The Noonan family kept thinking that whatever was troubling Julia would pass, but it didn't. It only grew worse. Where once she never was off her feet, now she sat idle for long periods with a hollow expression. The family doctor believed her symptoms pointed to depression and prescribed antidepressants. But pills had no effect. John Noonan was in such turmoil over his wife's unexplained behavior, he had a hard time keeping his mind on his job as firefighter; managing the household and ensuring that the children at home were looked after was beyond him. The very youngest went to live with married siblings, and the older ones at home began filling their mother's shoes and raising the others. Doctors recommended shock therapy, and in the spring of 1967 Julia underwent two series of treatments. These too had no effect. That December she was admitted to the psychiatric unit at St. Elizabeth's Hospital outside Boston for examination, and a neurologist shared her opinion with the family. Julia either was schizophrenic or had a very rare disorder called Alzheimer's. It was Christmastime. Julia came home for a spell before entering a nursing home. A wreath hung on the Noonans'front door, and under the tree lay presents that John Noonan had bought and wrapped on his own. But for him and the flock of children that gathered, Christmas was as empty as the look on Julia's face.