As Chast’s parents aged, she recognised the need to care for them, and she did, until they died. Graphic novel memoir Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant? details her uncensored journey with humour and poignancy, examining her changing relationships with them along the way.
Being a middle aged married mother, Chast had alot on her plate already without having to worry about her 90-year-old parents living a couple of hours away. But when the increasing grime and clutter became disturbing, and as they refused to get someone in to help, it was time to move them into assisted living. Convincing them that this was for best was difficult, to say the least.
Roz: How’s your cataract-removal-operation recovery coming along?
Mother: GREAT! It’s like there was a yellow scrim over everything – and now it’s GONE! I still have a patch over the eye, though. But not to worry: there’s plenty of food in the house – Daddy and I just came back from Waldbaum’s!
Roz: Mom! Listen to me. You can’t drive with one eye. You have no DEPTH PERCEPTION!!!
Mother: Not a problem. Daddy guided me.
Chast’s experience really resonated with me. She confesses to the things I feel embarrassed to admit, things I feel guilty about, as well as detailing the weirder and more messy aspects of illness and advancing age. I definitely related to the tedium of the never-ending paperwork.
Relationships with her parents were complex. Her mother was brash and never hesitated to give a ‘blast from Chast’. Roz’s father, on the other hand, was the exact opposite.
…he was kind and sensitive. He knew that my mother had a terrible temper, and that she could be overpowering. She had a thick skin. He, like me, did not. She often accused my father of “waling around with his feelers out.”
In many ways, my father and I were more alike than my mother and I. We were both only children, and less used to the constant emotional tumult between people than my mother, who was one of five.
Although the subject matter is somewhat frightening in reminding us of our mortality, Chast’s memoir isn’t depressing. It’s frank and reassuring. Death is only mysterious because we don’t talk about it. By shining a light on the end stages of life, I feel informed. I’ve been enlightened.
“The Devil doesn’t want her, and God’s not ready yet.”
However, Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant? also shows the need for medical euthanasia. DNRs don’t go far enough. Both parents lingered in pain and unconsciousness. Quality of life did not exist for them in those last days and weeks. It seemed unconscionably cruel to prolong their lives when they could no longer partake in life’s joys, in even something as simple as communication, in all its forms.
Living with Mother: Right to the Very End is the English equivalent of this sort of memoir. Both are riveting reads.
Upon finishing my library copy I immediately bought myself one. The hardcover feels lovely to handle. It begs to be touched. If you’re even a little bit intrigued by this book, read it. It’s definitely worth reading.