A journalist’s memoir of coming to terms with the aging and deaths of his parents.
This book fits into what has become a genre unto itself, as baby boomers have reached the age where they are taking care of the parents who once took care of them, and advances of modern medicine have allowed some of those parents to live longer. By his own admission, Morris (Assisted Loving: True Tales of Double Dating with My Dad, 2008, etc.) was not a model caregiver, deferring much of that responsibility to his brother, and his parents weren’t what he would “have ordered from a parent catalogue.” The prelude to this “personal chronicle of ending” suggests that the book was inspired by the example of an acquaintance whose doting on his elderly parents stood in stark contrast to the author’s self-centeredness toward unwanted responsibilities and distractions. A travel writer, he found his trip to Scotland to sample Scotch ruined by the pleas from his brother to return home because their mother was dying. He didn’t want to interrupt his trip, but he could no longer enjoy it. His brother, to whom the book is dedicated, was “the family’s morality meter,” while the author was “more the wicked one…prodigal, cynical, and irresponsible.” After his mother’s death, his father embarked on a romance that seemed to revitalize him (and provided material for a theatrical performance the author mounted), but then he declined again. As the author tried to help his father through his depression and suffered the trials of caregiving, he sometimes seemed to wish his father had succeeded with his suicide attempt. “I’m all for the simple solution, the easy exit,” he says. Even his father complained about his son’s lack of commitment and compassion.
“Caring for parents has become the new normal for boomers,” writes Morris. Readers will likely find other books on the topic more illuminating and inspirational.