Sunday, February 17, 2008

My Read of An Uncertain Inheritance - Part 5

An Uncertain Inheritance: Writer’s on Caring for Family edited by Nell Casey

Joanne D. Kiggins in her blog, WritingAfterDark, gave a real review.

Finally I'm done. It is not as much fun reading a book when you know you have to write something about it. It adds a bit of responsibility I don't like and it subtracts some pleasure that I also don't like.

One funny thing is that at the end of the book there is a section called "contributors" and it has a little biographical sketch about each of the authors. I was looking them up!! I guess this means one should pay attention to the Table of Contents maybe.
Transferred by a Touch by Kerrel Mckay (read February 16, 2008)

Kerrel is a little girl of 9 when her mother tells her not to take food anymore from her father because "he has the AIDS." I spent a while trying to get my mind around that statement. It is another story about a young child having to care for an older parent. It happens a lot doesn't it?

Several things struck me about this story. One thing surprised me quite a bit. And that was the secrecy and misunderstanding about AIDS and how much I related that aspect to Alzheimer's. No one really wants to know they have Alzheimer's and no one really wants to know they have AIDS. And to admit you have Alzheimer's or AIDS can have very negative consequences. Such knowledge changes the way people treat you and it impacts your personal freedom and your ability to work and so many other things. And then there is the misinformation and misunderstanding about the diseases. I surely did not expect to draw those parallels.

I highlighted the following passage:

"That was the curse of this secret: A terrible sense of responsibility, a sense that it was within my power to make my father better."

I bet my caregiver friends recognize that.

The Animal Game; or, How I Learned to Take Care of Myself by Letting Others Care for Me by Julia Glass (read February 16, 2008)

In this story Julia has a recurrence of cancer. She has a 5 year old and a 10 year old at the time and a husband. I won't give away the meaning of the animal game but it becomes a kind of metaphor.

There's a place where she talks about the common greeting "take care" that is said between parting friends and acquaintances and she wonders about what it was supposed to mean. That made me think about that because I say stuff like that myself to those I love. What it means to me is that I am telling the person that I really love and appreciate them and I really do want them to be careful because I know bad things happen out there and I really want to see them again and a whole lot more besides. But it is quite a bit easier just to say "take care" than try to get all of that stuff out in a few nanoseconds.

Another thing she writes is about some gifts she receives and in one place she says "Why in the world would anyone want to read about murder when death is the very thing they are hoping to cheat?" One time my friend thought he was seriously ill and maybe even dying. I gave him a copy of the "Terminal Man" by Michael Crichton. It never occurred to me that it was such a terrible gift to give a friend given his circumstances until after I had handed it over. Then I felt awful. Sometimes we aren't at our best when our friends are suffering and we want to help them and our efforts are so clumsy. And I know when I was caregiving there were times like that when our friends tried to help us.

There are some really good practical things that help that are mentioned in this story.

It reminded me quite a bit of how I started out caregiving thinking I could do it all myself and not realizing just how huge the job was that stretched before me. It took some time to seek help and even more time to appreciate it.

I wonder if I've learned something permanent?

My Conclusions

I am happy I am done with the book. I am happy I read it. I am happy I wrote about it. It was a bit of a chore in a way. I think it may still be a little early for me to be reading about other caregivers and their loved ones since the abrupt end of my own caregiving life.

Abrupt end - that is something that we should talk about right there - as caregivers. It is like hitting a wall at about 100. Then you're supposed to be back to normal within seconds of the collision.

I am intrigued by the general scarcity of faith in the stories in this book and the geographic concentration of the authors. I am not exactly certain what I think about it. I already knew there was a great difference between where I live and both coasts. They call us "fly over country" after all.

I am also impressed at how much I thought about the blogs of my caregiver friends in relation to their own caregiving and how I compared and contrasted those blogs to these essays. I conclude that my experience of reading this book would have been entirely different if I had not previously read the blogs. The blogs are better than the book. It is almost as if a single essay cannot really compare to the experience of reading daily or frequent blog entries over a period of time. And that's even if the essays are written by wonderful authors as all of these are.

And of course there is the experience of reading this book on my Kindle. It was a very good experience.

The premise of the book is interesting to me because it is the caregiving experiences of writers. And that is interesting to me because I don't see writing as being such a great differentiator. So many people I know write or people I have known have been writers. They weren't writers of published books but they surely wrote.

Still there is something more peculiarly permanent about a published book than a blog. I could, after all, in the blink of any eye or less delete my entire blog. You can't do that with a published book. Then there is the possibility that someone or several might benefit from the book. I surely did benefit in several ways not the least of which was reading and thinking about other men who are or were caregivers.

These thoughts along with the Kindle make me consider the idea of a book myself so that's certainly a significant thing if nothing else.

Many thanks to Joanne though because I would never have read this one without her review.


Annie said...

Thank you for your series. I think I'm still too much in the thick of things to read it right now, but I appreciated reading your thoughts and summaries. Sorry it ended up being a chore for you!

Susan M said...

Wow. I spoke with a dear niece a couple of weeks ago. She writes so well as do you and JDK and all of the bloggers. I'm such a facts,just the facts person that I can't put it down on paper.

It's in my head and on my heart,but I just can't get it down.

Thank you, and all the rest of you for writng and letting me read what you all are feeling,seeing and doing. Yes I identify with you all. And you help more than you know.

nancy said...

thank you for continuing to review the book. i am about 1/3 of the way through so far and have agreed with you pretty much on each entry.

i also agree that trying to capture one's experience in one short essay does not even compare to reading all of our caregiver blogs. especially because when we were in the throws of it we were blogging for the most part daily.

thanks to both you and joanne for encouraging me to write this terry! and take care - i would also have to agree with you definition as to that is what i mean when i say it!

Lori1955 said...

I love reading your blog Terry. I do hope you write a book. I love the correlation you made between Aids and AD. It seems that both of these diseases elict such fear in people. I also have gotten a lot from the blogs. I think it is because we wrote as we were going through these things and just poured out our hearts with things that only others going through it would understand.

Joanne D. Kiggins said...

Thank you, Terry. You did a wonderful job critiquing this book. You're and Nancy are so very right about the blogs allowing a more open and full experience than a short essay. If there is one thing I've learned from reading all our caregiver friends' blogs, it is that we are not alone! Thank you all for being there and being you. ((HUGS))

*(·¸*Chris*¸·)* said...

I have such a hard time reading books about AD or watching movies on the subject. I did enjoy these reviews though.

Take care are a very special person:)