Novelist MacEnulty (Picara, 2009, etc.) shares the experience of becoming her 86-year-old mother's caretaker in 2004—a time she describes as “gut wrenching, sometimes grief-filled” but also unexpectedly “rewarding and soul stretching.”
Her mother, a talented professional musician and composer, had moved to North Carolina where she lived alone. She worked until she was 82, when increasing disability, the result of a failed spinal operation, left her virtually homebound and in constant pain. The author writes that although retrospectively she can date the process of her mother's aging, at the time it was masked by her upbeat personality and the fact that until 2002, she was living in Florida. When it became obvious that her mother could no longer manage alone, MacEnulty took her into her own family, but this proved to be an untenable situation because of her mother's increasing disorientation and distraught behavior. While her two older brothers provided moral support and some financial assistance, the primary burden of her mother's care fell on the author. She placed her in an assisted-living facility and cared for her there on a daily basis, to the detriment of her own family—a situation that led to the disintegration of her marriage. MacEnulty writes that while she began this book in order to document the financial and emotional burden of providing for the elderly, it soon morphed into a memoir about her relationship to her mother as a younger woman who “possess[ed] a wide-ranging intelligence [and] was kind, generous, fun, and extraordinarily talented.” In 2010, she returned with her mother to Florida for a triumphant visit, to attend the performance of a requiem mass that she had composed.
An inspiring story of love, loss and the ravages of aging.