My dad died a year ago today.
I got a little weepy at my niece’s high school graduation when I read in the program that she had won an award from the local Masonic Lodge. My dad was a lifelong Mason and he would have been so proud to see her get that award. I like to think he was looking down on her that day.
As a book lover, I turned to literature for some help. Shortly after his passing, I read H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald. Last Christmas, my twin sister gave me They left Us Everything, Plum Johnson’s memoir about coping with the houseful of mementos and memories her parents left after their deaths.
Publisher’s Summary: After almost twenty years of caring for elderly parents—first for their senile father, and then for their cantankerous ninety-three-year old mother—author Plum Johnson and her three younger brothers have finally fallen to their middle-aged knees with conflicted feelings of grief and relief. Now they must empty and sell the beloved family home, twenty-three rooms bulging with history, antiques, and oxygen tanks. Plum thought: How tough will that be? I know how to buy garbage bags.
But the task turns out to be much harder and more rewarding than she ever imagined. Items from childhood trigger difficult memories of her eccentric family growing up in the 1950s and ’60s, but unearthing new facts about her parents helps her reconcile those relationships, with a more accepting perspective about who they were and what they valued.
They Left Us Everything is a funny, touching memoir about the importance of preserving family history to make sense of the past, and nurturing family bonds to safeguard the future.
I can think of many friends and colleagues, all middle-aged, who might benefit from reading this book, who also have aging parents.
Earlier this year I read an excellent New Yorker article entitled “Can reading Make You Happier?” which was all about bibliotherapy. It turns out my local public library actually had the book mentioned in the article, The Novel Cure by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin.
In my pursuit of this topic, I also came across this gem:
There are many other similar books out there. I hope that you can find some solace, support and hope in whatever books you choose to read.