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Saturday, September 6, 2014

Recommended Reading: "Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?: A Memoir " by Roz Chast.

The dreaded parent-in-crisis call: From Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

Roz Chast is a cartoonist. You're probably familiar with her work for The New Yorker. In her graphic memoir Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, she turns her talents to chronicling her experiences helping her parents as they physically and mentally decline from old age to old-old age and ultimate death.

If you've gone through this same experience with a parent, as I have, you will immediately recognize the book's truth. Roz copes with it all, including emergency phone calls, hospitalizations, the need to move her parents into a new living situation, coping when the first parent dies, dealing with institutions, paperwork, and worrying about money (will it last?). The messiness of all of this is cleanly presented in Chast's signature drawing style, some photos, and a succinct narrative.

For those of us in the United States, the familiarity of Chast's experience is both comforting and frightening. I found it striking that what Chast went through with her parents in Brooklyn and Connecticut so closely mirrored my experiences with my elderly parents who lived a world away in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Many times while reading this memoir I wished I could call Roz Chast on the phone and tell her 'that happened to me too, and I felt the same way.'

My mom died last March at age 89. In January, when I was visiting her in her room at an assisted living facility, she said, "It is a terrible thing to get this old." Well, it for sure is not easy. And Roz Chast does a brilliant job illustrating the experience from an adult child's perspective.