These days, only Rhonda has been in communication with Barzee. "I visited her last January at the state hospital," she says. In January, Rhonda received this letter from her mother: "Dear Rhonda, Oh how much you mean to me and the boundless love I have for you and each one of your brothers and sisters. I am so very sorry for the lives of abuse you each had to live through growing up and that you have had to live without a mother and a grandmother to your children. It is my constant prayer that each of you may find it in your heart to forgive me. Each of you are so precious to me."

Louree says the letter seems too little, too late. "It kind of makes me sick because you always want a mother to love you, and she's just never been a mother," she says. "It makes me angry that now when it's too late...usually, as children, you either get a mother or a father that love you, but we never had either."

For Derrick's entire childhood, Barzee's sickness was a taboo topic, he says. "We all knew she was sick, but she's had a lifetime of not getting help for anything," he says. "And now that she's in her 60s and she's getting help for something, there's chasms between us. How do you bridge that? How do you overcome that distance? I don't know how to do it."


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