In Remembering the Music, Forgetting the Words, Kate Whouley strips away the romantic veneer of mother-daughter love to bare the toothed and tough reality of caring for a parent who is slowly losing her mind. Yet, this is not a dark or dour look at the demon of Alzheimer’s. Whouley shares the trying, the tender, and the sometimes hilarious moments in meeting the challenge also known as Mom.
As her mother, Anne, falls into forgetting, Kate remembers for her. In Anne we meet a strong-minded, accidental feminist with a weakness for unreliable men. The first woman to apply for—and win—a department-head position in her school system, Anne was an innovative educator who poured her passion into her work. House-proud too, she made certain her Hummel figurines were dusted and arranged just so. But as her memory falters, so does her housekeeping. Surrounded by stacks of dirty dishes, piles of laundry, and months of unopened mail, Anne needs Kate’s help—but she doesn’t want to relinquish her hard-won independence any more than she wants to give up smoking.
Time and time again, Kate must balance Anne’s often nonsensical demands with what she believes are the best decisions for her mother’s comfort and safety. This is familiar territory for anyone who has had to help a loved one in decline, but Kate finds new and different ways to approach her mother and her forgetting. Shuddering under the weight of accumulating bills and her mother’s frustrating, circular arguments, Kate realizes she must push past difficult family history to find compassion, empathy, and good humor.
When the memories, the names, and then the words begin to fade, it is the music that matters most to Kate’s mother. Holding hands after a concert, a flute case slung over Kate’s shoulder, and a shared joke between them, their relationship is healed—even in the face of a dreaded and deadly diagnosis. “Memory,” Kate Whouley writes, “is overrated.”
From the Hardcover edition.
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From the Hardcover edition.
Read an Excerpt
So Sue Me
“I’d like to sue my daughter,” my mother says to the attorney.
“Is that something you can handle for me?”
“Mom—ahh—I don’t think he’s that kind of lawyer.” I smile, hoping the attorney and witnesses we have gathered will assume my mother is kidding.
In fact, she has been threatening to sue since she slipped off the stool in my kitchen. I was at the sink across the counter, and I saw her take the fall, but I can’t say for sure what happened. She moved from sitting to almost standing before she appeared to crumple to the floor. My friend Bruce, who was occupying the other counter stool, reached for her. But she went down too fast.
“Mom, are you okay?” I was on my knees next to her.
“My hip, goddamn it.”
“What about your back?”
“My back is fine, but my fanny is killing me. Why are your floors so damn slippery? I’m going to sue you!”
“You probably bruised your tailbone, Mom. You didn’t hit your head, did you?”
“No, goddamn it! I landed on my fanny. Ouch!”
“You’ll be sore for a few days, but I don’t think you’ve broken anything. How about some ice?”
“Ice! Your house is already too goddamn cold!” She sat down on the loveseat in the living room. “My fanny hurts like hell! Ouch! I’m going to sue you!”
“Well, there’s not much you’d get out of a lawsuit, Mom. Kind of like blood from a stone?”
A smile, and then a shift of position. “Ow! My fanny hurts! I’m going to sue you, Kathleen.”
My mother has threatened legal action every time she notices that her butt hurts. As best as I can figure, she forgets about the injury until she sits on her tailbone a certain way, and then— bam—she remembers she fell, determines my slippery floors are to blame, and feels the impulse to sue me all over again. This has been happening, on average, about twenty times a day for the past six days. It’s getting on my nerves.
If I were less annoyed by her repeated threats to sue me, I might find it more interesting that she has reinvented the story of her fall. She begins to tell the attorney that she was walking down the hallway when she fell. The cause? Not her hip. Not her balance issues. My slippery wood floors. She seems to have forgotten falling off the stool, but she is clinging to this new version of events, which, I have to admit, does more to support her claim. My kitchen floor is covered in nineteen-year-old linoleum with no shine left in it. Slippery, it is not.
The attorney to whom she relates her tale of household injustice is, thank God, a man. A tall man who is wearing a suit. “Well, Anne, I am that kind of attorney too. But what do you say we get these documents in order before we discuss your lawsuit against your daughter?” My mother is satisfied and charmed. When he chuckles, she does too. On the whole, and despite her own impressive career, my mother prefers men, especially in positions of authority, and especially tall men, who remind her of my father.
We’re meeting at my accountant’s office. Kathey has been doing my taxes forever—since she was a one-woman show sharing her crowded quarters with a computer business run by the man who is now her ex. These days she has nicely appointed offices, several folks working for her, and a new husband. She also looks about ten years younger than she did when I first met her, which means she has reversed her aging process by about twice that many years. I’m pretty sure her secret is happiness.
Kathey’s office is in Osterville, a wealthy little village on Cape Cod, and most of her clients have what might be genteelly called “resources.” The elder-law attorney she recommended was from a high-priced law firm outside Boston—no doubt the sort of prestigious contact most of her clients would prefer. When I’d met with him a few months ago, he was kind and helpful. He made several recommendations, some more expensive to carry out than others and some just not necessary for folks of our limited means. I’ve decided to stick with the bargain package: power of attorney, health care proxy, and a revision of my mother’s will. At some point she made changes in her own handwriting to the original document.
As the attorney begins passing out the paperwork, Kathey tells my mother how great it is to see her. Kathey’s office manager, Katherine, compliments my mother on the Celtic cross she is wearing around her neck.
“I bought it in Ireland,” my mother declares.
I am grateful my mother has been distracted from the pain in her tailbone. When Katherine asks about the trip to Ireland, my mother says she has been several times and that she studied one summer at Trinity College in Dublin. What comes next surprises me.
“The people in Dublin are lovely,” my mother says. “So friendly and generous—not like the people in Paris, which is where my daughter prefers to travel.”
“Oh, have you been to Paris too?” Kathey asks.
I might have asked the same question myself. If my mother has seen Paris, this is the first I’ve ever heard of it.
“I only spent a day there. But that was enough! We took the train from Paris to London and then flew over to Ireland.”
“Oh, you took the Chunnel train? How was that?” asks Katherine.
“Fine, but the people in Paris—they were so rude! I wouldn’t want to spend any time in that city! But my daughter—she loves it there.”
My mother is trying to get a rise out of me. She wants me to defend Paris, my adopted city and the setting of a novel I finished writing this fall. The digs about Paris, the threats to sue—they spring from the same well of anger. My mother isn’t happy to be at the attorney’s today; she doesn’t like the way I am “controlling” her life. She’s mad at me, and she wants me to be mad back.
I shrug and smile, not only to keep the peace but because I don’t know whether my mother has been to Paris. Was the Chunnel finished in time for her last trip to Ireland? Why would anyone go through Paris to get to London to get to Dublin? And after all my trips to Paris, why would she mention this to me for the first time now? But would she just make up a day in Paris?
My mother has invented the slippery floor story, and in recent months she has reengineered several other truths to suit her purposes. She swore, for example, that she dropped her car keys when she was getting out of her car in the dark. She called me to come root around in the dirt under the car. No keys were found in the vicinity. Yet she would not budge from the story she had come to believe was true: she had dropped the keys, in the dark, in the rain, and they were somewhere under the car. “I just hope someone hasn’t stolen them.”
After I persuaded her that we should look inside the house, I found the keys hiding between the cushions of her living room loveseat.
The lost and found keys, the kitchen turned hallway, and now this Paris story: I am coming to understand that when my mother forgets something—but not everything—about a situation, she becomes creative. She fashions a story that might be true, and then she clings to her reinvention. What’s remarkable is that she is able to hold on to the new mythology. Assert, repeat, repeat, repeat. And me? Unless I am a witness to the original truth—like the upset in my kitchen—I have no idea where the line between fact and fiction is drawn. Has my mother been to Paris? Has she taken the Chunnel train? It seems so unlikely— but my mother, the drama coach, is still a great actress and a persuasive speaker. Is her Celtic cross from a little shop in Dublin? I’m not sure. Maybe. Part of me feels like a traitor for doubting her. I check back into the conversation and hear my mother claiming the Irish knit sweater she is wearing today as a souvenir from the Irish countryside. Ireland? Try T. J. Maxx.
We move through the meeting. When my mother complains I am taking over her life, the lawyer explains that the power of attorney just gives me copilot status and that the health care proxy only comes into play if she is unable to make a medical decision herself.
“Yes, yes. I understand,” my mother says, waving away further discussion with her fly-swatting voice. She signs each document, and Kathey and Katherine sign as witnesses. Their signatures and the attorney’s oversight of these transactions affirm that my mother is of sound mind. On the way home, I can’t shake the feeling that we got those papers signed just in the nick of time.
From the Hardcover edition.
Table of Contents
Chapter One: What We Don’t Know
Chapter Two: Eating Cake
Chapter Three: Minding My Business
Chapter Four: House Hunt
Chapter Five: Smoking
Chapter Six: Mother-Daughter
Chapter Seven: Don’t Get Old
Chapter Eight: Forgetting
Chapter Nine: So Sue Me
Chapter Ten: Sundown at Sunrise
Chapter Eleven: Only Child
Chapter Twelve: Life Inside
Chapter Thirteen: Romper Room
Chapter Fourteen: Wintering
Chapter Fifteen: In the Pink
Chapter Sixteen: Imperfection
Chapter Seventeen: Bad News Santa
Chapter Eighteen: Hollywood Ending
Chapter Nineteen: The Moment
Chapter Twenty: Mother’s Day
Chapter Twenty-one: Till It’s Gone
Chapter Twenty-two: DNR
Chapter Twenty-three: Irish Wake
Chapter Twenty-four: After Words
What People are Saying About This
“A lovely, honest account of her mother’s decline into Alzheimer’s disease.”—The Boston Globe
“In her often humorous and always compassionate memoir, Whouley hopes to transform how people relate to a loved one with Alzheimer's disease."—USA Today
“Whouley’s poignant, perceptive story of remembrance may not make the word 'Alzheimer’s' any easier to hear, but her book offers a perspective that may relieve, comfort and perhaps ease the minds of those who are facing some of the same dilemmas with elder family members – dilemmas about care, yes, but also about just how to take in the idea of communicating with someone who will likely not remember that communication scant moments later.”—The Barnstable Patriot
“Whouley gracefully keeps a balance between poignancy and humor. Her intelligent, sensitive voice is a treat…”—Shelf Awareness
“Reading Kate Whouley’s memoir felt like sitting down with an old friend over coffee...As a reader, I felt privileged to be on the receiving end of such a confidence, which concerns the most important issues: family, mortality, our aloneness in the world, our connection in the face of it. I read it in two sittings and turned the last page with regret.”—David Payne, author of Back to Wando Passo
"An exceptional memoir that reminds us—often with surprising humor—of the richness of life in good times and bad."—David Dosa MD, author of Making Rounds With Oscar
“Remembering the Music, Forgetting the Words made me want to go hug my mother. It also made me want to go hug Kate Whouley for her generous, fearless and spot-on recounting of a mother-daughter relationship during its most tragic yet poignantly beautiful years.”—Suzanne Strempek Shea, author of Sundays in America
“With books as her background and music as her guide, Kate Whouley helps her mother navigate the journey of Alzheimer’s. Recalling her mother’s impressive past, Whouley tries to reconcile her “new” mother with the old. Whouley’s straightforward, and at times, very funny take at her mother’s struggles and her own will strike home to many readers familiar with the caregiver role. Incorporating her life-long passion as a flutist, Whouley’s tone and reflection of music in every aspect of the journey fills the book with hope and, yes, joy. I hope I would be as graceful and kind if I ever become my mother’s support system. Full of mother-daughter issues, identity, grief, loss, along with lots of love, and enduring friendships, Remembering The Music, Forgetting the Words is perfect fodder for reading groups!”—Barbara Drummond Mead, Editor of Reading Group Choices
“Remembering the Music is a dance of a daughter’s spirit as she releases her mother (and the reader) to another realm.”—Joan Anderson, Author of A Year By The Sea
“In Remembering the Music, Forgetting the Words, Kate Whouley explores the mysteries of the human heart with wisdom and wit, giving us a story rich with kindness and comfort.”—Amanda Eyre Ward, author of Close Your Eyes
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I am going through this stage of life with my Mother and this book has been a wonderful source of strength for me. ALzheimer's is a terrible disease and Kate shows the warmth adn compassion she had in taking care of her Mother. I want all of my Friends to read this book. It is so touching.
"Remembering the Music, Forgetting the Words " is a quick and accessible memoir of a daughter's struggle to cope with her mother's battle with Alzheimer's.There is a fair bit of information on Alzheimer's Disease and how to understand and cope with it, which was most helpful .The strongest, most honest passage in the memoir was this , page 126, "I am not caring for my mother because we are in close enviable harmony. No. In choosing now to care for my mother, I am choosing to do what I would hope some kind hearted person might one day do for me."Like many of us, author Kate Whouley has had a complex, less than positive relationship with her parent. I appreciated Kate's brutal honesty as something I can take away for myself when dealing with older relatives in my life.My one caveat: I found the portions of the book devoted to author Kate Whouley's life to be quite dry and uninteresting.
This memoir details Whouly's efforts to care for her mother following a dementia diagnosis. The issues she faces will be familiar to anyone with an aging parent. Whouly must deal with placing her mother in assisted living, selling her mother's home, and paying for care. There are other issues, though, which are unique to dementia. Most distressing is the fact that Kate's mother, Anne, cannot remember when she has agreed to changes. All sorts of major life decisions: moving, giving up driving, accepting more caretakers in her life- these are all things that Anne repeatedly forgets that she accepted, so the process of convincing her has to be repeated over and over. And while the memoir is Kate's and told in her voice, it's pretty clear that the trauma and grief Anne experiences at losing certain freedoms and faculties is repeated over and over too. I was struck by how so many of these things must be constantly fresh wounds for Anne. This is a cruel way to age indeed. I wished that the memoir had included more background on Anne and Kate's relationship. Whouly regularly alludes to the fact that their relationship had a troubled history, marred by an abusive stepfather and Anne's alcoholism. I wanted to know more, in part because it's clear that the past very much shapes Kate and Anne's mother-daughter relationship in the present. I don't generally think that a book should be longer, but in this case more discussion of the past would have been helpful.
Another free read from LT. And not only free- a great book! It is a beautiful, compassionate, and genuine account of living and caring for a person with dementia. Kate Whouley writes effortlessly, and her story is unveiled at a perfect pace; she kept me captivated from her first chapter. If you know someone with dementia, or you are a caregiver, look no further. This is a book that will make you believe you are not alone, and that looking at your own fears with faith will change your perspective. The only reason I didn't give this book a maximum rating is because of the spotty editing- some spelling and grammar errors that kept repeating. However, this did not stop me from enjoying the book. I will definitely look for more of this author's works!
Also an early reviewer. Like another reviewer indicated, I was a bit nervous to tackle the topic of parents, dementia and children as caregivers. I was quite moved by the story. It was simple, realistic, touching but honest. It was a good reminder to appreciate your loved ones while still healthy but also to discuss the plan should assisted living (dementia or other age related issue) become necessary. The financial consequence of aging (I am an accountant) was also a wake-up call. I cried openly at the end."My mother, even with an imperfect memory, was still deserving of attention, love, affection, and your respect."I will pass this book along.
Kate Whouley's memoir about her mother Anne's decline into dementia and death is one of the most appealing and sensitive books I have read about this difficult topic in a long time. She managed to convey the strugges with her mother without recrimination, and compassion without treachle. Kate is in a difficult position...an only child with limited means, she navigates the options for her mother's care deftly, and accepts help from an array of friends and soon-to-be friends. Her present day stuggles are filtered through memories of her childhood, her admiration for her mother's indepence as an educator, yet remembering her vulnerability after her broken marriages. Anne is not an easy person to care for. She remains stubborn, smokes, fights having her life controlled. Kate manages to find humor in their situation, and when she can includes her mother in outings to concerts, dinner and her home. Kate is extremely honest about herself without giving up her own or her mother's dignity. It is difficult to find writers able to get to this level of honesty without falling into the trap of becomming a tell-all of wrongdoing, but she does it.The book offers a lot of practical advice to anyone coping with the dementia of a relative. Thus, as well as inspiration, read this for ideas. This is a book you will go back to.
Remembering the Music, Forgetting the Words, Travels with Mom in the Land of Dementia turned out to be one of the rare books I could not bring myself to finish. The story had great potential to be engaging, heartfelt and entertaining, but instead of being any of these things, it seemed like a memoir based around a writer who was doing her best to feel good about a decision she felt guilty about. As the book progressed, it turned more and more into a plea for praise and recognition, and finally, I had to put it down. I couldn't stomach the sections of the book where she talks about her mother with disgust, or disrespects her mothers memory by deciding to share information she felt was too shameful to share with her mother's doctor while her mother was alive. Whenever I get a book, especially an Early Review book, I do my best to read it thoroughly and fairly, but this book was an exception. Even in the midst of a week long bout without power, I had no desire to read this memoir. I've seen the frustration and heartache of a granddaughter caring for her grandmother through dementia, paralysis, and ultimately, death - and this memoir did not do the experience of that act of love justice. It seems that other people loved this book, and that's great, but personally, I can't understand the draw.
In Remembering the Music, Forgetting the Words, author Kate Whouley relates her experience with her dementia-stricken mother, with whom she'd had a volatile relationship. Whouley writes with an honesty and openness that doesn't ask me to feel sorry for her or to pity her or her mother. There's no winning in the battle of dementia, but I felt like Kate Whouley was doing the best she could with what she had. She treated her mother with respect and dignity and allowed her to make decisions. I don't recall laughing but I definitely cried.I found it to be a well-written and engaging book.
I just started this book yesterday afternoon and am halfway through it. It is wonderful. I worry about how my parents will age and what will life be like each year. I am definitely recommending this book to a few friends and I can't wait to come back and write the final review.
Author Kate Whouley shares her experience of managing her mother¿s slow decline through early stages of Alzheimer's Disease to death. It was sad to see her mother Anne, such an intelligent and independent woman, lose her ability to handle the daily routine of paying bills, household maintenance, and personal hygiene and nourishment. This was a gripping account of the impact of dementia on both patient and caregiver. One of the most moving passages in the book was how Kate coped with the guilt she felt in placing her mother in a residential care facility. Kate¿s writing is filled with gentle humor and honesty, and I could see how her love of music helped in understanding the importance of giving dignity to the person her mother was at any particular moment. I also appreciated the candid accounts of her frustration and anxiety in dealing with the finances, end-of-life decisions, and the day-to-day reality of being the primary caregiver for a loved one with dementia.One of my favorite quotes from the book and a mantra I will invoke as a caregiver to someone with dementia - - - "...the quality of the moment matters, if only in that moment."
Ms. Whouley writes compassionately of her caretaking experiences with her mother, who is diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. One thing that really resonated with me was how concerned she was to treat her mother as an adult, not a child. Every decision she weighed, wondering how to decide while still preserving her mother's dignity and adult rights. I liked too, how straight-forwardly Ms. Whouley shared both the good and the bad parts of her relationship with her mother. Losing a parent is so difficult, and yet taking the journey with the author somehow opens that journey up to some truly fine things about relationships and love.
Kate Whouley has written a brutally honest account of the struggles she faced when she realized her mother could no longer take care of her own affairs and live by herself when she discovers the kitchen in complete disarray and 2 or 3 years worth of unpaid bills. As with all relationships, this mother-daughter relationship was very complicated, but Kate gives us the whole picture, the good and the bad, and I thank her for that. She faces the anger of her mother for her "interfering" with never a word of thanks, and comes to understand the nature of Alzheimer's and to appreciate just living in the moment and letting go of the rest.The book had personal meaning for me, having several relatives who are living with or have succumbed to Alzheimer's. I visit a locked wing in a long term care home about once a week, and often wonder who the residents were before they ended up there, and observe the small pleasure some of them get in just saying hello and having a small social interaction. I realize there can still be some worth in their confused lives, and much humour as well, as Kate also realizes. I also liked very much how Kate refused ever to think that her mother was "gone", as the essential person remains, even with the loss of memory and inability to care for oneself.I also very much enjoyed the part of the book where Kate describes her relationship to music and the experience of playing in a community band. My two daughters also play in a community band and the insight into that experience was valuable and also related to how Kate comes to understand Alzheimer's better. Her mother still loves to attend concerts, and the story of how Kate came to play the flute instead of the clarinet is very funny (her mother went out to rent Kate a clarinet to help her deal with her asthma, but found the flute was prettier and so brought a flute home instead).This is an amazing book for anyone facing decisions as a caregiver, and also for better understanding the guilt and anguish even when you know you are making the right decisions. Anyone who reads this book will feel more compassion for both Alzheimer's sufferers and their caregivers. This book adds greatly to our understanding of humanity. Highly recommended for everyone.
Kate Whouley boldly goes where most of us would never think of going. She courageously, sometimes with sharp honesty, tells it like it is. She does not candy coat her complicated relationship with her mother. She admits her struggles with herself and her mother. There is no hiding her confused feelings of guilt, anger and duty. She never felt a warm closeness to her mother ever since Kate¿s dad left the home. Kate always felt like an only child. It was Kate who was always the caregiver. Her mother hardly ever showed her appreciation for what she did.Kate¿s mother starts to repeat herself and starts forget things. Her house is in a shamble. Kate finds that many things have been put down years ago never to be looked at again, including food, clothes, and bills. Kate works from home and takes time away from her work to help organize her mother¿s house and her life. Later trying to keep it that way.Things get worse. She is forced to look at assisted living for her mother. Alzhemers was setting in. Kate argued with herself to find the right answer. It wasn¿t going to be easy, especially when her mother would accuse her of ¿putting her away¿ and not caring for her. Kate¿s heart and head would do battle.Kate was not financially ready for the move. Her mother¿s house had to be sold before her mother could make the move to her new home. Before she moved in Kate painted the room pink and took some of her mother¿s belongings to make the room a home away from home. She strived to make this a place her mother would love to spend time in. Taking her mother to dinner or to a concert that she was performing with her flute in a local band was a outing for the both of them. They both shared the love of music. It would be one of the times when her mother would actually compliment Kate. She was enjoying the momen.t Kate came to realize that she needs to appreciate the now. Her mother would forget the good time she had in a day or an hour, sometimes just minutes later. The past didn¿t matter anymore.Kate sees her mother like she never has before. She knows that she is struggling between life and death. Why is she holding on to life. Why doesn¿t she let go? Lying there Kate tells her that she loves her and promises that she will be all right, to just relax and rest, not sure if she hears her.About to leave her house Kate receives a call to say that her mother is gone. On page 222, is a poem ¿Do not stand at my grave and cry¿ that really touched me. Usually, novels end here. What is just as important as how Kate coped with her mother and her illness is how Kate coped after.She doesn¿t like the words ¿passed¿ or ¿gone¿. Her mother is dead. That is what she is, dead.Dreams of her mother visiting doctors, hairdressers, and shopping occupy her mind at first, but change to ones that make her think she made a mistake, her mother is alive. There is no issue with her health, no reason for assisted living, suggesting bureaucratic mishaps, misdiagnoses and such. She experiences this re-occurring dream of horror, guilt, and frantic worry. When she has had enough of this dream another shows up. For the first time she is dead. She tells kate to use the money she left behind to create some financial security for herself.Death is not final. Kate goes beyond her mother¿s passing. She still wonders if she did all she could do for her mother. If she did the right thing. If she could have done more. She hope that in the future she will have someone who would care for her as much as she cared for her mother.And Librarything said I wouldn't like it. Not so. I recommend it highly. You don't need to know anyone with these health issues to enjoy the book.
Whouley writes in an engaging, accessible style that immediately draws the reader in - so much so that I read the whole first half in one sitting. I liked the sequencing, where a chapter might start with something and then circle back to fill in events leading up to it (reminiscent of the circling of Alzheimers). And I very much liked her discussion of her "worldview," of Romper Room and souls and the essence of her mother.Somehow the book lost a little energy toward the end, and I'm not sure the accounts of Whouley's concerts added much. All in all, though, a very well done book.
With "Remembering the Music, Forgetting the Words", Kate Whouley has written an accessible, sometimes humorous, often times sad, always truthful memoir as co-pilot (with her mom) through the last stages of her mother's life. Watching a loved one's decline is always difficult, but when that loved one is also caught in the web that is Alzheimer's, a whole new layer of understanding must be navigated. As someone who has just recently dealt with the death, dying and dementia of two parents, I can vouch for the veracity of Whouley's journey. Her stories could have been my stories.I can recommend this book to anybody dealing not only with Alzheimer's but all forms of dementia. Whouley's memoir deals openly and compassionately with the confusion and doubts that inevitably arise, doesn't try to hide the anger and guilt and, perhaps more importantly, shows a path through with acceptance and love. Hats off to Kate Whouley for gifting us with her story.
Kate Whouley writes an honest account of her experience in caring for her mother who developed Alzheimer's. Of course, this disease was the center of the story, but reflected in this main theme is the always complicated story of mothers and daughters. Kate's difficult relationship with her mother is an integral part of the story, necessary for a complete account . She includes these details in a way that is as respectful as possible while allowing the reader to understand the emotions she had to deal with. I found the reference to music most interesting, as I have had some personal experience with Alzheimer patients in a nursing home setting while involved with a weekly ministry. Many of the patients we see each week have Alzeimer's, and we often comment how amazing it is that patients who cannot remember their name or where they are can sing hymns with us, remembering all the words. Music is indeed a powerful language.
Kate Whouley's REMEMBERING THE MUSIC, FORGETTING THE WORDS is one of those books you wince your way through simply because it is filled with examples of the unpleasantness, sadness, anger and grief that all go with seeing a parent slowly waste away from the ravages of Alzheimer's. There is some comic relief now and then, but most of it comes in the form of black humor or gallows humor, found in the confusion and repetitiousness that accompany dementia. As is the case with most caregivers to relatives with dementia, Whouley has done her homework, combing the literature of Alzheimer's, trying to understand what is happening to her mother. All of the scientific and psychological information and advice is here, and she even includes a few more esoteric explanations, like that of "soul wandering ... The soul, preparing to depart, begins leaving the body for short intervals, and these absences lead to the confusion of the mind and lack of orientation in the body that typify Alzheimer's."There are of course countless books like Whouley's, which is not difficult to understand. Thinking people need to try to give voice to what they've gone through in watching a beloved parent, spouse or friend die in such an unthinkable and cruel manner. It's a literary way of finally letting go perhaps. I was reminded of another similar book I read a few years back, a memoir by Joyce Dyer, also about her mother's last years, called IN A TANGLED WOOD. Dyer is an English professor, so her book was especially well written. So too is this book, as Whouley has spent all of her adult life as a writer and consultant in the book industry, as well as being an avocational musician, a flautist in community orchestras. Another "thinking person" in other words. REMEMBERING THE MUSIC is her tribute to her mother, who had a tough life, but was also ambitious and accomplished in her own right. Whouley acknowledges the difficulties in her relationship with her mother, but also recognizes the absolute importance of their relationship. She wrestles with the ill feelings that always accompany an Alzheimer's situation, but you don't think any less of her for voicing these things. In fact your respect for Whouley deepens. There were a few elements here - references to dress and decorating - that I was not very interested in, and began thinking maybe this is more of a "women's book." The fact is, however, it is so often the daughter - vs the son - who becomes the final caregiver. And Kate Whouley was an only child - and unmarried at that. So she was elected, and had to find support from her circle of friends and a few far-flung relatives. In the end this is hardly a "women's book." It is a very moving and human story that will touch you deeply. Well done, Kate. Your mother would be proud.
I love this book. It is a worth while read for anyone dealing with dementia or end-of-life issues with a loved one. I wish everyone in my family would read it. Thank you, Kate Whouley!