One Day on Broadway by
(135 Stories)

Prompted By Pills

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Photo by Myriam Zilles on Unsplash

My Mom was one of the many addicts spawned over the generations by the Norwegian side of the family. Her main drug was alcohol, but in the Sixties, when diet pills (a.k.a.amphetamines, often coupled with barbiturates to counteract the hyperactivity and nervousness of the stimulants) were dispensed like Life Savers, she of course rode that train as well. She managed to “doctor shop” for meds for years, long after I thought that was no longer possible.

Later, she claimed that while she remembered being on Broadway, she had no idea why she had suddenly felt disconnected and isolated...

Drinking was generally the main driver of her rage and erratic behavior, but I recall an incident that, looking back, was probably fueled by the pills.

Broadway was the main shopping district when I was growing up in Bayonne. It was around twenty blocks of mostly non-chain, owner operated stores, diners, luncheonettes, beauty shops and banks, anchored by a Woolworth’s and a Grants. A linear Town Square. Everyone shopped on Broadway.

One summer day Mom and I took the bus uptown for her to go shopping. We didn’t usually do that together, but this time she brought me along. It was a warm and sunny day. I was around twelve or thirteen.

We were walking along when she suddenly just stopped in the middle of the sidewalk. She had a vacant look on her face. I asked her what was wrong, to which she replied “I’m alone.” I had no idea what to make of that, so I just said something like “No, you’re not. You’re on a crowded sidewalk with me.” To which she only repeated “I’m alone.”

I tried to get her off the sidewalk into a store or the diner, but she would not walk. She just kept repeating that she was alone in a soft, distant monotone. I was at a loss, trying to think of what to do as people passed us by.

Finally I asked her if she wanted to go home, which broke the spell a bit. She said the she did indeed want to go back home. Getting her onto the bus was a bit of a challenge, but if I told her to walk, she would. If I told her to stop or turn, she did. I managed to direct her onto a bus and we went home.

Later, she claimed that while she remembered being on Broadway, she had no idea why she had suddenly felt disconnected and isolated, in a crowd, on a familiar street, on a sunny summer morning, with her oldest son at her side. But it was almost certainly either an overdose or withdrawal from something she was taking.

Profile photo of Dave Ventre Dave Ventre
A hyper-annuated wannabee scientist with a lovely wife and a mountain biking problem.

Tags: drugs, pills, amphetamines, barbiturates
Characterizations: moving, well written


  1. Thanx Dave for sharing this personal story. Your sensitivity to your mother’s addiction and your efforts to help her, as young as you were, are apparent, and hopefully writing about it is cathartic .

  2. Khati Hendry says:

    Good to hear from you Dave, and you tell the story so well. You are not alone in being a child who has had to parent an adult, and your understanding of the likely role of pills sounds right. What a struggle to come to terms with damaged families! Thanks for sharing yours.

  3. “Broadway… funky, funky Broadway…” — Wilson Pickett

    Thanks for sharing this well-told tale, Dave. I think we can all relate to those moments when parents abandon us. Sometimes those moments can stretch into years. In this case, I would say that your mother’s “I’m alone” litany probably applied more to you than to her.

  4. Jim Willis says:

    Dave, thanks for sharing this family story. I think the challenges and pressures our mothers dealt with (mine in the 1950s and 60s) were largely unknown from us kids. It was just Mom, doing her thing. My mother fell into drinking and didn’t stop until years later when her drinking buddy (my aunt) died from liver complications. Never saw her touch a drop after that.

  5. Laurie Levy says:

    Wow — quite a frightening experience for you at a young age.

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