Brutally honest, compulsively readable, and at times painful to read…
In this intimate and gripping collection of essays, Hews shines a light on her own struggles of caring for her father who’s suffering from Alzheimer’s. Hews’s father’s deterioration by late-onset Alzheimer’s disease forces her to leave her life in the vibrant New York City and move back to her dilapidated childhood home in the middle of nowhere in Ashland, Maine. Over the course of Hews’s stream-of-consciousness narrative as the sole caregiver of her eighty-six-year-old father, she takes the reader through the horror of getting a call from the social services worker about her father’s constantly erratic behavior, the shattering realization of being stuck in a small town as the reality of her father’s severe descent into dementia sets in, and her own misery as a single, divorced 58-year-old woman forced to leave her life behind to take care of her aging parent. Initially, she tries to keep things together, but after realizing that it’s an uphill battle, the one she’s destined to lose, she lets herself drift through the chaos. Hews beautifully portrays the way the cruelty of Alzheimer’s impact not only the patient but also the loved ones. She talks about their financial struggles, the necessity of having an independent income other than her father’s meager social security and the foster care stipend, and her inability to work a 9-5 job with her father alone at home (a temporary placement in a respite care to attend a wedding reception in Michigan ended in Hews driving her father to ER for a broken hip), and the loneliness that becomes a constant companion as the disease carves away parts of her father slowly: as a long-haul truck driver, and later a milk truck operator, he was gone for long stretches of time during Hews’s childhood. But it’s his deteriorating mind that despairs Hews more than anything. Sometimes, the account becomes hard to follow with the chronology of the events becoming muddled because of the stream-of-consciousness narrative. But it’s the very style of narrative that makes this account of pressures of caring for an ill family member that wrap the caregivers seem both deeply touching and intimate. The collection reads well as whole, and Hews succeeds in delivering the truthful reality of Alzheimer’s and the terrible strain it puts on the family members. Hews’s account is candid and deeply moving. Underneath the grim march of the disease, there is a touching story of love and care readers wouldn’t want to miss.
A Bagful of Kittens Headed to the Lake
By Cathy Carlton Hews
Pub date January 5, 2020
Price $12.40 (USD) e-book, $12.95 Paperback