Category Archives: Books

Bettyville is a great place to visit

Me and my Alice. I think she and Betty would have been fast friends.

I first heard of the memoir Bettyville by George Hodgman on NPR. I was immediately drawn in and couldn’t wait to read this memoir about a grown son who returns home to care for his elderly mother. The author leaves his metropolitan gay life in New York to revisit the small byways of rural Missouri. Then of course life got in the way and I never managed to pick up Bettyville. My own mother Alice was dying and I was just trying to hold on. A few months later while purusing the new books at our local library I saw Bettyville and I knew the time was right to take this journey. My mother died only a few weeks before and somehow I knew this book would help me heal. And I was right.

It became difficult to read Bettyville in public. I would find myself sobbing at my children’s swimming lessons or laughing out loud at my favorite coffe shop. This book spoke to me like no other memoir has before. I was transported to a world of tenderness, humor, heartbreak and most of all honesty. Reflecting honestly on one’s past and one’s family is not for the faint of heart. Hodgman does this with such grace. He does not run away from his parent’s faults (or his own for that matter), yet he doesn’t exploit them like a cheap headline on the cover of In Touch Weekly. Everything he writes comes from a place of love and respect for his parents.

I could relate to so many aspects of caring for an elderly parent. That give and take, as a person tries desparately to hold on to any small control over their life. In 2008, my mom and dad came to live with my family while in their 80’s. After several falls and near fatal accidents, I knew that my parents could no longer live on their own with the closest family 70 miles away. I felt like I had just started to make my own life seperate from my parents. I had finally got up the courage to move away from the comforts of my hometown and I didn’t think I was ready to deal with living with them again. But, are we ever really ready to deal with our parents growing old?

This visit to Bettyville has helped me to come to grips with my own regrets and focus on the cherished meomories of my Alice. Hodgeman through his magic of words makes us face the fact that we have all made mistakes and he helps us find the beauty in that fact.