A traveler/retiree’s account of the lessons he learned about living well from touring the country with his dying nonagenarian mother.
Bauerschmidt and his wife, Liddle, loved their nomadic travel-trailer lifestyle for the “simplicity and clarity” it offered them. But they also worried about what would happen to his aging parents when they could no longer take care of themselves. After his father’s sudden death from organ failure, he learned that his mother, Norma, was dying of cancer. Certain only that Norma deserved to experience happiness, he accepted the challenge of caring for his mother on the open road. In chapters that alternate between Bauerschmidt’s and Liddle’s voices, the book follows the trio along a route that took them from Norma’s home in Michigan all across America. Almost immediately, living together in close quarters changed them and how they treated each other. The formality and distance that had characterized Bauerschmidt’s relationship with his mother dissipated. Made newly vulnerable, he became closer to her and was able to grieve the death of a younger sister he had lost years before. Meanwhile, Norma’s shyness and stoicism gave way to joy. She learned to revel in experiences that included everything from watching Yellowstone geysers in Wyoming and an Indian tribal dance in New Mexico to trying a cannabis-based pain-relieving cream in Colorado and hot-air ballooning in Florida. Liddle, a woman who had been used to serving large communities, found unexpected reward in the renewed sense of purpose Norma gave her. The openness that characterized their relationship allowed all three to be at peace with Norma’s ultimate decision to discontinue all medical assistance and “die a natural death [and not deal] with the side effects of medication, or being hooked up to artificial means.” Depicting the ageless human capacity to learn and grow, the author celebrates life and offers a heartfelt vision of what dying a good death really means.
An uplifting and life-affirming memoir.