October 2, 2012

The Grey Cat

Title:  The Grey Cat
Author:  Toryn Chapman
Publisher:  Cubefarm (May 6, 2012)
Medium:  Kindle

Goodreads Synopsis:
When Jillian Barrett’s aged but lively mother, Elizabeth, grows short-tempered and suspicious, Alzheimer’s disease is the furthest cause from Jillian’s mind. But once the truth is dramatically revealed, Jillian fights to care for her mother, risking her closest relationships while she copes with Elizabeth’s ever more unpredictable behaviour. What she can never know are the experiences that, seventy years ago, shaped her mother’s life and to which she is increasingly drawn back. Left in a Depression-era orphanage following a family tragedy, Elizabeth had to care for her young sister and brother, and endure a heartless institution. 
The separate stories of past and present touch in ways neither Jillian nor Elizabeth understand, until they meet at last in a stunning climax that will make your heart ring.

I remember as a child that people grew old, but I never really knew where they went.  I never truly dealt with death until I was a teenager, and never lost anyone very close to me until I was in my 20's. I don't believe that I ever knew anyone growing up that had Alzheimer's disease.  Once I started working as a family practice nurse I came to see the face of this horrific disease.  My heart ached for the caregivers, my mind struggled to wrap itself around how the patient felt.  

Then the disease crept its way into my family.  Several years ago my husband and I started noticing some changes in his Mom.  They were subtle, and because they were making some major changes in their life, we just kind of kept watch.  The signs were still there, unmistakable, and could no longer be ignored.  The last few years it has progressed, but not to that critical point yet - and it may never get there.  We maintain our sense of humor, we cry when we need to, and we never show our true feelings when we answer the same question for the 10th time in less than 30 minutes.  

What's worse is to watch my father-in-law, the sole caregiver, struggle with this current life he is living.  They are both aging, they are both proud and stubborn, and they are doing pretty damn good on their own.  Our family is a little spread out, but luckily, someone can be there in 10 minutes, another in a couple of hours, and another in less than a day.  We have learned through the last few years that it's important to lean on each other when we need to and to be strong.  

Yes, Alzheimer's disease is something that I wish no one would have to face, but for those of us that do face it, then we must learn from it.  We must learn to remember the good, not to pity, and not to be angry at the person suffering.  We cannot be selfish in our feelings of sadness, because the person suffering really wouldn't want us to feel that way, and may not be able to understand.

When Toryn Chapman contacted me to review The Grey Cat, I couldn't say no.  This is a topic that is too close to my heart, and the more I can read about it, the better for me, especially when you read the story behind the story.  I loved how Mr. Chapman took a mixture of the past and the present to bring to life a story that needed to be told.  My heart ached for Elizabeth.  My heart ached for Jillian.  My heart soared for the strength that each showed while facing adversities - adversities that neither should have had to endure; Jillian's journey as a loving caregiver for her mother and Elizabeth's journey through a hell that no child should ever have to endure.

Mr. Chapman writes a beautiful story, that is both happy and sad.  I had so many mixed feelings throughout this book, and it took me longer to read than normal because I wanted to savor every moment past and present.  And the rush of feeling relief at the conclusion of The Grey Cat still bothers me, and probably will for time to come.  But that's not an entirely bad thing, and I think part of the mastery behind Mr. Chapman's writing.

It makes one stand back in awe of what our minds are capable of.  Even in the darkest of days, we can find peace in distant memories and we can find strength from a simple animal.  Funny isn't it?

The journey of Alzheimer's disease is a struggle for everyone that it touches.  It's a life changer.  It can tear families apart, it can bring them together.  It can make you laugh at times, it can make you scream in anger, and it can make you cry.  One thing I have learned through Alzheimer's touching my life, is that you cannot let it beat you.  You cannot let it eat at you.  You cannot allow it to rule you.  

The Grey Cat is a wonderful book that touched my heart and made me think, and if you or anyone you know is struggling as a caregiver, family member or friend of an Alzheimer's patient, take the time to read The Grey Cat.  I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

The Grey Cat