Friday, March 23, 2012

Watching My Mother Die

I’ve been spending early evenings, usually the time between 5:00 pm and 8:00 pm (she goes to bed at 8:00), sitting with my dying mom who likes to watch CBS.  This is what I have learned. 

  • No newscast is worth watching.  TV newscasters can tell you only what they consider news at that moment.  What they feed us are half truths and speculation.  What is really worthwhile and of import may not be known for hours, days, or weeks. 
  • People on Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune are no imagemore interesting than my friends and neighbors.  I would rather play Jeopardy with my friends and neighbors than watch someone else’s friends or neighbors play it on TV.
  • The questions on Jeopardy are more interesting than the puzzles on Wheel of Fortune.  When the category is People on Wheel of Fortune, you can bet that the person is not Thomas Beckett, Sir Thomas More, St. Augustine, Dante Alighieri, or even more recent Nobel prize winners in literature like Mario Vargas Llosa, Doris Lessing, and Gunter Grass.
  • My mom has become kind to me in her old age.  She now thanks me and tells me how good I am.  It’s too bad it took the imminence of death for her to begin to see me truly.  What attitudes and conceptions about others should we change prior to our death?
  • There are more good books and writers than I had imagined.  I don’t normally read fiction, but this death-watch has left me unable to give non-fiction the concentration it deserves.  In addition, a good novel will pull me along without any effort on my part, which is good because I have no effort to spend on reading.

Here is are 7 of the ones I have recently read:

The Illumination: A Novel

A must-read.  So well written, I was compelled to re-edit my own novel.  It’s almost a collection of short stories showing the impact of people on others with whom they have relationships varying from deep to non-existent.  This is a book I didn’t want to put down.  Get it at any cost.

Queen, The (The Bowers Files)

A thriller which explores the relationships between an FBI profiler and his family.  Interesting if only for the way crime scenes are analyzed. 

Things Not Seen

A young adult novel in which the boy wakes up to find himself invisible.  He meets a girl who is blind and reveals his secret to her. The story takes us through the boy’s life of what he can do while invisible and makes the point that relationships shouldn’t be based on how people look.  A fun read.


A 12-year old girl’s mother dies, and her father, older brother, and 16-year old sister struggle to survive and run their Alligator wrestling attraction in the Florida swamps.  But the mother was the star of the show, and life is cast on its head.  Anything can happen and does.  Well-written, so well written, that it is a book I may come back to time and again. 

People of the Book: A Novel

I had read one Geraldine Brooks novel, but decided to give this one a try anyway.  The story was good, but I was bothered by the one-sided view of Christians.  The book portrays good and bad Jewish and Muslim people, but all the Christians are bad.  The story intersperses a real object, the Sarajevo Haggadah (a haggadah is a book used at Passover giving the order of service and the words that are read.) This particular Haggadah is richly illustrated and belongs to the museum in Sarajevo.  Weaving together modern history of the Sarajevo fighting, along with medieval history of the illustrations and text, Brooks takes the reader on a journey through Nazi controlled Europe, the Dark Ages, and the Crusades, and the protagonist’s family history and romance (or should I say lack, thereof.)

The Sense of an Ending

 A strange book. The first part explores a college man’s relationships with other male classmates and women. While I was reading it, I couldn’t wait for it to end. Then I reached Part 2 where that same college student is retired and trying to make amends for something he did in the past. Part 2 is compelling, raising questions about how we view our own past and whether we can ever go back and right wrongs or redo our paths. Please, please, don’t give up in Part 1. Part 2 is worth the effort.

The Thing Around Your Neck

A collection of short stories by this Nigerian author.  She examines the life of Nigerian women in various social classes and in and out of Nigeria.  I enjoyed every story and gained greater insight into the struggles and joys of another continent.

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