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Wait Until Tomorrow: A Daughter's Memoir

Wait Until Tomorrow: A Daughter's Memoir

by Pat MacEnulty

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Like all mothers, mine had a set of maxims that she thought were important to impart to me: if you can't say anything nice, then don't say anything at all (unless it's irresistibly funny); it's as easy to fall in love with a rich man as it is with a poor man (a nice idea in theory); if you want to commit suicide, wait until tomorrow (advice which has, it


Like all mothers, mine had a set of maxims that she thought were important to impart to me: if you can't say anything nice, then don't say anything at all (unless it's irresistibly funny); it's as easy to fall in love with a rich man as it is with a poor man (a nice idea in theory); if you want to commit suicide, wait until tomorrow (advice which has, it turns out, saved my life).

Like many daughters of elderly parents, Pat MacEnulty finds herself in a maze of healthcare negotiations and discoveries when her mother can no longer care for herself. Pat's mother, who stood by her through her darkest years as a drug addict, was a small-town icon as a composer, pianist, organist, and musical director. She is suddenly unable to be the accomplished, independent person she once was. Now Pat has two goals: to help her daughter avoid the mistakes that derailed her own life, and to see her mother's masterpiece, "An American Requiem," find a new life and a new audience in her mother's lifetime. Along the way, Pat rediscovers her own strength, humor, and rebelliousness at the most unlikely moments.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In a straightforward, take-off-the-rose-colored-glasses fashion, novelist MacEnulty (From May to September) tells a sad though familiar story of a family ruptured by illness and old age. MacEnulty grew up in Jacksonville, Fla., in a fatherless household; she descended into drug addiction in her teens, and finally turned herself around through education and a teaching and writing career. Her mother, a retired pianist and composer in Edenton, N.C., whose early ambitions were largely thwarted by her overbearing husband, grew needy and ill. Little by little illness began to sap the family’s strength: MacEnulty developed a debilitating case of hepatitis C (contracted from her drug use years earlier), and she was later diagnosed with abdominal cancer, while MacEnulty’s mother became crippled and no longer able to care for herself. A move into assisted living proved expensive and unsatisfying, however necessary, as her mother was constantly ending up in the hospital; moreover, she was unpleasant to be around: "Now she is no longer the grande dame," writes MacEnulty with hard resignation, "she is just another addled old person with a walker." MacEnulty’s memoir of feeling torn by her mother’s illness, her faltering relationship with her spouse, chronic money worries, and anxieties for her teenage daughter all resonate with Job-like finality, though she does bring to her prose a little levity to sweeten the numbing detail. (May)
From the Publisher

"Wait Until Tomorrow is a profound story about life and love and loss, growing up and growing old, holding on and letting go. There is a song of beauty and truth on every page." —Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild

"An inspiring story of love, loss and the ravages of aging." —Kirkus

"Pat MacEnulty provides an honest, searing look at how her mother—a distinguished musician bursting with energy and wit—enters the last frontier of her life, still demanding the spotlight though its glow now comes from her talented, overworked daughter. There is urgency here: desires that can never be satisfied, illnesses that must be survived, love that pulls at the boundaries of hope and despair and yet stubbornly persists. Beautifully written, this is a poignant, necessary book!" —Patricia Foster, author of All the Lost Girls

“A spare, disciplined prose that no one will be able to read without thinking of Hemingway. But MacEnulty has made the style her own…Every story is a new demonstration that MacEnulty has that rare ability to convince, wholly, in very few words.” —The Observer

"This beautiful book about death and dying, written from the point of view of a daughter, a caregiver who was wise enough to care about her own life, is also a lively and even funny book." —Kate Millet, author of Mother Millet

Kirkus Reviews

Novelist MacEnulty (Picara, 2009, etc.) shares the experience of becoming her 86-year-old mother's caretaker in 2004—a time she describes as "gut wrenching, sometimes grief-filled" but also unexpectedly "rewarding and soul stretching."

Her mother, a talented professional musician and composer, had moved to North Carolina where she lived alone. She worked until she was 82, when increasing disability, the result of a failed spinal operation, left her virtually homebound and in constant pain. The author writes that although retrospectively she can date the process of her mother's aging, at the time it was masked by her upbeat personality and the fact that until 2002, she was living in Florida. When it became obvious that her mother could no longer manage alone, MacEnulty took her into her own family, but this proved to be an untenable situation because of her mother's increasing disorientation and distraught behavior. While her two older brothers provided moral support and some financial assistance, the primary burden of her mother's care fell on the author. She placed her in an assisted-living facility and cared for her there on a daily basis, to the detriment of her own family—a situation that led to the disintegration of her marriage. MacEnulty writes that while she began this book in order to document the financial and emotional burden of providing for the elderly, it soon morphed into a memoir about her relationship to her mother as a younger woman who "possess[ed] a wide-ranging intelligence [and] was kind, generous, fun, and extraordinarily talented." In 2010, she returned with her mother to Florida for a triumphant visit, to attend the performance of a requiem mass that she had composed.

An inspiring story of love, loss and the ravages of aging.

Product Details

Feminist Press at CUNY, The
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)

Meet the Author

Pat MacEnulty is a teacher, writing coach, and freelance editor. She holds a Ph.D. from the Creative Writing Program at Florida State University. MacEnulty is the author of four novels, including Sweet Fire (2004), Time to Say Goodbye (2006), From May to December (2007), Picara (2009), and the short story collection The Language of Sharks (2004). Her interviews, short stories, essays, poems, and plays have appeared in The Sun and other publications. From 1995 to 2002 she facilitated writing and drama workshops for prisoners as well as at-risk juveniles. MacEnulty currently resides in Charlotte, North Carolina.

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