The unexpected responsibilities of being her parents’ full-time caregiver bring a dutiful daughter not only heavy burdens, but new revelations about her family as well.
A phone call from Williams’ half sister Linda signals it’s finally time to help her aging parents pack up and sell their house in Englewood, Florida, and move to her neighborhood in Olympia, Washington, to aid them in their twilight years. So begins this debut memoir, with the methodical Williams, a former dental hygienist used to managing her and her partner Katy’s household and dogs, leaving behind her familiar routines to become a caregiver. The challenge is considerable—though not invalids, her father is almost completely blind, plagued by seizures and breathing problems, and battles PTSD from his service during World War II, while her mother drinks heavily and suffers chronic knee and hip problems. A never-ending list of tasks follows as Williams struggles to improve their lives, from weaning her mom off the booze to finding therapy for her dad’s vision, while coping with a new order of parent/child interdependence. As sudden emergency room visits, prescription management, and an uncertain future for all parties become the norm, Williams’ vow to keep their moods elevated begins sinking her own, with frustration and irritation becoming a state of nigh-constant worry. This anxiety is so pervasive that many other caregivers should immediately recognize it, yet despite this, the engrossing book is largely upbeat. By the author’s own admission, the divide between her parents, right out of Tom Brokaw’s “The Greatest Generation,” and her and her boomer siblings was considerable, with alcoholism, infidelity, and political disagreements often aggravating that schism. Yet again ever present in her parents’ lives, amazing stories with captivating details surface, from the deeds both heroic and horrific her father witnessed in the Navy to her mother’s days as a singer, nightclub dancer, and model, along with the poverty both faced growing up in the Depression. The end result is an intimate oral history of a blue-collar, postwar American family revealed by the author in the same touching and heartbreaking manner it was disclosed to her.
Both crushing and uplifting; an account nearly as emotional as the caregiver’s trials it vividly outlines.