An actress tells the story of how her mother’s dementia changed their relationship and affected their family.
When Williams-Paisley discovered that her mother, Linda, had a rare form of dementia called primary progressive aphasia, she had no idea how much the disease would impact her life. The mother she knew growing up was warm and exuberant, and while the author drifted away from her during a period of teenage rebellion, she always knew that Linda—who firmly supported her daughter’s desire to become an actress—had only the best of intentions. Adulthood and acting success brought Williams-Paisley closer to her mother, who by that time had found her own career success as a fundraiser for nonprofit organizations. But the author’s marriage to country star Brad Paisley created distance between them. The rift soon healed, but that Christmas, her parents revealed to Williams-Paisley and her siblings that Linda had been diagnosed with early-stage dementia. In the year that followed, Linda’s life began to unravel. First came early retirement from her job, followed by increasing problems with memory and speech. Most painful of all were the behavioral changes that transformed a once-vibrant woman into an unpredictable, at-times violent monster no one recognized. Terrified of "New Mom,” who needed “to be treated with care and caution,” Williams-Paisley feared for the safety of her children as well as the well-being of her father. Only after she had worked past the trauma of seeing a loved one transform so completely and the guilt at not being able to offer more assistance was she finally able to make peace with who her mother had become. Heartbreaking but never sentimental, Williams-Paisley’s book offers an intimate look at a family’s struggle with a life-altering disease. It is also a daughter’s tribute to the mother whose disease offered her a new opportunity to “love unconditionally…and practice being comfortable with…[the] uncomfortable.”
A simply told, moving memoir.