When Elizabeth Hay, acclaimed Canadian author of several novels—known to her parents as Lizzie, the difficult child—took on the role of caregiver for her aging mom and dad, she felt that she was “in dangerous personal territory, a fraught border country in which my parents were sliding into neediness and I was rising to power, yet losing my own life.”
With the help of her three siblings, Hay moved her parents from London, Ont., to a retirement home just down the street from her residence in Ottawa, Ont. Almost daily visits exposed an avalanche of needs, stirred up memories of her childhood with a verbally and physically abusive father and a peace-at-all-costs mother, and aroused resentment at her parents’ undisguised favoritism for one sibling.
About her parents, Hay writes, “They were two icebergs: solitary phenomena, impressive, independent, known only to themselves. I felt their hidden seven-eighths inside me as a dark bulkiness whose outlines I was always trying to map.”
Hay candidly and poignantly expresses the difficulties she faced as she cared for her aging parents. She also gives glimpses of joy experienced in the process of discovering more fully who her parents were and realizing how deeply she loved her siblings. By turns humorous and profoundly sad, this memoir, written by a wounded and conflicted, yet gracious and caring daughter, in the end tips the scales toward forgiveness and love. (McClelland & Stewart)