Roz Chast’s memoir about her last years with her elderly parents is so true to life. Her story made me cringe, made me laugh, and made me cry for I could relate to all she had been through.
My father died close to four years ago, and my mother has had several life-threatening hospital stays; making me the perfect audience for this story. My parents, especially my father (we were his second family), were significantly older than my friend’s parents. As such, this has made me the first of my friends to deal with these situations. I originally read this book a few years ago, after reading a positive review about it and having struggled with feelings of grief and resentment before and after my father’s death.
Roz Chast is a staff cartoonist for The New Yorker and has had over 800 of her cartoons published in it, so when I picked up this book I recognized her quirky artistic style, but not her name. Roz was an only child of older, dysfunctional parents who lived in Brooklyn and had a difficult childhood with them. Her mother was extremely dominant, while her father was passive with significant anxieties and phobias. Roz left for college at 16, and eventually married and moved to Connecticut with her young family. Years later, as her parents moved into their 80’s she visited more often, and tried to step in to assist when their health issues forced them to move into an assisted living facility. All the work fell to her as she had to find a new home for them, clean out a dirty hoarded apartment that they had lived in for decades, arrange healthcare and take care of their financial matters. While Roz did all this willingly, out of respect and love for her parents, there was also a great deal of resentment, guilt and stress associated with it. Her parents hadn’t mellowed with age, so their idiosyncrasies were magnified and hard to deal with. Roz shares personal details of their eventual deaths, as she processes her feelings, knowing there are no more chances to change the unhealthy dynamic that the three of them had shared.
This amazing book helped me process my own feelings, and see that I was not alone. The feelings that my four sisters and I had for our domineering and abusive father has been hard to deal with, for while we all have grieved in our own ways it was muted compared to how I have witnessed others grieve. So, thank you to Roz, for a beautiful warts and all memoir.