Rhonda Talbot


rhonda talbot

rhonda talbot
October 15
The Devils Trifecta
Film Exec, writer, juggler mother http://www.thedevilstrifecta.com http://imaginationadrenalation.blogspot.com/


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JULY 4, 2012 2:19PM


Rate: 13 Flag


I was told she was agitated, uncomfortable and upset while lying in bed watching TV. But this was a state of normalcy for my mother. In bed, amped up, yelling at political pundits.


I didn’t have the heart to share this with the caring hospice nurses.  I knew they were doing their best to ease her pain. What they didn’t know, cancer or not, was that was an impossible job.


When I learned of her lung cancer in early October we talked daily.  Our conversations were light, frivolous, sometimes she asked about my kids. But speaking with her made me feel lighter, more understood. Then she stopped picking up the phone. A few weeks later, I received a generic Christmas card.

Santa was stuffing his giant red bag down a chimney. The card read, “Have a great Christmas! xoxo mom.”

Below in different print: PS: MOM IS DEAD.

Naturally I was a bit stunned so hadn’t noticed the contents that fluttered onto the floor. A collection of inappropriate photographs of Mom from the 70’s wearing halter tops sitting on the edges of 40 foot Schooners in Marin County. 

 Further still was the one page form letter, clearly meant for all six of her children, a kind of hand- crafted memorial to herself. The truncated version was as follows:


“Mom was a fearless butterfly, a lover of life who could whip up a soufflé that would put Julia Child to shame.

She devoted her time to earning PHD’s, sewing  pillow shams and helping Caryn (my youngest , very abled sister,) fill out complex disability forms, all the while on her death bed.” 

The note ended with, “Now she can eat cheeseburgers with abandon while listening to Bach. So don’t break down at this horrid loss. Shoulder on and carry forth.”

I was furious. My initial thoughts were how dare that witch die and not warn me, then to suggest I might come undone!  I’m not exactly falling apart here you presumptions cow!

Because she had lied and told me her cancer was stage one and treatable, we thought there was time. Nonetheless, a sister and I made plans to go see her.

“Mom, Liz and I are flying up.”

“Over my dead body! You cause me nothing but stress.”

Then she hung up. Liz washed her hands of the entire ordeal.

“I’m done. Would have been a nice vacay away from the kids but whatever.”

I was not willing to give up without a fight. I would force my way into her house.

I had no idea Caryn was living with my mother, who was not only witnessing Mom getting sicker by the hour, but ushering in hospice workers and arranging funeral plans. Their scheme was to ship my mother’s dead body to a parlor for “science” so it would be free. After six months, the body is cremated and left with the other anonymous ashes.

Knowing all of this, Caryn did not deem this worthy news.  She called no one, most likely to lessen any drama regarding wills and transferring ownership of the house.

To put this in perspective, my mother married at 15, had six children, grew bored of that life and in short order, we did the gypsy dance until she successfully abandoned every one of us.

After receiving this October Christmas card, there was a flurry of phone calls. My sisters and I discussed at length the absurdity of it all and compared our bizarre photo collections.

Next we moved on to the Xeroxed memo. Here, we could not contain our laughter. This may have been a combination of collective grief and incredulousness. But it was certainly cathartic.

 My mother hated life, was not fearless, never earned an honest paycheck in her life, pursued PHD’s for the grant money, was a bitter alcoholic, and wreaked havoc everywhere she went.  There was one truth. She could sew a mean pillow sham. 

Because Caryn would not take my calls, I took matter into my own hands. Perhaps because I had been denied a mother, I would not be denied her death. There was this urgency for me to know what her last words had been. Did she mention me? Any of us?

Throughout my life, I took it upon myself to uncover truths about my mother, kind of like a mission. Through various trips to Washington to meet my grandmother, (though my mother told me she died in childbirth, her childbirth), I learned my mother set fire to a series of barns, slept with all the local boys, and finally sent off to live with foster parents until she met my father at as USO dance. 

I also learned her grandfather was a renowned pedophile that raped all eight of his daughters, impregnating one, my grandmother. I learned we were not Yakama Indian, as she had always told me, or of British royal blood, or related to any of the Kennedys. I learned her father had committed suicide when she was 12, but no one seems to agree upon his exact method.

But I have had years to process all of this information. Much therapy, self-help groups, sage- burning sessions, meditation practices, and scream seminars are a few among other healing approaches from which to grow. I still have boxes of documentation my grandmother gave me, as if she knew I was coming.

After the shock wore off regarding mother’s quick death, I started another mission to find out exactly what happened. I derive a certain pleasure out of this sleuthing work and sometimes believe I missed my calling. I would have made a great detective. 

I  spoke to her oncologist, hospice workers, funeral directors, locals and the police. I learned she had stage four cancer and was “actively dying” since October 20, 2011. She was sent home to die, hence why she refused visitors.

After the nurses cleaned her up, they administered a large quantity of anxiety and pain medications.  When they gave her extra blankets, they left the bedroom so she could rest.

“Where was my sister?”

“In the next room watching television.”


 “At that point, I went back into the bedroom. Your mother again upset, grumbling, angry. Then she sighed. And passed.”

The nurse continued speaking but I was no longer listening.  My mother died alone, in bed, hidden under blankets, angry.  There was nothing more to talk about.



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What an absolutely amazing, moving and honest piece of writing. It shows a courage that I have not found yet since dad died. Not all families are like those in those old shows. Just an amazing piece of work. Rated!
It occurred to me after I wrote this, possibly this was a sacrifice on her part so we would not have to witness her turmoil, then live with the image of a parent dying, I will never know. Instead I am left under of cloud of my own confusion with the familiar feeling of being robbed, again, of a mother. I learned from others that have watched their parents die, the experience and images stay with you forever. I would like to give her this credit, but then again, I have been giving her a pass most of my life... knowing her history, etc.
Great vivid piece of writing. And of revelation of family stuff.
Well she sure gave you a great story. What a character and I am so glad you survived her and can write so well. I too wish I had a normal mom but maybe there is no such thing.
I can see why this piece is an "editors pick," it's brave, unsentimental and heart-breaking. Rhonda, you are a strong woman and a kick*ss writer.
Perfect... Oh the wonders of family disfunctionality
I am at a loss for words....yours however, are powerful.
Wow, what a read. And also, I suspect my own mother will have a very similar death with my youngest sister pulling a similar stunt as your sister. My mother at age 74 hasn't talked to 2 of her 3 daughters in 3 years. When I [once again] offered the olive branch and offered to fly her out for the weekend to see our new home and bond she turned me down. I told my other sister: really? She thinks she is 30 and still has time to treat us like crap? So like your sister I said, I'm done. I won't ever see my own mother again. And she will plan her death with glee. rated.
What a combination of understatement and impact your story has. Wow. It's very clear why you were compelled to "go on a mission" to uncover the truth behind all the lies and all the silences and evasions.
The central truth, I suspect, is confirmation that none of it was your fault, you did nothing to bring this about, and could do nothing to prevent your mother's bizarre and rejecting behavior. Unfortunately siblings of an abusive/dysfunctional family often end up estranged from one another because they feel what unites them is a miserable experience they'd like to forget. It sounds like there is some of that in your family, but some mutual understanding and compassion between you and some of your siblings, too. Your honesty, strength, and sanity comes through in this--shall we say 'quietly harrowing'?--account. Congratulations on integrating some many sharp shards of pain into a something that resonates with others. [r]
I know lame praise from a total stranger doesn't mean much does it? None the less, I think this is just my type, raw, honest, and emotional without false sentiment. Well done.
Thanks everyone, your comments mean a great deal. After some time passes, I plan to go through gigantic box and begin, (again) reading all this material my grandmother gave me. Something I had not ever really thought about was now I will never know what kind of young child I was, never thought I cared, really, until, I had my own. I cannot imagine their being subjected to any abuse. The chain was stopped by my sisters and I (the youngest never had any, in fact "hates" them) so I think like so many families, the chain can end... my kids will flourish. But the kid in me will of course always wonder if my mother ever actually cared... thanks so much for warm reception here.
Thank you, Rhonda. Before your search after your mother died, I suspect you knew the cause of your mother's death, ... Life. The technical cause we ascribe is the effects of cancer, spread everywhere. My mother died long ago of the same. Since then I have discovered a troubled family on her side that runs to the Civil War, with various members playing the roles you describe of your mother and her family. Not quite the jagged edges your mother saw, but only different by degrees. And so I see her differently these 25 years past her passing, in part because I see around her the effects of a life I barely knew while she was here, with characters I never heard of during her life, but were in the shadows all along.

Forgiveness is this thing we give ourselves when we will have no more of what others serve us. I highly recommend it. for yours is the life we are cheering here.

Take us along on your journey, please. It is a story we all need, and want to hear.
What a post. With my own family "troubles" it's good to know I'm not alone...families, oy! You're doing all the right things, sounds like, gathering info. It's all you haveand it's important. Separating fact from fiction. Good for you.
Wow. Deja vu...My sisters were "too busy" to come at Mom's request. I wound up being the one at her bedside as she died, and it is not a point of pride but of disgust because it makes me realize that my mother spent her whole life betting on the wrong horses. Life is supposed to be better than that. And so are we.
This is one of those rare gems when the "self-censorship" switch was clearly off. amazing!
Thanks again everyone, your comments are all very much appreciated.