As an author with Anaiah Press, I have the privilege to review Anaiah’s releases. The first release is A Long and Winding Road: A Caregiver’s Tale of Life, Love, and Chaos by Linda Brendle, and I have waited fairly patiently to read it. Before a proper review, however, a few disclaimers:
- My parents lived in an RV, traveling the contiguous U.S. and Canada for my father’s work as a funeral home OSHA inspector. In the early days (and some late days) I thought this was a crazy way to live. I mean, who could stand all that travel? Why would anyone commit themselves to such a small space for such a long time? Of course, I’d lived in the same house on a hill in rural Oklahoma for all of my first 17 years, so the logic of small and nomadic was…foreign.
- My first real encounter with Alzheimer’s occurred when I met my husband’s grandmother for the first time. He had tried to prepare me, but I was unprepared. Catherine, a name that lives close to my heart now, was so progressed in the disease that she was forever locked away inside herself. No longer capable of speech or free mobility, Catherine received the loving care of her patient and husband.
- I, like everyone, have two grandmothers. They were different in many ways but they both loved me. Both of their earthly stories drew to close in dementia. My mother was a caregiver for her mother. My father provided support but lived too far away to be a daily caregiver for his mother.
- My mother is on a liver transplant waiting list. One effect of a diseased liver is the build up of ammonia in the body, which impacts brain activity. Ammonia disruption ebbs and flows with the disease, and I’ve watched my mother and father wrestle with when dementia is in play and when it is not. We’ve all learned the signs and symptoms, and, thankfully, medical intervention can continuously whisk away the ammonia and its impact.
In equal parts, I wanted Ms. Brendle’s book and I didn’t. I thought, as you might be thinking, that it would be altogether too difficult to read. And I thought there would be comfort in reading it. I also thought, she must be insane to take two people with dementia out of their daily living situations to an existence that was new every day!
Linda Brendle writes a ‘creative memoir’ based on a travel journal written while on an extended road trip in an RV with her parents, both of whom suffered dementia. The book maintains the travelogue essence with a dash of looking forward and backward to give moments clarity and significance.
I somewhat know how life with dementia patients is, so I was initially thrown by the book’s ability to select moments from different times and weave them together. But this aspect became a strength of the book because it revealed the process of living through a complicated time. In the moment, things can be frustrating and dark, so much so that you cannot see anything else. Reflection is key to survival and key to this book. Ms. Brendle reflects on life at different stages to place the frustrating, dark moments in context. In so doing, she relieves the reader of the pressure of every moment and guides the reader through reality-plus-reflection. The writing is not laden with the ugly sides of caregiving because those bits are consistently buoyed by brightness.
Just as I still don’t think I’d move into an RV for my husband’s job, I don’t think I’d take an extended vacation with two dementia patients in an RV. But I can appreciate those who do. From my parents’ love of the road, I learned to appreciate their lifestyle. From Ms. Brendle’s attitude of taking life as it comes, I learned to appreciate her choices. I also learned that daily life rhythms exist everywhere. What first may seem pedestrian – washing dishes, watching water levels, settling – are the very details that provide the rhythm to the reader and, I feel certain, to the real lives shared in this book.
Today, while you celebrate Independence Day (if you’re American, that is), consider all the forms independence takes. Our forefathers sought independence from monarchical rule. Our nation still fights over independence from a great many institutions. I take this opportunity to honor the soldiers, their families, and all who dedicate their lives in any portion to serving our nation’s independence, most especially when we cannot all agree on what that means. I also take this opportunity to honor each person, American or otherwise, who strives daily for independence – from tyranny, certainly, but also from disease, from bad decisions, from whatever ills plague us. National independence and personal independence are too interrelated to ever be completely separated. Without a national independence, our personal independence wavers and falls. Without our personal independence, our national independence wavers and falls. This is the crux of Ms. Brendle’s book and the reason I chose to review her book today. By maintaining her independence – to travel as she willed – she supported her parents’ independence on a level they could achieve and sustain. Such is the striving of us all.
Happy Independence Day! May you maintain your independence to support the sustainable independence of others!
Released by Anaiah Press
Sometimes reality really bites. Alzheimer’s has wrapped Mom’s brain into knots, vascular dementia has attacked Dad, and, instead of carefree retirees, we have become caregivers. Regardless, dreams die hard, and we somehow stumbled into the purchase of a forty-foot motor home. That’s when all four of us set out on this seven-week trek across sixteen U.S. states. Now, Dad stopped-up the toilet again, Mom wet her last pair of clean jeans, and David just announced that he was hungry. My head is beginning to pound, and I know this isn’t going to be the easygoing retirement we’d imagined for ourselves.
Linda Brendle takes you on a roller-coaster ride of emotional and spiritual challenges that many families are facing right now. Co-dependency, mental breakdowns, and finding love after divorce are just a few of the issues weaved into this journey of caregiving. Whether you’re looking for an inspirational story to help teach you how to “let go and let God,” considering becoming the caregiver for one of your own parents, or are just looking for an entertaining travel book, this story is sure to strike a tender nerve.
A Bit About Linda Brendle
After 15 years as a family caregiver, Linda began writing to encourage, inspire and amuse other caregivers. She loves to travel and since retiring has traveled mostly by motorcycle and RV. She and her husband live in a small East Texas town where she gardens, writes and attends church.
A Bit About Anaiah Press
Anaiah Press is a Christian digital-first publishing house dedicated to presenting quality faith-based fiction and nonfiction books to the public. Our goal is to provide our authors with the close-knit, hands-on experience of working with a small press, while making sure they don’t have to sacrifice quality editing, cover art, and marketing. Books will begin to be released in digital formats beginning in Summer 2014.www.anaiahpress.com