Roz Chast knows about funny
She uses a feeble font style
Her figures have faint lines
Sometimes her humor is subtle
Other times blatant as a siren
A New Yorker cartoonist since 1978, Chast plays her fears for laughs, taming anxiety with humor.
In 4-color cartoons, family photos, and documents she details the last decade of her parents’ lives in this graphic memoir published in 2014.
Chast’s parents of Russian immigrant stock lived all their adult lives in the same Brooklyn apartment. Her mild-mannered father taught French and Spanish and spoke Yiddish and Italian. Her mother Elizabeth served as Vice Principal in a Brooklyn elementary school where she allowed NO VICE.
From the distance of her home in suburban Connecticut, Roz heard ominous rumblings over the phone. This time after her mother’s cataract operation . . .
Then came the steep decline!
Roz was forced to talk to her parents about taboo topics . . .
When she visited their apartment, she was appalled at all the old stuff, extremely decrepit things they had accumulated and held on to:
The decline got even steeper when her mother fell . . . twice!
Roz almost went BATS!
But more worries ensued . . . she visited aisles in stores stocked with Boost, adult diapers. Then her parents moved to a very expensive assisted living facility, merely called The Place.
And of course she had to deal with the stuff that remained. All alone!
Bloomsbury, Chast’s publisher claims that this 228-page book, her only memoir, provides “comfort and comic relief for anyone experiencing the life-altering [care and] loss of elderly parents.” I happen to agree.
To this day, Roz keeps the remains of her parents, the neurotic George and the outspoken Elizabeth in her closet in small urns, separate but close. She says:
My bedroom closet is not large. The clothes in it are not stylish, but they are organized by color in a way I like to look at. The shoes are on a tree, or placed in pairs on the floor. It’s not a super-neat closet, but it’s not messy. I think it makes a nice home for them. Every time I open its door, I see the boxes, and I think of them.
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Have you experienced the mixed feelings of caring elderly parents or other loved one? It can be a roller-coaster ride, a slow decline, a combination of both – or something else.
What in Chast’s story can you relate to?
What words of wisdom do you have for readers making decisions about an elderly parent?