The beloved New York Times bestselling author tells the poignant love story of caring for her parents in their final years in this beautifully written memoir.
“I’ll Be Seeing You moved me and broadened my understanding of the human condition.”—Wally Lamb, author of I Know This Much Is True
Elizabeth Berg’s father was an Army veteran who was a tough man in every way but one: He showed a great deal of love and tenderness to his wife. Berg describes her parents’ marriage as a romance that lasted for nearly seventy years; she grew up watching her father kiss her mother upon leaving home, and kiss her again the instant he came back. His idea of when he should spend time away from her was never.
But then Berg’s father developed Alzheimer’s disease, and her parents were forced to leave the home they loved and move into a facility that could offer them help. It was time for the couple’s children to offer, to the best of their abilities, practical advice, emotional support, and direction—to, in effect, parent the people who had for so long parented them. It was a hard transition, mitigated at least by flashes of humor and joy. The mix of emotions on everyone’s part could make every day feel like walking through a minefield. Then came redemption.
I’ll Be Seeing You charts the passage from the anguish of loss to the understanding that even in the most fractious times, love can heal, transform, and lead to graceful—and grateful—acceptance.
Berg (The Confession Club) eloquently explores the pain of realizing one's parents are in their declining years. After her father began to develop dementia in 2010 (later diagnosed as Alzheimer's) and her mother was less able to shovel snow or use the stairs at the Minnesota house they'd lived in for 45 years, they moved into a senior community that her father enjoyed, but her mother barely tolerated. Their 68-year marriage became strained, and Berg's brother and sister helped to defuse tensions by, among other things, accompanying their father to breakfast at the senior home, and getting their mother to join a book club at the facility. Two years after they moved into assisted living, however, Berg realized that the end of her father's life was near. "Sometimes we feel pretty certain that we know what's coming," Berg muses. "But really, we never do. We just walk on. We have to." Her father died the day after Christmas, just minutes after sharing with a caregiver a dream he had of fishing with his brother; Berg's mother died three years later in hospice, with her parting words to her daughter, "I will miss you, too." This bittersweet, touching story will particularly resonate with those caring for older parents.
The time will come
Wonderful journey through the travails of relocating parents from their home of many years to an assisted living environment. Reminded me of that period of life with my own parents. Wish I had this as a roadmap back then.
All too human caregivers
If you want to hear a book about caring for those we love, or try to love, without the judgmental and impractical suggestions, or the guilt laced saccharine “They took care of us so how can we ever complain about taking care of them?”, this is the book for you. It’s honest and uncomfortable and beautiful and comforting and contains bits of wisdom that will break your heart, and mend it. Elizabeth Berg has written another lovely book. It’s a gift to those of us who’ve been caregivers and may someday need caregivers.