MY FATHER’S GHOST by Suzy McKee Charnas


The Return of My Old Man and Other Second Chances
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From SF novelist Charnas (The Conquerer's Child, 1999, etc.), a true and tender account of caring for her aging father from the time of his truculent arrival at her home to his irascible last illness and death.

Robinson McKee left his wife and children when Suzy was only eight to live the bohemian life of a painter in Greenwich Village. Although they were in touch over the years, this was a man the author “barely knew” when she invited him in 1973 to leave his rundown New York studio to live with her and her husband in New Mexico. Robin would have his own house on her Albuquerque property and a view of the Sandia mountains bathed in the extraordinary southwestern light. He came, and for nearly 20 years Charnas struggled to know him, please him, laugh at his jokes, get him to paint, exercise, take a bath, and, finally, to let him die. He spent his last year in a nursing home, where a miracle of sorts occurred. He fell in love with a patient, Jane, who returned his affection; they spent their days together, with Robin often ensconced in Jane's wheelchair by her bedside. He mellowed and spruced up his grooming, ate better, and, encouraged by Jane, voted in a presidential election for the first time. He died in January 1993, leaving Charnas with his cat and 40 volumes of journals that he kept from 1930 until a few years before he moved in with her. The author makes good use of entries from these journals, full of amusing, brittle, sad, and hopeful anecdotes and musings, epigrams, and reflections on art and life. She intersperses them among her own memories and journal excerpts to capture the mix of guilt, longing, impatience, and empathy that characterized their relationship.

Anyone who has cared for aging and ill parents will recognize and perhaps be comforted by this frank delineation of the mixed emotions called up by the death of a father.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2002
ISBN: 1-58542-185-5
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: TarcherPerigee
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2002