By Linda Brendle
Several years ago I wrote A Long and Winding Road, the story of the hilarity and chaos that happened when my husband and I took Mom and Dad, both of whom had Alzheimer’s, on a seven-week, sixteen-state trek across the southeastern U.S. in a forty-foot motor home. In it I also told of the years and the life experiences that brought the four of us together. Readers responded to the emotions in the story – the humor, the joy, the sorrow. But most of all, they responded to the love, and they wanted to know what happened next. Mom’s Long Goodbye is the rest of the story.
This memoir is based on blog posts written as the events happened – when the details were fresh and the emotions were raw – and I knew I couldn’t write anything that was more real. The story takes the reader through grieving a continuous loss, some of the initial changes Alzheimer’s causes, the transition from caregiving to assisted living, Dad’s death, Mom’s last year, and the grief and closure of her final good-bye. It is about the good, the bad, and the ugly of Alzheimer’s – the harsh reality that dementia is bad and ugly, but the sweet truth that there are also precious moments.
I wanted to not only expose the realities of Alzheimer’s, but to strip away the face of the perfect caregiver and give the reader a look at the denial, anger and fear that come as a loved one loses herself a piece at a time to this insidious disease. Through sharing my own struggles, I tried to assure others that they are not alone, that perfection is not required, and that comfort is real. Most of all I wanted them to know that there is life after caregiving. Reader feedback indicates that I have been successful in offering hope and comfort.
One interviewer asked me what I thought my parents would think about my books. Here’s how I answered:
Mom and Dad were very private people, and from an earthly perspective, I think they would be embarrassed about some of the personal details I shared. I struggled with that before I published, but after much prayer and meditation, I decided to go ahead. Now, if they could look back from Heaven and see how their stories are helping those who are going through the same things, I think they would be pleased.
Folk wisdom says that “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy,” and as I wrote one chapter in A Long and Winding Road, that saying was proved true in our family from time to time. However, I truly believe that both Mom and Dad would be happy with their stories and that, like me, they would feel that helping others through their experiences gives some meaning to their otherwise senseless struggles with Alzheimer’s. My task of caregiving was long and arduous, but after having told the rest of the story, I now feel that I have finished that task, and that I have finished well.
About the Author
After years as a family caregiver, Linda Brendle began to write as a way of helping herself and others deal with the pain and frustration of caregiving. Now that her parents are eternally healed, she writes about life in the country, her feral Kitty, and her amazingly patient husband David.
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