Stranger Than Fiction

Author Goodin pens book
of grandmother’s life in hospital

Author researched family
to gain notes for writing book

By Laura Goodwin
Contributing Writer

(August 2010) – Madison, Ind. author Sandie J. Goodin was inspired to write the story of her missing grandmother, whom she re-discovered in 2001. She recently published “The Monkey King and Betty Lou,” a non-fiction narrative of her grandmother as a 50-year resident of the Madison State Hospital.

Sandie J. Goodin

Photo provided

Author Sandie J.
Goodin found her
missing grandmother
at Madison State
Hospital, where she
was a patient for
more than 50 years.

The grandmother, Betty Lou Roark, was initially admitted to the Madison State Hospital in 1949 by her husband, the story’s Monkey King. Originally hospitalized by her spouse in Cincinnati’s Christ Hospital for “post partum depression,” she was released two weeks later. While she was being treated in Cincinnati, she received shock treatments as a part of her prognosis.
Soon after her first hospital release, she was admitted to the Madison State Hospital for schizophrenia. She would remain at the state hospital as a patient for more than 50 years.
Goodin, who uses the pen name Sandie J. on her book, had always known about the existence of her grandmother, recalling a visit to her at “some insane hospital in Indiana” as a small girl. It was in 2001 when her grandmother’s existence became all too real for the author. She was an adult and was vacationing in Madison with a friend. While driving up Hanging Rock Hill on their way to Clifty Falls State Park, she noticed a sign for the Madison State Hospital. Upon seeing it, she had an epiphany.
“That’s it!” she told her friend. “That’s where my grandmother was!”
Despite her friend’s apprehension, the pair followed the sign and drove to the Madison State Hospital grounds. Upon arrival at the front desk, Goodin asked if her grandmother had been a patient there. The clerk looked up the records and confirmed that she was. “And still is,” the clerk informed them.
That statement stunned the travelers. The clerk handed Goodin a “visitor record” card showing that Roark had only received four visits during her lengthy stay. Goodin was surprised to see her own name, along with her mother’s, listed on the card. While it stirred an eerie feeling, it confirmed her single childhood memory of her grandmother. She became too wrapped up in the finding of Roark to continue her vacation.
Goodin found her grandmother in a horrible condition. “She was paralyzed and her eyes were matted shut. It was as if she had lost the will to live,” she said.
However, after each successive visit from Goodin, Roark became more lively and interactive. The author went from visiting her grandmother a few times per year to quarterly, then to monthly. As she visited, she also made time for researching different parts of Roark’s life. It was during the viewing of Roark’s records that Goodin decided she had to tell her grandmother’s story.

The Monkey King Book

Eventually, through her visits and much research through local sources, she put Roark’s story into order. Her research trips involved trips to the Jefferson County Historical Society and to the Madison-Jefferson County Public Library. It was the Historical Society that provided access to the photos for the book and its cover. Many of the personal accounts are from the doctors’ notations in Roark’s own records, since Roark is no longer consistent to talk to about her memories. Goodin said Roark has her good days and bad days but is very outspoken about what she wants.
In 2007, Goodin moved Roark to a local nursing home. She wanted her in a comfortable place where she could visit frequently and take her to bingo games and church services. However, Goodin found the travelling back and forth between Madison Cincinnati so overwhelming, she decided to move to Madison. Goodin now owns and operates a small singles fellowship business in Madison, while taking care of Roark. It was during the weekend of Old Court Days 2010 that Goodin received full guardianship of her grandmother.
“Betty Lou’s mother always promised to go to court and get custody of her. It’s rather ironic that I got custody of her on Court Days,” Goodin said.
“The Monkey King and Betty Lou” is a self-published book and the beginning of a trilogy. The first book spans 1949 through 1969. Future books include a second book that will take place from 1969 to 1989, with the third covering from 1989 to the present day. Goodin started on the “Monkey King” in 2005, finishing it around November 2009.
Goodin said her book sales are really taking off and that she is very encouraged. “My readers tell me that they love the book and can’t put it down. In fact, many of them are telling me that they are loaning these books out. I am also told that the recipients (of the loans) are purchasing their own copies, after finishing the book.”

• “The Monkey King and Betty Lou” can be purchased at the Village Lights Book Store, That Book Place, the Lanier-Madison Visitor’s Center and Sandie J.’s website: www.ggipublishingmadison.com.

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