to apply pressures to children that they’ve pulled from the society around them. It can be like a double dose of phoniness, and the child’s fight to be herself can become its own crusade — never a good solution to that ill-fitting parenting mold, which after all, will fade away as the years roll on.

    So thank you for saying that you’re not in mourning. In my own way, I get that and I love the fact that you’re perpetually honest and funny rather than perpetually impeccably dressed etc.

    I hope the easter bunny sends you some bok choy pronto.

  7. I lost my mother very early, so it’s a different thing to hash out with the therapist. But we are still dealing with my grandmother’s dementia and I am praying for peace for her. You are right. It’s a prison.

    Still, loss can be a sneaky thing. Hang in there and let us know if we can help. Xo

  8. Sympathy. Tea. And the wish that if the 3 horseman of the apocalypse are next, that they hurry the eff up. It’s been one more horrid thing after another, of late. She was your mom and moms are complicated. I am very sorry for your loss.

  9. She was a beautiful woman, and I thank her for producing you. Glad for her and for you that she is freed from dementia.

  10. She looks like she was a real firecracker. I’m sorry for your loss of her.

  11. I am sorry. My father died at 96, after several years of dementia. I know what you mean about not mourning. I had finished mourning by the time he died.

  12. Jenny, I’m sorry. I understand about the relief that she’s free of her prison, and that you probably said your real goodbye years ago. Still, I’m sorry.

  13. You can’t be sorry that she’s free of dementia, but it leaves a hole in the world, because an era has ended. She’s the link to the Great Depression, World War II, the Fifties and the Cold War, the Sixties and What-is-this-world-coming-to.

    We lost my mother in 2018 when she was 95, but her twin sister is still living and will be 98 in two weeks.

    Hugs and tea.

  14. Condolences, Jenny. That was a fantastic tribute, and rang with truth for many of us and our parental relationships. RIP, Jo.

  15. You write beautifully. I’m sorry about your mom, and about these times we are living in. Big hugs from here.

  16. Jenny, I’m sorry for the loss and the empty space I know it leaves in your life’s fabric. I completely understand about the lack of mourning. I’ve been mourning my mom for years now, from halfway across the country, as she slowly dies from non-Alzheimer’s dementia. “Prison” is apt.

    Your mom was a beautiful woman and I can see you in her. May memories of her be a blessing, even the tough ones. Sending virtual hugs and much love your way.

  17. I have no words. I wish I did. My MIL had dementia and died recently and I still don’t know what I felt. I wish you peace.

  18. There are no adequate words at a time like this. Massive hugs to you and Gin.

    My mom died a few years ago and I was just thinking that I’m glad she (and the other 4 family members who died this past year) didn’t have to deal with this pandemic. They had so many health issues that it wouldn’t have been good. So there’s that.

  19. But on the bright side, (if it’s ok to mention it?), my cousin had a healthy and beautiful baby girl today. So there’s still good stuff happening in the midst of all this craziness and sadness.

    1. Ah, the circle of life: one player enters stage right as another exits stage left.

      A healthy birth is a source of joy even in darkness.

  20. I’m sorry for your loss, Jenny. My mom died after years with dementia about a decade ago; we did our mourning long before that. By the end, I think we mainly just felt relief.

    That said, take care of yourself.

  21. That’s a beautiful picture, and I love that it looks like she’s got a secret, or about to say something incredibly entertaining.

    This is a rough time to be going through any big life changes, and I’m so sorry you have to go through this one. Thank you for sharing with us.

    Sending up a prayer that if heaven exists, she’s getting cocktails and admiration galore.

    1. Or she’s about to tell an incredibly dirty joke, the kind that shocks the pants off people because they can’t believe she even knows those words let alone says them out loud.

  22. I’m so sorry about your mother’s long struggle. I hope she’s lording it up in heaven.

  23. What a beautiful memory of her, flaws and all.
    I’m sorry you had to lose her to the dementia before she died, but thank you for capturing a little bit of her here and sharing it with us.

  24. There was such a shift between our mothers’ generation and ours that it took decades for most of us to find peace – even at the end, when I was nearly sixty, my mother was still trying to make me into her idea of a good woman, though I kept telling her she just needed to accept she’d failed. But we were lucky – and both determined enough – to make peace with each other, which helped enormously when she died. Sounds like you’re at peace with yours, too. But regardless, it’s still a roller coaster, and much harder too not to be able to hold a proper funeral.

    Wishing you peace with all of it.

  25. I’m sorry, Jenny. Losing your mother is always sad, no matter the relationship alive. I’m glad she doesn’t have to suffer any more. Dementia is so cruel and hard on everyone. What a beautiful photo though, and a lovely tribute. You resemble your mum. Hugs.

  26. I’m sorry, and I hope my posting yesterday didn’t upset you. You really do know what I’m feeling right now!

  27. Goodbyes are never easy, even when there is relief in knowing that those we love are no longer suffering. I hope you find comfort in remembering your beautiful mother the way she once was. Love and prayers.

  28. I am so sorry for your loss, and glad for your sense of peace. The relationships between Moms & Daughters can be interesting, to say the least. Love that picture of her, and you do look like her.

  29. My condolences. Your mom was a stunner. Dementia steals the person from us before we physically lose them, but they are always are mom or dad. Take care of yourself.

  30. Seems like a lot of your mom is in you–the best parts in my opinion–so the best of her lives on? And in Mollie and your grandkids?

    Still…my heartfelt condolences on her long painful death.

  31. Jenny so sorry for your loss. I lost my dad to lung cancer in 1999, and understand that it can also feel like a sense of relief as my dad lost his cognitive abilities and then was in a coma a week before he passed. I miss him all the time but am at peace that he did not have to linger in a state that he would have hated.

    I love the picture of your mom, she looks like a woman that had moxie.

  32. Jenny, so sorry for your loss, even though it was also a release. I just lost my 93-year-old dad this past week; we were lucky, he was compos mentis to the end, laid down for a nap after planning what to make for dinner, and never woke up.

    The sobering fact, to me, is that I am now the Older Generation. I don’t know that I’m ready to be a grown-up; I’m only 67!

    Virtual hugs!

    1. I’m so sorry about your dad, Moira. Hugs across the oceans. It’s very strange to be the older generation all of a sudden, isn’t it.

  33. Jenny, thank you for sharing a bit of Jo with us. That picture made me smile – it captures a certain something, yes? Big (socially distant) hugs to you as you move through this transition.

  34. My sympathies to you and your family. The picture of a beautiful woman, your mama.

  35. When I was a teenager, my grandmother (mother’s mother) had a series of strokes and ended up living in a nursing home. My mother commented that, even though her mother was physically alive, she had lost her mother. My grandmother didn’t recognize her or her sister anymore except to realize they were relatives of some sort.
    Years later, my mother had to go into a nursing home due to vascular dementia (my father was unable to care for her and she kept trying to “go home, wherever that was). I understood then what my mother had meant. She did not know who we were, except that my father was that nice man who came to see her and my youngest sister was a sweet girl who also came to see her. (The rest of us only had sporadic visits as we all lived in other, more distant states). She died a year and a half after going into the nursing home and although I was sad, I had already been in mourning for the person she had been so it wasn’t as bad as it might have been otherwise

    I am truly sad for your loss. I hope the good memories you had of your mother outweigh any of the not so good ones!

  36. When I tried to comment earlier, it said that I had already said something of the sort. I probably did when my mother died. But when a loved one has dementia you mourn twice: first when the memory and cognition go and a second time when the body dies. It isn’t easy either time and I am sending all my love and support to help you at this difficult time.

  37. I’m so sorry for your loss. What a stylish and gorgeous photo. I can just picture her at a dinner party with a fancy martini.

  38. Dementia is a bastard, and the mother/daughter relationship is always so complex. Take good care of yourself, Jenny. Sending you warm hugs from Tassie.

  39. I’m so sorry. It’s a big emotional moment no matter what the relationship was and it can be overwhelming to handle so many at once.

    I hope with time you find you remember the good parts. My dad died of dementia 6 years ago—his was mild and mostly bothered him until he fell, broke his arm, and the docs were afraid to operate. After which it was one horror story after another ending up with hospice. He was a wonderful man and I do think mostly about him and not his illness. But when my mom goes it will be more complicated.

    Take care of yourself please.

  40. Sorry for your loss, Jenny. She lived for almost 94 years. I guess it was her time. This post is a nice tribute to the woman who raised you and made you what you are.

  41. Sending warm hugs and good thoughts. So sorry for the years your mom was lost while her body remained. She looks like she was a pip, and I’m glad people are sharing their best stories with you–especially since there appear to be so many. Take care.

  42. I’m so sorry about your loss. Unresolved, complicated relationships are like a pebble in your shoe – it doesn’t keep you from going forward, but it makes it painful. Perhaps you can empty your shoe now – you deserve smooth sailing in your life.

    Wishing you peace.

  43. Deeply sorry for your loss, but I rejoice with you that she is now free of dementia. I can say from experience that dementia takes your loved ones away long before the physical body has its chance to fail. May Jo’s memory be a blessing.

  44. So sorry for your loss ~ my heart is touched by the beautiful words you shared about your mother ~ such a sense of peace and completion. Hugs to you.

  45. Sad for your loss. Condolences.

    A bit of Audrey Hepburn in that lovely photo portrait. Not usual for women of her generation to have studio photographs. A story behind the image?

  46. So sorry for your loss, Jenny. No matter how complicated our relationships are with our parents, it is a huge transition. And a loss. My mom did not have dementia; but because of cancer in her bones she was heavily medicated for the last two years of her life. I know death was a release for her. She was an intelligent funny woman, lost in a fog of morphine — but the alternative was excruciating pain. I loved your blog, it painted a vivid portrait of your mom.

  47. I’m so sorry for your loss, Jenny. Despite our differences, losing my mother was the hardest thing I’d ever faced. Be very gentle with yourself as you grieve–good chocolate and good friends. peace.

  48. Sympathies, so hard to lose Mother no matter what.
    I barely see mine and I dread the future loss

    her version of heaven sounds good, though I’d rather have women friends than rivals. The rest of it is excellent

  49. I’m sorry for your loss, even though it sounds like you’d come to terms with losing her before now.

    Hug the dogs.

  50. Lost as I was in the endless search for toilet paper while whipping up face masks, I neglected my daily lurking at Arghink. Until today, when I read backwards and learned of your mother’s passing. I am so sorry for your loss. Medieval Christians wrote about the “good deeath” and the “art of dying,” but it’s clear they didn’t know from dementia. Please know I send good thoughts that you and your family find peace.

Comments are closed.