I think the local public library thinks I'm illiterate because I pretty much only borrow books on tape or CD from them. They have an ever increasing selection on CD, but it's always fun to go try to find something interesting, and I end up with things I wouldn't necessarily think to read as a book (like a history of China) because they seem interesting enough to fall asleep to, but not vital enough that I need to KNOW I'll remember whatever information I'm getting (as I do with Shakespeare texts).
I've started listening to a history of China at night now, and it's fascinating. The car's beginning to play CDs to teach me my new language for when I teach abroad next year! I'm going to teach abroad next year! Whenever I think about it, I'm stunned. And then I want to dance around the room. I need to figure out what vaccines I'll need; I checked on the CDC site, so I have a list that they suggest, but I don't know if some of those require two shots or time to work or whatever.
The other day, I finished listening to Sue Miller's The Story of my Father, a memoir of Miller's father recording mostly her experience with his Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's terrifies me, both for me and for others. I fear ending up in long term care, losing myself, totally dependent.
In Miller's case, she was able to put her father in a nursing home that sounds pretty good (and I've seen a few, good and not so good), and watch over his care. As his daughter, she talks about the frustrations of feeling that her siblings aren't doing enough and that her father's care sort of takes over her life. It takes a huge commitment to someone to care for them during a long illness.
The book also brings out something for me as a non-parent. Miller's in a position financially to care for her father pretty well, and has a good enough relationship to do so. There's a sort of fantasy we in the US have (and elsewhere, no doubt), that one's children will take care of a parent when s/he's no longer able to care for him/herself. Of course, that's a fantasy, but it's a powerful one. As someone who's not a parent, I can't ride with the fantasy, so I worry sometimes.
I know a woman, J, who's mentally retarded. She's a senior citizen now, has never held a job, can't read, and can't manage her financial affairs. But in many ways, she takes care of herself quite well. She has two children, a son and a daughter, so the fantasy would suggest that she's in good hands. But one of her kids has been in jail more than a few times for theft and fraud and such, and the other can't manage his/her own money, though not because of mental disability. So, since J's mother died, L has been managing her affairs, trying to see that she has safe housing and such. But L, too, is a senior citizen, and may at some point need someone to look after his affairs.
J's situation is only unique in that she's needed someone else to look out for her for longer than most of us do. But I bet most of us will need to trust someone to look out for us at some point. Miller's book gave me lots to think about, not only about the long term care issue.
I think between Miller's book and Didion's Year of Magical Thinking (which I listened to as I drove this summer), I've been frustrated by how surprised they seem to be by their grieving. I don't think I've experienced a lot of deaths in my life, but when I've experienced deaths, I've expected to grieve for a fair bit of time (depending on my relationship and loss, of course). But both Miller and Didion seem surprised that they feel sad after a year or so, as if somehow they're supposed to have an easier time. I wonder if there's a race/class/gender thing happening, of if they're prompted to write because that's how they process, while other folks who expect to feel sad for a while don't?
I can't write quite what I'm after to express what I'm thinking because things are all tied up in personal experience and writing is tough and stuffs.
I also recently finished Mark Felt's memoir, co-authored with John D. O'Connor and W. Mark Felt. In case Felt's name doesn't sound familiar, he was the famous "Deep Throat" of Watergate fame. I started listening to Felt's book a couple days before Ford died, which was an odd coincidence. I still think Ford was totally wrong to pardon Nixon, especially before all the investigations were complete. Totally wrong. (It weirds me out to think that Nixon looks good compared to our current president.)
I also was reminded of trying to understand the whole "Deep Throat" pseudonym. I was maybe thirteen when Watergate got into the news, old enough to pay a little attention, but completely sexually ignorant. So I remember my poor Mom explaining why adults seemed so giggly about the pseudonym. My poor Mom!!
What's worse, whenever I hear the term "Deep Throat," the images that come to my mind are of Nixon, Liddy, Haldeman, and the rest of the men whose pictures were all over the news in those years. It's not a pretty thing.