Book Review of: Mothering Mother – A Daughter’s Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir

Title: Mothering Mother – A Daughter’s Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir
Author: Carol D. O’Dell
Publisher: Kunati
ISBN: 13-978-1-60164-003-1
Date: 2007

When do we reach the age where our parents are suddenly “old” and “frail” and require us to care for them? At what point in care giving of our elderly and infirm parents do we change from the child of the parent to the parent of the parent? Mothering Mother by Carol O’Dell hits the reader squarely between the eyes with her blunt often humorous appraisal of the pitfalls of confronting our parent’s fragile mortality.
Managing her own family with busy schedules as well as caring for her Parkinson’s wracked mother, Carol is left with no time to care for herself.  Finding the task daunting at the very least and overwhelming on even the best days, Carol, ever the dutiful daughter goes about her mother’s care with dignity and determination.  Though she wants to run away from the day to day grind of dealing with a foggy elderly lady with a stubborn streak a mile long, she continues in her roles as caregiver, mother, and wife. 
The author poignantly points out that “entering life and life leaving have similarities.”  The smells, the messes, the neediness, the thankless care, it all is the same song just a different verse. 

Hospice becomes the network of support and Holy Grail guiding O’Dell as she prepares for her mother’s death.  Educating her in how to care for and better understand her mother’s needs, the Hospice workers lead O’Dell to make the necessary adult decisions that must be made as her mother slowly sinks into her final days. 

The author’s angst filled unspoken message to the hospice center speaks volumes of the little girl she wishes she still was. Like all of us in the sisterhood of humanity we only want to know that we are “doing the right thing” and “was I a good daughter?” The guilt wracks us and twists us like a formidable foe and O’Dell is no different.
Part catharsis, part journey through the pitfalls of elder care, Mothering Mother will resonate with any adult facing the monumental task of caring for their aging parent or loved one.   The beautiful retelling of the author’s last difficult years with her mother leave the reader looking within for the pluck and reserve it will take to face our own parents’ life leaving.  We can only hope that we cherish it with as much composure and compassion as Carol O’Dell.


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