Showing 1 - 2 of 2 annotations associated with Stein, Michael
- Coulehan, Jack
The story begins soon after the narrator has moved his elderly mother into Cherry Orchard, an "independent living" facility near his home in Providence, Rhode Island. Because of progressive dementia, she was no longer able to maintain her own home in New Jersey, or her relationship with Warren, her boyfriend of 20 years, with whom she spent part of each year in Florida. Thus, the narrator and his sister arranged for her move to an apartment in the exclusive Cherry Orchard, where her symptoms of Alzheimer's disease had to be hidden in order to ensure her eligibility.
The mother and son have never been close, especially after the boy's father died during his early adolescence. She was a pleasant, but distant parent, more interested in her own social and cultural affairs than in taking care of her children. The narrator is 34 years old now, married, with his own son. He has little emotional attachment to this woman who is slowing losing her mind, yet now he feels duty-bound to visit her at least weekly at Cherry Orchard.
The mother has almost entirely lost her short-term memory, yet at first blush seems surprisingly intact because of her ability to cover-up with social skills. She writes notes to herself. The texture of her life unravels. She begins to wander. Other residents complain. Occasionally a glimmer of insight appears, but quickly dies. Fighting his inclinations every step of the way, the narrator provides ever increasing physical and emotional support, while at the same time gaining a deeper understanding of how his mother was (and is). In the end nothing is changed--the mother spirals slowly downward. But in another sense everything has changed. The narrator concludes, "I had taken her in so that I could understand why I had agreed to take her. I would do it again."
- Coulehan, Jack
Today, Friday June 5th, I am going to meet the man who killed my father. So begins the narrator of this novel, who is about to drive to New Jersey to visit the physician (now retired) who took care of his father during his final illness 20 years previously. The narrator (Peter Cave), who was an adolescent at the time, is now a physician himself.
Most of the novel is a flashback in which the narrator describes his life during the several days prior to June 5th, "the white life," which is the term he uses for the practice of medicine. We learn, in particular, about his patient George Dittus, a difficult man who definitely doesn't want to play the hospital game. "I need to get home" is the first thing Dittus says. Dr. Cave wants to save the life of this gruff, eccentric man who may well have had a serious heart attack, but at the same time, he tries--sometimes painfully--to respect the patient's desire to be in charge.
Cave's encounter with the retired Dr. Gresser, who remembers the elder Cave as a difficult patient, is surprising--"You know he refused to take the medicines I suggested." Cave is disappointed; he wanted a confrontation with the man who "killed" his father, but, instead, is confronted with the realities of human nature. Back at the hospital, he discharges George Dittus, who disappears into the inscrutable future.