Again, let me start by saying that while the story in And Every Morning The Way Home Gets Longer and Longer deals with the topic of dementia and Alzheimer’s, this is not something with which I have personal experience. I’m trying to tread lightly, knowing it is impossible for me to understand that aspect. If you do have personal experience and feel ready to join in the conversation, that would be so appreciated!
Were you also drawn into the different relationships within the family and how they change as they individually and together navigate this journey? Here are a few things that stood out to me.
Firstly, there is the relationship between husband and wife. Being single, I obviously don’t speak from experience. But there is so much here that applies equally to any close and long-standing relationship, be that with family or friends. The wife (do we ever find out her name? I don’t think so) reflects that what annoyed her when they first met still annoys her all these decades on. Ha! I love the realism. There are things in each one of us that those close to us find challenging and that don’t really ever change. Oh, what a gift are people who show us grace and patience, and who are still able to see the beautiful things in us!
“She was the first person in his life that he couldn’t work out though he spent every minute of it after that day trying.” How sad it is when we assume we know everything about someone else and stop learning and discovering! What a gift we give to others when we allow them to surprise us, allow them to develop and show new facets of who they are!
“I miss all our most ordinary things.” I wanted to yell “Yes!” when I read this. But being in a public place, I managed to stop myself. That would not have been a culturally appropriate thing to do! Anyway, that statement. For those of us living away from family, from where we grew up, or away from other places that became home – would you agree that it is those ordinary, unspectacular things you miss the most? Not what tourists might come to see but the things and places that hold memories and that made a place home.
Parents and children. So many stories there! And one of the themes of this novella. Maybe even more so than the journey with dementia? We commented last time on the strained relationship Ted had with his father as he was growing up. In this second half of the story, there are beautiful glimpses of redemption and change, even as so much is lost to the disease.
We learn early on that the grandpa always refers to the little boy as Noahnoah, “because he likes his name twice as much as anyone else’s”. There is a very touching moment in this part, as he addresses his son as Tedted. Maybe an indication of his longing to grow closer, to have the kind of relationship he enjoys with his grandson?
He also talks about putting more stones under the anchor, thereby giving his son permission to “invade his space” any time. Yes, dementia confuses the past and the present here but I wonder how much still happened on a heart level between father and son, how much the son was able to understand of his father’s regrets and desire for restoration?
It all culminates in this statement by the wife/mother: “It is never too late to ask your son about something he loves.” Have you experienced this kind of situation? One person having the courage not to give up, not to assume it’s too late for a relationship that has become distant to change. One person reaching out and asking that question, seeking to connect.
What did you make of the way faith is hinted at in this story? For me, that was possibly the most haunting aspect. The wife (it really is awkward not knowing names!) obviously has a faith, obviously knows that this life is not all there is. So does Noah. The main character does not. Yet at one point he says he dearly hopes he is wrong. That statement (heart cry, really) has been weighing heavily on me. Yet it also gives hope, knowing the enormity of God’s grace and compassion, and the way He writes such beautiful stories with people!
Back to this family’s journey with dementia. “What can we do to help grandpa?”, Noah asks. His father’s response is so simple yet so profound. “We can walk down the road with him. We can keep him company.” What a hard journey that is in this context. Yet what a gift to give people in any context, not just the really hard ones: to walk with others, to keep them company. To show up and be there. I am so thankful for people who do that for me. Among those are many in this wonderful Velvet Ashes community! If you are new here, do go back to last week’s posts to find out about all the different ways we walk with each other in this space.
The more I reflect on this short novella, the more I discover to ponder and talk about. But I will leave it at this. Next week, we will jump into another short book by Fredrik Backman – do join us!
Now that we have finished this story, what are questions or situations you are still thinking about? What insights have you had? What touched your heart?
August 18th: The Deal of a Lifetime Part 1- Beginning to Page 34/location 171/36%, the line “I failed with you. Fathers are meant to teach their sons about life, but you were a disappointment.”
August 25th: The Deal of a Lifetime Part 2- to the end of the book