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I'll Be Seeing You: A Memoir


I'll Be Seeing You: A Memoir

“The failing of an aging parent is one of those old stories that feels abrasively new to the person experiencing it.” And so begins award-winning novelist Elizabeth Berg’s latest book, a memoir about her father’s journey with Alzheimer’s disease and moving her parents into a facility that could accommodate their new reality.

I’LL BE SEEING YOU is filled with the longings and sadness that come with that time in your life, should you live so long and should your parents live long enough, when you become the guardian of those who were your guardians for most of your life. It is a bridge from one reality to another, one that tests the love and patience and fears that aging brings to both the child and the parent. Berg has lived through this experience in a full and open way, and now shares advice and anecdotes that many readers will understand and others will take as a manual for the day when that world unfortunately opens up for them.

"I’LL BE SEEING YOU is a beautifully emotional story about reality... It will serve as a handbook for everyone as they encounter perhaps the trickiest of transitions in a lifetime filled with them."

Berg’s family situation was pretty Norman Rockwell --- parents who lived together happily in love for the better part of 70 years. But when this dreaded disease made that lifestyle inefficient and difficult, Berg made sure that she was educated and the mainstay of help throughout. She grew up as an Army brat, and her father was an Army man of deep and abiding values and morals. However, “spare the rod, spoil the child” seemed to be his greatest fear, and he took to parenting with an iron fist --- a literal fist sometimes --- leaving welts on his child’s body that left a permanent scar on her heart.

As a novelist, Berg dealt with some of the residual fear, anger and sadness of these times in her work. Her father was surprised that he could have acted so badly as to be the model for some of the more punishing of punishments. Berg often wondered and discussed with fellow writers if these intimate stories should be used as fodder for fiction. She knew what was demanded of her if she wanted to be a serious writer. And so the stories became public.

Other intimacies become touchstones of the difficulty of this transition from child to parenting your own parent --- buying Depends for your elderly elders, watching your mother lose the identity she formed by having the beautiful house that she now has to relinquish for something more appropriate. It is quite moving and difficult to read in parts (thanks to the fact that my immediate family is dealing with a similar situation at this time).

“Wars come in all shapes and sizes. Battle gear, too. Sometimes it’s a khaki uniform and an AK-47. Sometimes it’s a cloth coat worn over an aching heart.” For her military family, a uniform is a protection against the worst that could come to you --- and Alzheimer’s, with all its myriad of issues, becomes the impetus to taking a look at her family’s health and the anger and sadness that rise to the surface. How do you get a good look at the reality of what has been part of your life as you watch your parents try to make sense of sudden change and the realization that their “best years” may have already happened? Berg handles it with a lot of emotional honesty.

As time goes on, things get resolved and her parents continue on, stalwart in their progression toward the end, but also finding solace, happiness and some actual downright joy as they move forward. Berg says, “Someone once told me she thought of life as being stuck inside an airless little cabin... But every now and then a rush of fresh air came under the door and kept her alive. And I told her it seemed clear to me that everyone’s job was to get on the floor and lie right by that crack.” Her writing skills sharper than her emotions, Berg finds the right words and hits all the right notes when it comes to the complicated issue of aging parents and changing lifestyles. With that rush of fresh air, she gulps and keeps going. Those of us who are in this place now can be grateful to her for spilling her guts so elegantly and reminding us that everyone must deal with this passage of life. We are not alone, and in that we can find joy and happiness with our aging parents as the tables turn and we become the caregivers.

I’LL BE SEEING YOU is a beautifully emotional story about reality, which is lacking from today’s bestsellers. It will serve as a handbook for everyone as they encounter perhaps the trickiest of transitions in a lifetime filled with them.

Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on November 6, 2020

I'll Be Seeing You: A Memoir
by Elizabeth Berg

  • Publication Date: October 26, 2021
  • Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books
  • ISBN-10: 0593134680
  • ISBN-13: 9780593134689