In the happening-to-all-of-us category, Berg, a novelist, whose observations are keen and whose writing is its own pleasure, makes a curious choice. Except for a handful of Jeannes and Arts, she refers to her parents almost exclusively as 'my mother' or 'my father.' A hallmark of dementia is that the person knows he or she is disappearing in real time. They experience that anguish daily. Why rob these characters of their names, their identities in the world? Perhaps she needed to keep them remote, fixed at a distance, as she seems to have always experienced them.
From taking her dad to a doctor’s appointment to helping her parents downsize to a new place, Berg writes with care and sensitively. Her writing shines when describing not only caring for someone during difficult times, but also the love that remains after someone is gone ... With these reflections, Bergs sheds insight into the experience of caring for a parent. This eloquent book will especially appeal to those in an eldercare role.
...her prologue speaks bluntly, but don’t be deterred. Though this book does bear witness to the inevitability of aging and loss, it is nonetheless a small gem shining with Berg’s signature largesse—generous gifts of poetic insight, close observance, vulnerability, honesty, humor and grace ... Readers familiar with Berg’s novels know that her stories wonderfully encompass the comforts of beauty and wry humor, but they never sugarcoat life’s hard truths.
The narrative is repetitive, with constant references to food and snippets of trivial conversations with acquaintances readers meet only once. This sketchiness and repetition suggest that Berg may have had mixed feelings about sharing this intimate portrait, and the memoir suffers as a result. Moving moments peek through, however, such as the author’s portrayal of her parents’ decadeslong practice of kissing first thing in the morning and last thing at night; when her father couldn’t remember one day if he had kissed his wife good morning, he kissed her again to make sure ... A tender if timid account of the sadness of old age.