A gay magazine editor and writer’s account of how he returned home to the Midwest from New York to care for his aging mother.
Hodgman never dreamed he would return home to Paris, Missouri, to become his 90-year-old mother Betty’s “care inflictor.” But the lonely life he led in New York City, “lingering between the white spaces of copy, trying to get the work perfect,” had soured; more than that, he was now unemployed. And Betty, who refused to enter an assisted living facility, could not continue living alone. Hodgman watched his mother confront her increasing confusion and physical fragility with dread. Inevitably, they bickered and fussed, but the author knew that Betty represented the home he was never able to establish for himself, just as Betty knew her son was her only steady source of support. Confronted on a daily basis with reminders of his past, Hodgman reviewed his life with both parents. Betty and his father could never quite accept that he was gay, and they were content with their lives and the simplicity of Paris. It was the author who was never happy with who he was and who felt a perpetual need to make up for being different by trying to do better. That struggle would lead him to a high-status, high-pressure job at Vanity Fair. But at what should have been the pinnacle of his career, he gave his life over to drugs and the Fire Island gay party scene. Hodgman’s recovery—not just from substance abuse, but also from old patterns of emotional disconnection—would take years. But when he returned to Paris, it was with a greater acceptance of who he was: not the son Betty might have wanted or expected, but the son who would see her through the “strange days” of her final years of life.
Movingly honest, at times droll, and ultimately poignant.