A small glimpse into your future
“Ladysitting: My Year with
Nana at the End of Her Century”
by Lorene Cary
c.2019, W.W. Norton
$25.95 / $34.95 Canada
By Terri Schlichenmeyer
You were their hope for the
For your elders, your birth
represented things they wished
would happen but that they’d
never know. It was a joy for them
to see you come into the world
but for you, as in the new book
“Ladysitting” by Lorene Cary, it’s
harder to see them go.
When it comes to children,
“spoiling” is a word that Black
adults particularly hate to hear,
but that’s what Lorene Cary says
she got from her Nana.
Some of Cary’s earliest memories
are of Nana’s sun-splashed
New Jersey apartment, makebelieve
play, and being cherished.
Nana didn’t indulge her completely
— Cary had rules to follow
— but Nana showered love
and paid attention, two things
Cary needed most.
Back then, Lorene H. Jackson
had been a formidable force,
a no-nonsense, feisty and independent,
Caribbean L 48 ife, May 24–30, 2019
who still went to her Philadelphia
office well into her nineties.
A decade later, the summer she
turned 100, a bladder infection
set her low and she became frail,
sometimes rattled. Because there
were complications and family
issues, Cary moved Nana into her
home, a rectory near the church
where Cary’s husband was a minister.
On both sides, it would take
The Cary family was a busy
one: there were older children in
the household, Cary had founded
a growing non-profit to nurture,
and there was a congregation
to attend to. For her part, Nana
could be irascible; she obviously
hated being dependent, fretted
about her possessions, and she
couldn’t be alone for long.
Tensions rose. And then Nana
began to seriously decline.
Falls and confusion became
all too common. Nana’s hearing,
which hadn’t been good for
some time, worsened. And yet,
she outlived her allotted hospice
time, and her memory
remained relatively sharp. She
had enough spring in her life to
make demands and to keep connections
to family and friends.
Still, there was no denying
it: Cary’s grandmother was
Open the cover of “Ladysitting,”
and you’re immediately
yanked into a story with an
ending you already know. Get
past that initial, irresistible pull,
though, and it may feel like a
challenge to continue: author
Lorene Cary seems to lose focus.
Was that done accidentally, or
Doesn’t matter, because it
works to show readers what it’s
like to care for someone who’s
elderly or terminally ill, while
trying to do self-care and maintain
some amount of control over
the uncontrollable. There’s linear
thought here, but only enough to
keep readers awake. Frustration
comes roaring through, but not
so that compassion slips. Confusion
is everywhere in this tale,
but it doesn’t forsake compassion.
Cary adds careful amounts
of family history for clarity, even
daring to include occasional
humorous anecdotes — not
inappropriately, but in enhancement
of what is one of the more
deftly-written, truthful accounts
in this genre. Book cover of “Ladysitting” by Lorene Carey.
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