A debut memoir that presents a realistic view of the challenges faced by baby boomers responsible for elderly parents.
When it came time for Turner and her husband, Bob, to move his mother, 88-year-old Mollie, into their “dream house” near Orlando, Florida, the author approached the task enthusiastically. Turner, in her early 60s at the time, had always had a close, loving relationship with her in-law. Mollie was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, but the author had taken a seminar and collected information ahead of time, so she was confident that she could provide the sort of nurturing environment for Mollie that Bob’s three sisters no longer could. She had no idea that the experience would knock her totally off her game, setting up an internal battle between “good Sherry” and “bad Sherry” as she tried to overcome frustration and anger. This is the story of the last three years of Mollie’s life and of Turner’s personal struggle to reconcile her own expectations with difficult, day-to-day frustrations. For the author, it became a lesson in humility and acceptance. Her smooth, present-tense, often self-deprecating prose brings readers directly into her moments of triumph and defeat. Even when “bad Sherry” rears her snarky head, readers know that Turner loved her mother-in-law, who was sweet and loved singalongs; she even had total recall of the words and music of her favorite songs. She also skillfully recounted stories from her youth and young adulthood. But Turner also makes her short-term memory issues clear. In one vividly described incident, the author took her in-law to a big-band concert, where she joyfully sang along. But while talking about the concert just minutes later, Mollie said wistfully: “Oh, I would love to have seen that....Can I go with you next time?” The author also tells how she learned to cherish positive moments; as her husband told her, “You can’t make her better....We want her time with us...her last years, to be pleasant; and you are doing all that you can to achieve that.”
Engaging, honest, and poignant and a worthy addition to the burgeoning Alzheimer’s literature.