An Uncertain Inheritance: Writers on Caring for Ill Family Members

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Harper Collins, Oct 13, 2009 - Family & Relationships - 304 pages
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In this eloquent collection of essays—from the editor of the national bestseller Unholy Ghost: Writers on Depression—contributors reveal their experiences in caring for family through illness and death

Today, thirty million people look after frail family members in their own homes. This number will increase drastically over the next decade—as baby boomers tiptoe toward old age; as soldiers return home from war wounded, mentally and physically; as a growing number of Americans find themselves caught between the needs of elderly parents and young children; as medical advances extend lives and health insurance fails to cover them. This compelling book offers both literary solace and guidance to the people who find themselves witness to—and participants in—the fading lives of their intimates.

Some of the country's most accomplished writers offer frank insights and revelations about this complex relationship. Julia Glass describes the tension between giving care—to her two young sons—and needing care after being diagnosed with breast cancer; Ann Harleman explores her decision to place her husband in an institution; Sam Lipsyte alternates between dark humor and profound understanding in telling the story of his mother's battle with cancer; Ann Hood wishes she'd had more time as a caregiver, to prepare herself for the loss of her daughter; Andrew Solomon examines the humbling experience of returning as an adult to be cared for by his father; cartoonist Stan Mack offers an illustrated piece about the humor and hell of making his way through the medical bureaucracy alongside his partner, Janet; Julia Alvarez writes about the competition between her and her three sisters to be the best daughter as they tend to their ailing parents. An Uncertain Inheritance examines the caregiving relationship from every angle—children caring for parents; parents caring for children; sib-lings, spouses, and close friends, all looking after one another—to reveal the pain, intimacy, and grace that take place in this meaningful connection.

 

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Contents

My Father the Garbage Head
1
The Gift
12
My Other Husband
19
Elliott
34
Aging Parents
66
Called Them Vitamins
77
Ruth
88
Notes on Accepting Care
94
Mourning in Altaic
146
Dont Worry Its Not an Emergency
164
In the Land of Little Girls
175
The Vital Role
188
ABIGAIL THOMAS The Day the World Split Open
219
STAN MACK The Elephant in the Room
228
KERREL MCKAY Transformed by a Touch
245
Contributors
271

The Baby
102
Death in Slow Motion
118
Acknowledgments
279
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About the author (2009)

The editor of the national bestseller Unholy Ghost, Nell Caseyhas written for Slate, the New York Times, Salon, Elle, and Glamour, among other publications. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and son.

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