HOW I FIND HER: A MOTHERíS DYING AND A DAUGHTERíS LIFE
Genie Zeiger

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Sherman Asher Publishing, 2001
Reviewed by Joy Calderwood

Author Genie Zeiger began writing HOW I FIND HER as therapy, while she watched her motherís drawn-out decline through Alzheimerís dementia to death. She offers this memoir to other adults who are attempting to deal with similar experiences. Members of the therapy groups she leads have found its beauty, honesty, and pain help reconcile themselves to their own feelings.

HOW I FIND HER chronicles the period after Genieís fatherís death, when it becomes clear to the family that her motherís mind is deteriorating. During foster care and nursing home till death, Genie resurrects detailed memories of her childhood and family. She was her motherís favorite child, to the extent that even as an adult experiencing divorce, she and her mother could still feel the invisible umbilical cord between them. Genie finds her mother, the closest person in the world to her and the strongest influence, regressing to childhood and even infancy; and the images on which her world is built shatter beneath her.

Genieís capable, controlled mother learns, in her return to childhood, how to express the love she has always felt but kept inside. It is difficult for Genie to feel this as a triumph, accompanied as it is by mental confusion and stains of spilled baby food. Genieís memories of growing up are also colored by the sorrowful present. Each detailed picture, completed with a poetís skill with sound, smell and texture, carries a cloud of grief which was not a part of the original experience, but has now become a part of it. We can see for ourselves how important it is to appreciate the true value of parts of life which have not been sufficiently celebrated.

Genie Zeiger is an award-winning poet, writing teacher, therapist and crisis counselor. All these active skills come together in HOW I FIND HER, combining love, guilt, pain, revulsion, and wonder. Genie does not spare herself or gloss over feelings she is ashamed of. This is what makes her memoir so valuable. She shows clearly that these are inevitable feelings in the situation, and we must accept them to live with ourselves. My personal experience was so different that I found Genieís pervading grief and guilt to be completely alien, but this book will help many people for whom it speaks the previously unspeakable.

Mar 2003 Review Originally Published On the Independent Reviews Site

 

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