By Peggy Morehouse
Have you ever considered writing a memoir about a significant time in your life? Rosemary Christle-Renaud not only thought about it, she actually sat down and penned A Slow Slide Into Nothing: A Mother Daughter Journey Through Dementia.
Published in November 2014, Rosemary says, “Dementia touches so many families. Whether the diagnosis is Alzheimer’s, Lewy Body or one of the many varied names dementia goes by, it still affects the same. Memories are lost, loved ones grieve and struggle to face this new reality. My siblings and I were no exception. Out of a family of seven children my mother began calling me for help. I thought my very capable mother was suffering from depression over the loss of my father a few short years before. But, the reality of my mother’s condition and consequently my efforts to help her led to years of sadness, family turmoil, laughter and a relationship that took me by surprise. This book begins with my mother’s life story as a member of the greatest generation and expands to include her last years. It is her story and our story as my mother began and ended her Slow Slide into Nothing.”
Rosemary discusses what made her want to write A Slow, Slide Into Nothing and how she acquired the skills to do so.
1. What made you decide to write a memoir about your mother’s dementia?
“When my mother came to live with my family, my level of frustration involving her care began to increase. I needed a release. I began to feel the need to put into written word my varied emotions. Strangely, more than one friend mentioned a writing class starting at the now closed East Line Book Store. I felt this couldn’t be a coincidence, so I signed up for the class thinking I would just enjoy the evening out and be able to write what I was feeling. During that class, and the several I took over the following two or three years I met some incredible women, some of whom are part of a writing group of which I am still involved.”
2. What was the most difficult part about writing this memoir? For example, re-living hard moments, worrying about family reactions, etc.
“The writing of the book wasn’t as difficult as the editing. Because I started this book during a Memoir Essay class, each chapter could virtually stand alone. With the help of a friend and my writing group, I slowly began a months long transformation of the essays into book form. Reliving each essay brought me right back to that time and the emotions I felt. To this day, I struggle to read any of the chapter entitled, “Hospital Nightmare.”
I also realized that publishing this book would put even more of a strain on my relationship with some family members. But, as I stated in the beginning of my book, “I have always believed family dynamics can be difficult…These traits mingled with the emotion of watching one’s mother slowly die, can cause words and actions that in better times most likely would not have surfaced.”
3. Did you seek input from your sisters when writing “A Slow Slide Into Nothing: A Mother Daughter Journey through Dementia.”? Did you experience any resistance?
“I did some historical research for parts of the early chapters and I interviewed my Aunt Mary Keffaber. I also consulted my sister Rocky to make sure I remembered certain details correctly. However, since this is a memoir, I felt each chapter should be based on my memories and feelings.”
4. What was your writing experience before you began creating “A Slow Slide Into Nothing”? What tools helped you the most in developing your craft?
“In school, I was the kid who always enjoyed getting a writing assignment. As a child, during the summer months my younger sisters and I would write variety type shows for the neighborhood kids to perform for their parents. Writing has always been a way for me to release thoughts that are streaming through my brain.
Apart from anything I learned in high school English class, my true writing instructor was Robyn Ringler from East Line Books. She was instrumental in my quest to actually turn my thoughts into written words that others could relate to and understand.”
5. What do you hope the reader takes away with them after reading, A Slow Slide Into Nothing?
“I hope the readers who are or have been caregivers take away the comfort of realizing they are not alone in their feelings of frustration, that the journey is difficult, heart wrenching and stressful. They will experience feelings of guilt over matters totally out of their control. And, that it is okay to want to be anywhere other than taking care of their loved one, because you cannot take one more day of watching them slowly die. Yet, in between these very long days are the moments of closeness and realizing you are doing the right thing that can be rewarding.
I also hope that readers who are not caregivers will be able to understand what their friend or neighbor is going through. I hope readers will find this story about a woman from the greatest generation, her life, and the relationships between mothers, daughters, and in turn, siblings a compelling read.”
6. To entice readers who haven’t read your moving memoir, please describe a critical point in your book.
I will include a quote from my book:
“When I stepped onto the porch, I expected to see Mom at the door. Instead, I had to let myself in. There she sat in the dark living room… She looked frail, tired and scared. Her clothing was dirty and covered with stains. I was taken aback. How had my mother let herself get to this state?”
You can purchase A Slow Slide Into Nothing at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Slow-Slide-Into-Nothing-Daughter/dp/0990835804/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1418928111&sr=8-1&keywords=a+slow+slide+into+nothing