Two friends recount their individual experiences caring for their elderly mothers (both mothers are in their 90s) in a slim, debut volume that reveals varying attitudes toward the challenges of dealing with the changing relationships between parents and adult children.
Plumb is an only child, bearing full responsibility for his mother. Pertilla is the youngest of three daughters and benefits from a division of labor among the siblings. Plumb also arrives with unresolved conflicts—his mother has always refused to tell him who his birth father is: “You have 100 percent of my genes, which has nothing to do with him,” she says. But both must come to the rescue when the frailties of old age smack up against the normal obstacles of everyday life. Plumb’s mother hears “suspicious” noises from the neighbors, which leads him to spend several nights at her apartment. Pertilla’s mother calls her at work with an “emergency” when she forgets how to work the TV remote control. The conversational-style prose employed by both authors lends a comforting, group-therapy quality to the text, a successful literary safe zone in which they reveal their own personal moments of discomfort—Plumb’s embarrassment when taking his mother shopping for new underwear; Pertilla’s shock as she learns her mother has secretly prepackaged her urine sample for the doctor. It’s this sharing of their experiences that helps Plumb, especially, move past considerable anger to acceptance and, finally, an expression of his love for his mother. Pertilla, identifying more closely with her mother, has greater insight into Mama’s perspective: “It’s easy [for me] to remember how difficult it can be for such a speedy woman to be slowed down by age...how hard it must be for an active little bee...who is used to helping others, now to wait for others to help her.” Overall, the book serves as an honest presentation that is less a guide than a supportive acknowledgement and validation of emotional turmoil.
Will resonate among readers responsible for aging parents.