Reading is one of my guilty pleasures. Guilty, not because it is a bad thing, but rather because when I get into a good book the world could crash around me and I would have no clue.
Sometimes however a book hits too close to home to be what I would call enjoyable. That was the case with the book I read for my Book Club this past month. “Elizabeth Is Missing” by Emma Healey is about elderly woman with dementia / Alzheimer’s. The story is told in the first person so you experience the fear, confusion and anger of the main character in a very personal way.
Many of us have been through these stages to varying degrees with family members. There are sections of the book where Maud our main character is so lost in childhood memories that she really seems to think she is once again a 12 year old. It took me back to being in a hospital room with my Aunt and she was frantically trying to escape. She was sure that her “Daddy” was going to be upset not knowing where she was and she had to get home. Maud’s anger reminded me once again of Aunt Betty chasing my sister around the room in the assisted living trying to kick her. It also reminded me of my Mom who was so afraid of loosing her memory like her sister had. That fear was evident when would realize that she had no recollection of someone or something. The anger would bubble over when I would correct her or fill in the missing information. Sometimes, often, I wish I would have been more patient. Did I really have to correct her? I thought that telling stories about the past would somehow help to keep the memories alive. When she would look at me with a blank stare and say “I don’t remember that”, it would break my heart. I always thought that fond memories would be like a warm blanket on a cold night, giving consolation and comfort in old age. Some of the most frustrating times were when we were dealing with Doctors and Nurses. My sister and I would be trying to give accurate medical history and Mom would be yelling and angry. She didn’t remember every having a heart issue and would insist we were wrong . . . or crazy.
In any case I would recommend this book. It’s a tough but worthwhile read if you have been down this road. If you haven’t been there yet with a loved one . . . maybe it will make you a little more patient and understanding.
Now PLEASE, send me some suggestions for summer reading. Feel free to post your own reviews here.