Never Too Late to Ask {Book Club}

Never Too Late to Ask {Book Club}

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

Photo by Tom Winckels on Unsplash

10 Comments

  1. Amy Young August 10, 2020

    Bayta, thanks for the wonderful thoughts :). I read this novella several years ago and was deeply impacted by it and reread it in one sitting for Book Club. I cannot read it without weeping (and though i am a cry-er, I’m not a major crier so the flow of tears lets me know this story touches on something deep.) I was moved knowing from the introduction this isn’t “just a story” — but it’s Fredrick’s way of working out what is going on in his family. Since it was published in 2015 (and who knows when it was written), I wondered if the grandpa is still alive, or if he has died.

    I don’t think we ever find out his wife’s name — I started paying attention to whether this was another piece he lost a little too late and didn’t want to circle back.

    What I found touching:

    — Grandpa loves numbers, his wife is a passionate emotional person, his son is a words person, and Noah is also a numbers person. So many different “languages” within a family. So many ways to miss each other . . . or be seen as opportunities to search for connecting. (Within my own family all of these languages are spoken and I’ve seen our own struggles and triumphs in stumbling towards each other.)

    — That the grandpa vowed to not repeat patterns he had with Ted when Noah came along. Raising up the anchor so that Noah never outgrew it? So touching! and funny and endearing.

    — The conversations between grandpa and his wife. I have whole conversations with people in my head too :). When we know someone well, we know what and how they would say something :).

    — As you touched on Bayta, that we can walk with people down paths they are traveling. I loved how Ted was committed to walking with Noah AND his dad.

    I do so hope that before he slipped too far way, Grandpa met the amazing God who sprinkled eternity all over creation . . . including 3.1415 . . . . 🙂

    I can’t wait for the next Novella and have it ready in had to read for next week. Much love all!! Amy

    1. Bayta Schwarz August 11, 2020

      I love that you see God’s fingerprints in 3.1415! I am so not a numbers person… I thought it was so sweet that right at the end, it circles round again and we find out that Noah’s daughter is like Ted “She doesn’t like mathematics, she prefers words and instruments like her grandpa”. Thinking of it as different languages is so helpful (for me at least). Inspires me to want to learn rather than think of different preferences as strange.
      Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and insights, Amy!

  2. Michele August 10, 2020

    I didn’t read along with this one because of being in the middle of other books- and a little nervous about the emotion it might bring up. Both my maternal grandparents had sudden onsets of dementia the year before I left for Asia. Since I was support-raising and had a flexible schedule, I was with them much of that time. I have difficult and also sweet memories of sitting with both of them in the nursing home. I was in my mid-twenties and I remember realizing that whatever is buried comes out when we begin to lose control of our minds in old age. I asked the Lord to help me start uncovering the stuff right then, so I wouldn’t have 80 layers to be peeled off one day. He has been faithful to do that. Another thing that came out of that time of watching my mom try to care for her parents without the help of her brother who lived in another state or sister who just couldn’t deal with it, was a promise to my sister that when our parents reach the state of needing constant care, wherever I am, I’ll come back and not leave her to deal with it alone.

    Sorry, I may be a bit disconnected from the book since I haven’t read it, but thought I’d jump in with the bit of experience I’ve had. Another book I read recently that shows the confusion of a person dealing with dementia is Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon.

    1. Bayta Schwarz August 11, 2020

      Thanks so much for jumping in, Michele! So moving and helpful to get your perspective! I hadn’t thought of things we keep buried coming to the surface when we’re less able to control our words and responses. What an encouragement and challenge to keep allowing God to work in our hearts and deal with the junk now! Must check out the book you mentioned as well!

  3. Rachel August 11, 2020

    I listened to this as an audio book. It was so sweet and sad.

    I agree with you that the part about faith was haunting. He didn’t believe, but hoped he was wrong, but if he was wrong… 😔

    I loved what Ted said about keeping Grandpa company on the journey. I’ve had great grandparents and grandparents with dementia, and it is the only thing you can really do. They can’t remember, they won’t remember, there’s not much you can do. But being there is still a big deal.

    1. Bayta Schwarz August 11, 2020

      Being there doesn’t sound like much when we would so love to ”fix” the situation but can’t… But even when there is nothing to show for it, it means so much! Thanks for sharing, Rachel!

  4. Amanda August 11, 2020

    I appreciated the end of the novella most of all because it was messy. There wasn’t closure other than acceptance that memories were going to keep disappearing and life for everyone else is going to move on. The beauty of this grandfather’s dementia journey is that he is not in it alone. This story would have been way more difficult to read if he wouldn’t have had anyone walking with him.

    1. Bayta Schwarz August 12, 2020

      I totally agree – I was also glad there was not a neat ending, that things were left open. And that the family was still there, even though clearly many years had passed (since in the meantime, Noah had become a father!).

  5. Sarah Hilkemann August 12, 2020

    I love what you said, Bayta, about walking with people in the hard and messy things. Noah and his family didn’t walk away from Grandpa even when it was really hard. It’s hard to not be remembered by someone. It’s hard to be asked the same question over and over during a six-hour car ride. I have so many memories of the things my own grandpa taught me, the jokes he used to tell and his deep belly laugh. I also remember when those things were gone. I’ve watched a lot of people walk away from their loved ones with dementia and I get it- it’s hard to watch and taxing to care day-in-and-day-out for someone. But the end of this story reminded me of the sweet gift of sticking around. This was a hard book to read but I’m glad we did!

    1. Bayta Schwarz August 12, 2020

      Thanks so much for sharing some of your personal story, Sarah! It is so hard and so personal in how each family and individual is able to deal with the situation. So much grace and support needed for everyone!

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