Thursday 28 November 2013

My Mother, My Father: On Losing A Parent edited by Susan Wyndham

Firstly, both my parents are still in the land of the living.

However this book has had an incredible pull on me this past month, until I could resist no longer & impulse bought it last week!

It's had quite a bit of radio & print time here in Australia which explains some of it.
Perhaps my uncle's death earlier in the month (and another uncle's sudden hospitalisation) has got me thinking about what's happening to the folks in my parents generation of the family tree.

Either way, I've certainly had the passing of time, ageing and illness on my mind lately.

Susan Wyndham's mother died two years ago. Two years in which Susan struggled with her grief and struggled to come to terms with her feelings of loss & regret.

Susan's introduction sums up what she has done in this book better than I can,

"Some of my friends suggested I keep a journal about the experience...but for a long time I couldn't even begin to translate my thoughts into coherent words....
Instead I went looking for writers who had already found the words for me....
what I wanted were personal stories with which I could identify. Evidence that I was not alone or mad....
Everyone's story is different and so much is the same....
Many of them said writing their story was an intensely emotional or cathartic experience....
The stories are about lifelong relationships. A part of us goes with them....
It has been a ridiculous and comforting revelation for me that the world is full of people without parents who carry on living. With loss there is also growth....
we hope to offer companionship, insight and solace to anyone who is or will be a member of the club."

What follows is a moving, heart-felt conversation about our parents. We see difficult childhoods and constant battles, happy memories and nurturing care. The revelations that can only come with time are aired with tenderness and wonder. The guilt, regrets and sorrow that come after defy expectations and surprise many.

I have not found this book to be a sad or depressing book. 
Poignant - yes - occasionally heart-breaking & sometimes funny. It's full of  "ahhh" moments as Susan and her writer friends succeed in offering "companionship, insight & solace".

The common thread that joins all these stories, is that in the end, we are all left with the memories. Good, bad or indifferent these memories become a part of our stories. And that's what keeps us going.

For my Australian friends the other contributors in My Mother, My Father are Margaret Barbalet, Caroline Baum, Thomas Keneally, Susan Duncan, Nikki Barrowclough, Helen Garner, Jaya Savige, Kathryn Heyman, David Marr, Margaret Rice, Mandy Sayer, Gerald Windsor & Linda Neil.

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