By Zoe Fishman
Our parents. They raise us; they tolerate us; and if we’re lucky, they love us even when we’re terrible.
And then one day, you wake up and look in the mirror. You are not bright eyed and bushy tailed, you have eye bags and patchy skin. Your two-year-old has been up since five am, watching cartoons at your parents’ house, the house you grew up in, the house that you are visiting now as an almost forty-year-old adult. You pad into the kitchen, pour yourself some coffee and sit. You look at your parents, your mother on the couch next to your son, your father at the kitchen table next to you with his basket of medicine and you realize that if you are oldish, then they are old. And then you realize that you are all just going to keep getting older, God willing, and that the tables will turn and you will take care of them; just as they took care of you. You drink more coffee and worry about what exactly that will entail.
That’s what happened to me, back in 2014. I drank my coffee and thought about how I would essentially be inheriting my parents and then as the caffeine began to wake my brain I thought about how nice a windfall inheritance would be, but then remembered that nothing comes without any strings attached; there is always a catch. And thus, Inheriting Edith was born.
Initially, Edith was not going to have Alzheimer’s. But then I spoke to my mom on that same trip home, sharing my idea, and she asked me what exactly was at stake for Edith? My grandmother, my father’s mom, had had Alzheimer’s, and upon further thought I realized that Edith, not having a choice about the loss of her memories, and Maggie, her reluctant caretaker, willingly repressing hers, created an interesting dynamic. So, thank you to my Mom.
One of my biggest fears in writing this book was that I would unintentionally undermine or misrepresent Alzheimer’s. I asked my father about how hard it must have been for him to witness his mother’s decline, and he told me something she said at one point in the early stages of her disease. She said to him, “Ethan, I don’t know whether I’m coming or going.” The naked vulnerability of such a statement struck me deeply and it, along with much research, became my guide in realizing Edith’s journey.
It has been a source of great joy for me that so many of my readers have commented about the accuracy of my depiction of not only Edith’s Alzheimer’s, but my depiction of her relationship with Maggie. It’s a delicate dance to say the least, and to have it resonate with others in this position, to know that it may have made them feel less alone in their struggles, has been a true gift.
Zoe Fishman is the bestselling author of the upcoming Invisible As Air, which will be available in September 2019, as well as Inheriting Edith, Driving Lessons, Saving Ruth and Balancing Acts. Her books have been translated into several languages and she’s the recipient of myriad awards, including an IndieNext Pick.
Zoe worked in the New York publishing industry for thirteen years. She was recently the Visiting Writer at SCAD Atlanta and currently teaches at Emory Continuing Education and The Decatur Writers Studio, at which she is also the Executive Director. She lives in Decatur with her family.
You can visit her website at www.zoefishman.net, like her on Facebook/ Zoe Fishmanand/or follow her on Twitter at @ZoeFishman76.