Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Saturday excerpt in Granta 88

The Winter 2004 edition of Granta has an excerpt from Ian McEwan's Saturday. Since the issue is devoted to mothers, the excerpt is about Henry Perowne's visit to his mother at the nursing home where she lives:

He knows the routine well enough. Once they're established together, face to face, with their cups of dark brown tea, the tragedy of her situation will be obscured behind the banality of detail, of managing the suffocating minutes, of inattentive listening. Being with her isn't so difficult. The hard part is when he comes away, before this visit merges in memory with all the rest, when the woman she once was haunts him as he stands by the front door and leans down to kiss her goodbye. That's when he feels he's betraying her, leaving her behind in her shrunken life, sneaking away to the riches, the secret hoard of his own existence.
Lily Perowne, former competitive swimmer and indefatigable homemaker, is now lost to Alzheimer's. Her conversations with her son are now grammatically correct nonsense, incapable of conveying meaning between them. [I read somewhere --maybe in the Newsweek profile?-- that McEwan wrote down his own conversations with his mother, who suffered from Alzheimer's, and used them years later to give Lily Perowne her distinctive voice.]

I wish I could write half so poetically about my own visits to my grandmother at her nursing home. She doesn't have Alzheimer's, but she does have dementia associated with aging, and when she's off her antipsychotic meds she turns from the inoffensive (if annoying) drama queen she has always been to a demanding, manipulative shrew who thinks my cousin's boyfriend is a CIA operative and the light fixtures have recording devices built into them (because the feds are building a case against her for receiving a fragance purchase-with-purchase gift set without making any purchase thirty years ago...) I kid you not.

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