Author turns personal experience into new book

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SUNDRIDGE — Monica Graham, an author living in Sundridge outside River John, says a chance conversation with someone at Nimbus Publishing led to her latest book.

Senior Moment: Navigating the Challenges of Caring for Mom, goes to print at the end of April and will be available shortly thereafter. The book follows Graham’s experience of finding out her mother, Anna as she’s known in the book, has been hiding her failing memory, seeking a new home for Anna, all while clearing out decades’ worth of belongings at the family home.

“She had asked what I was up to, and I said I was trying to get my mom settled in a senior’s’ home and cleaning out her house,” said Graham.

Right away, the idea of a book popped up.

“It wasn’t hard to write. Everything I did I had recorded.”

Roughly three years ago Graham travelled to her mother’s home in Corner Brook, N.L. Anna was soon to turn 90, and Graham was bringing her back to Nova Scotia for a big celebration.

The book, she says, is about the last three years “trying to find her a safe place to live, a place she would enjoy and that would be the best place she could be.” All the names have been changed in the book, other than Graham’s.

When she arrived at her mother’s, Graham began noticing causes for concern.

“She was losing her memory, which was causing her to do unsafe things,” explained Graham, who holds her mother’s power of attorney. “That’s how I knew she couldn’t continue to live in her house.”

Before coming to Nova Scotia, Anna wanted to cook Graham a special dinner: chicken breasts.

“Instead of using olive oil (on the chicken), she used dishwashing liquid,” said Graham, adding both were yellow and both were on the counter as the two were used regularly. “She had it on and ready to go before she realized.”

Graham says the home had a steep staircase that her mother was finding it harder to navigate. Anna also didn’t want someone coming into the home to help her.

While in Nova Scotia, Graham spent more time with her mother when no one was around and noticed an increase in Anna’s confusion. Before she was to travel back to Newfoundland, Anna came down with a severe respiratory infection.

Because of the infection, Graham and her family made the decision for Anna not to return home without any help. Instead, Anna stayed at Graham’s brother’s home while looking for a seniors’ home she liked.

But the book isn’t just about trying to find Graham’s mother a safe home. It’s also about the six weeks Graham and her two brothers spent cleaning out the family home.

“That was a whole other aspect,” said Graham. “I was also dealing with the residue of my mother living in her family home, which was in the family for about a century.”

While Anna had moved many times, Graham says she never got rid of anything.

“She still had it all in the home. It was unbelievable.”

For two weeks after taking her mother back to Newfoundland, Graham spent her days sorting through contents of the home. She returned with as much as she could. Two months later, she returned to the home, this time with a large cargo van.

Meanwhile, Graham’s brothers had spent two weeks helping sort. Contents were also set aside for other family members if requested.

Graham had spent another two weeks at the home before they sold the house.

“This kind of stuff happens to everybody,” said Graham. “Mom knows I wrote a book about her, but when I mention it again, she doesn’t remember.”

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Graham doesn’t have an in-person launch planned; however’ she will be reading virtually from the new book. The Pictou-Antigonish Regional Library will host Graham on May 11. The event begins at 7 p.m. via Zoom and telephone. Information on the event can be found in the events calendar on PARL’s website.

When printed, Senior Moment will be available at Coles in New Glasgow, as well as online.