Our Beloved Red: A Sons Memoir On The Loss Of His Mother

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Otherwise I knew there would be this sort of extended period of limping along with poor care in the house because of my father's recalcitrance. Caregiving [help] is the essential thing for all people who have someone who is suffering from Alzheimer's. Sometimes the problem is resources. My mother had her own money, and I had money. And I am putting this in place. You have a large, involved family. It crystallized those roles and then forever changed those roles. Once you lose your parents, what you were as a child is gone. So this was our last shot at being together in that crucible, both with him and the longer journey with her.

And so, we enacted our roles faithfully and intensely and to the last moment. And when they were both dead, I would say that everything changed. The parents, of course, are the center of the family. And in our case, two dramatic and extremely charismatic figures are gone now. So with that, there is sort of a death of the unit.

So while we are still close and we love one other deeply, that part was over. You were very close to your mother. What did her illness teach about caregiving for someone with Alzheimer's? It taught me how deeply and unmutedly I loved her. And up until the day she died, I was going to do my utmost to bring her comfort…. It taught me a degree of patience. It taught me that this disease is more pernicious than any I have ever known, including my sister's inoperable brain tumor, which was grotesque beyond belief.

There is something about that strange, darkening walk through a staggering thicket that goes beyond heartbreaking and into a world of unfathomable despair. And don't think they don't know it. They are not out of it. And you have no sense where they are. But as long as their eyes are open and they are eating, they are somewhere.

It is a living hell. In your memoir, you flash from the present to past, reminding readers of your mother's wit and laughter. I had to juxtapose them because she was an extraordinary person. She was just a burst of originality.

She shaped a great part of all of my siblings , certainly myself. And she was adored by my father. She was a great painter, she was a cook, she threw dinner parties, she laughed. She had a vibrant, spiritual dimension. She was always seeking, always reading. And to see all of that disappear — it would just take me to my knees. And that was such a central part of her: the laughter.

It attended everything. We were always collapsing with laughter. That is how you survive having eight children and burying two of them.

It is wild, mad unbridled teasing. And then one day it was gone. And that somebody was Alzheimer's. I needed to write it, but it was not cathartic. It was not therapeutic. It was a deep excavation into my feelings about these people and how they died. So those are unchartered waters for me. And I am still swimming in them. Members save on in-home caregiving services. You are leaving AARP.

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I was only half Eastern European Ashkenazi, as it turned out. A person I had never heard of was identified as a first cousin. The truth was unavoidable. My beloved father, who died in a car accident when I was 23, had not been my biological father. This discovery led me deep into a world I had known nothing about: the history, science and psychological underpinnings of assisted reproduction. I have spent the past few years piecing together the story of how I came to be, the truth of where and who I come from—and the ways in which my identity was scrupulously hidden from me.

In , my parents, Orthodox Jews who married later in life, were having trouble conceiving. My father was part of a large family that took seriously the commandment to be fruitful and multiply. My mother, nearing 40, was desperate to have a child. They went to the now long-defunct Farris Institute for Parenthood near the campus of the University of Pennsylvania.

There was a commonly used term for this: confused artificial insemination. Confused is right. Back then, the medical establishment took great pains to allow couples to believe what they wanted about what they were doing. Couples were told to have sex before and after the procedure to further the sense that the often completely sterile husband could be the father.

As she lay dying: A memoir

Once a woman had become pregnant, the couple might be told that her blood levels showed she must have already been pregnant when she first came to the institute, furthering the possibility that two otherwise rational people could bury the truth from their family, their friends and themselves. The trauma and shame surrounding infertility was intense.

In , a court ruled that donor insemination constituted adultery on the part of the woman, whether or not the husband had granted consent. Nine years earlier, TIME ran a story about the legal status of donor-conceived children with the lacerating title Artificial Bastards? Records were heavily coded, then destroyed.

Various subjects

Sperm donors were guaranteed anonymity. It seemed fail-safe that the procedure would remain forever secret. The idea of a future in which DNA results would become easily accessible through a popular test would have been unimaginable. Now advances in the field of assisted reproduction are also far beyond what could have been imagined at the time of my birth. In vitro fertilization, surrogacy, donor eggs, cryogenic technology and the capacity to test embryos for genetic markers have allowed many more of us—straight or gay, married or single—to make families.

Though science has evolved at a stunning rate, the human capacity to understand and wisely use those advances has limped along. The secret that was kept from me for 54 years had practical effects that were both staggering and dangerous: I gave incorrect medical history to doctors all my life.

When my son was an infant, he was stricken with a rare and often fatal seizure disorder. There was a possibility it was genetic. I confidently told his pediatric neurologist that there was no family history of seizures. More difficult to quantify are the profound psychological effects of such nondisclosure and secrecy.

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I was filled with longing, but for what I did not know. The air in my childhood home was thick with the unsaid. I felt it, picked up on it, but had no name for it. We find ourselves in an interesting sliver of time. Secrets surrounding identity have existed since the start of humanity.