Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Montpelier Tomorrow by Mary Lee MacDonald

Montpelier Tomorrow by Mary Lee MacDonald is a novel that should be read by anyone who has ever been, or will soon be, a caretaker. This is an honest portrayal told from the point of view of a mother whose son-in-law is diagnosed with a rapid form of ALS, a disease sometimes referred to as Lou Gehrig's disease where neurons fail causing different muscle groups to stop functioning. Eventually ALS patients can't do anything for themselves, including feeding and using the bathroom.

Colleen (the mother/narrator) leaves her home and her job to help her daughter. What makes this book special is the way her emotions and the emotions of the other caretakers are portrayed. It's one thing to hear that being a caretaker can make you angry. It is quite another to get into the mind of someone who has reached that state.

At one point in the book a substitute nurse speaks about PLC (Pathological Laughing Crying) which many ALS patients have. She says, “With PLC, there's frontal lobe involvement. They lose the capacity for empathy. Like sociopaths.” This was certainly clear in the way Tony (the patient) was portrayed, but at times it seems as if all the caretakers lack empathy as well. The relationship between Colleen and Sandy (the daughter/wife) is as important as Colleen's relationship with Tony. In some ways more important. Yet they both have difficulty understanding what the other one is going through.

This is a family where everyone seems to say exactly what is on their mind, but those thoughts never seem to be “thank you for what you do” or “I understand how hard this is on you,” which is why I think the single word “honest” is the best description of this story. Caretaking is generally one sided giving. Maybe, if the caretaker is lucky, the patient will be grateful or at least happy. Or maybe Karma is a reality and the caretaker will be rewarded at some later time. But quite often caretakers have a thankless job that is way too difficult to complete without mistakes along the way. They take on this task for one reason alone – love. This book shows real love, love that is often distracted by resentment and anger, but is always there.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions

No comments:

Post a Comment