In the winter of 2007, I found myself with a rare commodity, time. Major change had come my way as my role of mother had altered, and my role of daughter had ceased. My daughter got married, and my mother died of Alzheimer’s disease within two months of each other. Joy and sorrow intertwined. That winter, with this newfound time, I started something I had often talked about. I began to write a book. My wonderful husband bought me a laptop, and I typed a lot. I’m an educator, fortunate to work less days of the year than most. It took four years of winter breaks, spring breaks, summers, fall breaks, and weekends to accomplish my story.
Remember Joan is the account of a daughter beside her mother as they face a life disrupted by Alzheimer’s disease. The book begins with a wedding and ends with a funeral. Embedded between these two ceremonial rituals are two tales, the story of Joan’s decline and death due to Alzheimer’s and the story of my life as the daughter of Joan. In the end, this book is not only a tribute to Joan’s life, but a tribute to all who try to create a celebrated life with the people that surround them.
I took detailed notes throughout my mother’s disease. The trek across the Alzheimer’s experience is thorough. The reader will enter the lunacy and loss, the practical and painful, gaining insight and specifics through each stage. It’s not completely gloomy as there are often many funny tales to tell surrounding Alzheimer’s. In fact, humor, instilled by Joan, has always been the family’s favorite coping strategy when damage control was necessary. The decline in the later stages was tough, and folks close to Joan were challenged in ways never imagined. Oddly enough though, I found the final days of my mother’s life as beautiful as something so sad could be.
To offer the reader a break from the intensity of disease discourse, the Alzheimer’s chapters alternate with stories from the past of the people that make up a family. Both constructive and noxious relationships are examined. I wanted people to know pre Alzheimer’s Joan, my mother who encouraged feminism, excelled in the world of wit, and smiled at all who crossed her path. It’s noteworthy to meet my sexist father who broke the rules, often for enhanced amusement, and my two big brothers, the hippie and the scientist. I loved writing about my husband; our love story is enchanting and gave me strength. My kids, both the biological and the school children, provided some awesome narratives. And the power of best girlfriends is celebrated too. By writing this book, I could record my wonderfully warped life and introduce readers to the characters that filled my world. I could to the best of my ability illustrate the passage of each stage in this terrible disease. But most importantly, I could honor the woman I called Mom.
“Throughout the book, Comstock returns to the theme of community, giving credit and gratitude to the friends and family members who helped with her mom’s care and supported Comstock through the process, and these are among the memoir’s strongest moments… [It is] an affectionate portrait of a damaged but enduring family that has suffered a profound loss but continues to adapt, survive and move forward.” –Kirkus Reviews