Joy has been extremely busy – although she’s well into her 80’s, she still works at the museum, and she still cares for her ailing husband, who is needing more and more care these days. As Aaron deteriorates further, Joy’s children seem to be more and more concerned that she can’t handle it all, which makes Joy feel ironically both supported and misunderstood. She is truly exhausted, but she does not want Aaron to be placed in a nursing home, where he’ll be disoriented further and not cared for as well as she knows she can care for him. As Joy’s world continues to change, her role in it seems to become a moving target. Will she find her place? Will she see where she fits in?
Every once in awhile, I read a book and do not realize how important a book it is until I’ve finished it and look back on it. This is one of those books.
This story focused on seemingly small details of Joy’s life and her conflicts with her children, Molly and Danny, were often fussy and whiny. This, I believe, was the point. Life is often fussy and people are often whiny. Especially within families. (And especially within Jewish ones!) And I suppose it gave it that very realistic tone that we all recognize and maybe don’t want to hear more than we have to, because we hear it enough in our own lives! But it certainly does ring true.
And the details of Joy’s life and her struggle to find her place, I believe, really gives one a feeling for what it is like to age in our society. There is no good place for the aging individual in our society, especially those whose minds are sharp but whose bodies may not be entirely fit. It might be a little hard for them to get around and do for themselves, but they still need to be involved and contribute to those around them. For example, while Joy’s children sought to do the right thing, it was hard for them to accept her on her own terms in this next phase of who she wanted to be. They tried to mold her into their idea of who she should be, but that wasn’t who she was or wanted to be. Fortunately, Joy was not one to be pushed around. I am not sure everyone who ages is this strong or independent, and when they are – and assert themselves – are listened to.
I think this is an important book for us all to read and to empathize with those growing older – because we will all eventually get there!