When the child becomes the parent
Can we be real for a second? Yes, it's the holiday season, and for many of us, it's a time of celebration, abundance, and memory-making. But that's not the reality for all of us. Many of us are going through life challenges that make the holiday season -- and every day -- difficult, to say the least. One of those challenges comes about when a parent becomes ill, and we, as their adult children, are charged with the task of stepping up and playing the caregiver role.
That's exactly what has happened to Canadian singer-songwriter Jann Arden. Her new book, Feeding My Mother, is a heartbreakingly honest tale of how her life has been turned upside down and how she's a living example of when the mother-daughter roles get flipped on their heads. When Jann bought a house just across the road from her parents, she saw their nearby house as a place of comfort and refuge from her busy life in the spotlight. Fate has a funny way of intervening, however. Soon after, Jann's dad became ill and passed away, just days later, her mother received a devastating diagnosis: Alzheimer's disease. Now, Jann spends much of her time caring for her mother, cooking for her nearly every night and making peace with the ever-changing reality she and her mother are now facing.
What this book isn't is a poor-me story. Arden is known for her take-no-prisoners positive outlook, and this book is no exception. Far from painting a rosy face on a unfortunate situation, Feeding My Mother is an achingly raw, honest, portrayal of what it means to have to roll with the punches even when those punches come at you right in the gut. Part personal journal, part family photo album, part family recipe collection, the sum total of this book is a testament to the love of a daughter for her mother, and what it means to love someone through the tough times -- and the really tough times. It is the story of a lives lived from the family kitchen, of the restorative power of family food shared, of bonding and caring for one another through all of life's storms.
"As my mother's daughter and caregiver, I have to stay in the moment that my mom lives in. I have to hold her hand and go down the road that she is on without question or hesitation. I've learned that it's liberating to surrender."
At first blush, it may seem strange to include a book about a family's biggest struggle on my holiday gift guide list, However, this book is far from doom and gloom. It is full of the hard stuff, sure, but it's also full of hope, love, strength, humour, and support -- all of the things someone who may be going through a similar situation might find comforting. And shouldn't that be what a gift does?