Candid, compassionate memoir of dealing simultaneously with a newborn and a mother with Alzheimer’s.
It was after the birth of her first child that Lockhart, a neurobiologist turned freelance writer, first became aware that her mother Ruthie, a retired schoolteacher, was becoming uncharacteristically forgetful and semi-incoherent, unable to recall recent telephone conversations or a sizable loan. Ruthie had always been “the capable one, the practical one, the doer,” the author recalls. When her mother’s condition developed into something more serious than just the “late midlife slump” she’d surmised, Lockhart decided to return home to California after years of living in Massachusetts. The belief that being physically closer would somehow rejuvenate Ruthie’s health was soon dashed. She continued to psychologically and physically falter, and was eventually diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease just as Lockhart gave birth to her second child. As her mother’s disease progressed, the author explored various costly nursing homes, but couldn’t bring herself to decide. Lockhart’s training as a neurobiologist saturates her narrative; she adroitly explains in scientific yet accessible terminology both the development of new neurons taking place in her newborn’s body and the “sticky plaques” clogging the once-elastic receptor cells in her mother’s brain. Wry humor occasionally seeps into her portrait of such tribulations as fruitlessly attempting to find a place at work to use a breast pump or Ruthie’s random bouts of uncontrollably impulsive behavior. Originally serialized in the online magazine Literary Mama, the memoir juxtaposes the joy and elation of raising a baby with the sad, painful task of caring for a dying parent.
A poignantly searing fusion of heartbreak and hope.