Monday, March 23, 2015

Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

Several months ago a friend mentioned a book about aging parents.  Over the last four years plus, I've watch my parents, aunts and uncles care for three of my grandparents as they've transitioned from their homes to nursing care to their heavenly home.  My remaining grandfather is in skilled nursing care as I write.

This is no small feat- not emotionally and not physically.  The countless decisions, conversations, financial considerations, phone calls, pop-in visits to check on things, home health nurses, the balance of honoring wishes and being realistic, nursing home applications and visits, the dismantling of homes full of decades of living, hospital visits, hospice care...the list goes on and on.

In an effort to possibly better understand what my parents have been going through AND to get a peek as to what (one day) lies ahead for myself and my siblings, I bought the recommended book, Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?: A Memoir by Roz Chast.

I was a little unsure about the cartoon aspect of the book.  I thought it might be distracting and take away from the content but it did the opposite and that surprised me.  Chast is an honest and highly entertaining writer.  I literally laughed out loud many times, read portions aloud to Jamey, talked about the book to friends and family, and found myself weeping over it at other times. Despite a smidgen of well-placed profanity (if there is such a thing), I savored each chapter and found myself pacing my progress.  While I was inclined to pick it up several times a day to devour as many pages as I could, I put on the brakes when only a chapter or two remained- partly because I knew what was coming and partly because I didn't want the book to end.

When I finally did allow myself to finish, I felt like I had just walked a very intimate road with a stranger and yet Chast and her parents didn't feel like strangers anymore.  In their story, I saw elements of my parents' and grandparents' stories and I'm thankful to her for this peek inside a very hallow journey that one day waits for many of us (if we're not living it already).

Whether you're in the midst of the journey yourself or are watching those around you enter into it, this book provides camaraderie, plenty of humor, and a glimpse into one woman's story as she walks with her parents and says goodbye at the same time.

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  1. I had never heard of this book; but based on this post, I just put it on reserve at my library, and I look forward to reading it! This past year, we moved my mom, who has had Alzheimer's Disease for about 12 years, into a special Alzheimer's unit in a local nursing home. It was heartbreaking to do so, but has been a huge, unexpected blessing. At any rate, I feel like, ready or not, I'm wading into the murky waters of How to Care for Aging Parents, so I appreciate the recommendation about this book!

  2. Even though we are only 54 and 57 somehow our kids think they can tell us what to do now that they are on their own. We are, at this point, tired of them telling us we have to downsize house and asking us about our finances. Both of my in-laws are deceased but there are many hard decisions coming for my parents and soon. They can no longer do things like change overhead light bulbs and often go for weeks or months with dark rooms or burned out outside lights that are needed for safety. It is hard to know how to help them from a 500 mile distance. I need to get this book!

  3. These truly are difficult things to go through...what a blessing to glean wisdom from those who've gone before. What a journey it is!! May the Lord help you as you walk alongside your loved ones in this journey you are all on. I am sure you are (and have been) a blessing to each one of those in your extended family who are in their elderly years. I have been thinking on this in recent days as we are in the midst of it with one set of parents and a little ways off with the other set. May God give grace and strength to come alongside with love in these days of transition. Hugs to you! Camille

  4. We dealt with the very sudden death of my mil and helping my fil cope 19 years ago. Then we dealt with the rather quick death of my fil (about 6 weeks from diagnosis to death) 8 years later. It was overwhelming to deal with their very large home that was never down sized. The list of things to address was so overwhelming, especially when we had not been privy to the day to day business details of their household.

    My father passed away 9 years ago after a very very long, lingering illness. He was fortunate that one of our siblings was available to move home and help mom for over a year before daddy went into home hospice. It was a draining experience on all of us. But we had plenty of time to plan for his and mom's needs along the way.

    It was difficult getting mom to downsize from a 4 bedroom home into a 1 bedroom apartment. We succeed a little over a year after my fathers death. Now mom needs to move from her apartment to assisted living. She is no longer safe living by herself. There is something so depressing about seeing your last surviving parent give up their independence. We're hopeful that she will sign the lease papers this weekend when we take her for a site visit. Previously, she refused to go but we've decided on a lovely facility that we hope she'll be very satisfied with.

    The whole process and all the tasks are difficult to manage. We're trying to spend as much quality time with her as possible. We expect to have the move finished in the next 3-4 weeks. Hoping I can read this book before the big move. Thanks, all!


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