When I Married My Mother is the story of a middle-aged woman who abandons her life in New York to buy a home in the Bible belt and care for her estranged, elderly mother, Mama Jo. Maeder is frank when relaying her broken relationship with her mother, (“I strongly suspect if you’re not right with your mama, you’re not going to be right with anyone.”) and is just as honest in sharing how much she enjoyed caring for her mother.
“I was living with my very own little Buddha. She would claim her only resemblance to him was her belly. What I saw was a joyful person who greeted everyone with an all-knowing grin, made pithy remarks, and was happily served by others.”
Maeder savors every moment of the three years she spent with her mother, from watching old Any Griffith episodes to dancing with drag queens.
“Occasionally, someone would make a comment to me about how I was earning a halo or angel wings by taking care of my mother, as though it were an unpleasant obligation. It felt strange to hear that. I didn’t deserve any special recognition. I enjoyed doing this. It was an honor.”
Maeder pulls you through the heart wrenching act of caring for a loved one who is slipping through your fingers before you’re ready to let go.
“It ripped a hole clear through my heart … It was like watching a photograph slowly fade. She was paler, more hunched over, more easily winded when she walked, eating less, sleeping more.”
This is a beautiful, sweet memoir. Anyone who has cared for a loved one, or is considering taking on such a duty, should pick up this book. You won’t regret it. It might even make you call up your mother. Just because.