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Archive for November, 2011

Slightly Dented Halos

Book Review
Slightly Dented Halos
Jackson, LA (2011). Slightly dented halos. Canada: ireadiwrite Publishing Edition. $3.99, ISBN eBook: 978-1-926760-51-3
Slightly Dented Halos is author LA Jackson’s real life account of about five and half years of her life after she invites her aging in-laws to move in with her family. Written in a tone that has been described as “a conversation with a friend over a cup of coffee,” Jackson conveys a series of anecdotes that are heartwarming, heartbreaking, and most often full of humor. In Jackson’s own words, “It wasn’t easy, much laughter and many tears, but I’d care for them again if given the opportunity.”
Without giving advice, Jackson’s novel brings to the forefront a number of questions for anyone who will have to face choices surrounding how to care for their parents or elder family members. After this read, the choice of having our in-laws move in, the help needed to care for them, the idea of nursing homes, and end of life care, will all be themes that you might glean with a new insight. Additionally, in-laws or parents, as well as aging seniors, are different from the other roommates we may have had in life as they bring twists to the cohabitation situation. How do we navigate this new relationship with a person who used to be in charge, but now is someone we hope will follow our rules? When do we intervene for safety’s sake if a parent’s driving is of concern to us? Jackson’s depictions of how she handles these and other difficult conversations and family situations will help you consider the actions that you might face with your own loved ones if they move in.
Not written in a chronological timeline, Slightly Dented Halos instead introduces us to a household that bridges three generations of family including Jackson’s beloved dogs through short “vignettes.” We meet Reed, Jackson’s husband with whom she relies on and also supports through the difficult choices as well as the everyday frustrations they face together. Jackson describes Reed as kind, sensitive, and having a special bond with his father. A bond we are fortunate to glimpse in ways that may bring a smile and often a tear. Conner is their teenage son who is trying his best to be supportive and helpful, but also is moving on to live his own life. This, of course, is another huge change Jackson must contend with. Betts, Reed’s Mom, is described as the kindest human being imaginable, but also someone who lacks any concept of organization. The scenes in which Jackson tries tactfully at first, then slowly describes how she looses her patience with Betts redecorating of her house are comical. Gus, Reed’s Dad, had a stroke at 29 which made mobility difficult for him. It becomes an increasing struggle in the story, but only second to Gus keeping his dignity. Included in the equation are Jackson and Reed’s beloved pets Hobbes, Zona, and Jameson. Jameson causes quite a stir when his love for Gus leads to his keeping needed help at bay. Finally we have Eleanor, the 89-year-old neighbor whose friendship and wisdom seem to help Jackson stay sane.
I would recommend this book to any reader, especially one that is open to challenging ethical dilemmas because Jackson’s book is addressing what is becoming clear and true of society today, the baby boomer generation is aging. One of the outcomes of the largest group of similarly aged people living at the same time is that it will also be the largest number of people approaching death at the same time; consequently, it will also be the largest number of people making the difficult end of life choices at the same time. Caregivers for this population will have unparalleled challenges they have never faced before, just ask Jackson. Just a few of hers were balancing career and family obligation, the strain on a relationship or marriage, medical tragedies, the reshaping of relationships with elders, and finding free time. These are essential to navigate if we hope to, as Jackson teaches us is most important of all, enjoy the journey and time spent together.
By not providing suggestions or answers and instead just telling her story, Jackson creates a dynamic with the reader in having them search their soul and questioning the decisions they might face with their loved ones. Jackson often describes situations and her reactions to them in this book that leave the impression she is conflicted with her own choices. Jackson seems to be questioning if she was doing the right thing. The book leads to an understanding that, often, we will be far from perfect in our words and actions, just like Jackson. At times we will make the right choice and the right choice will leave us feeling like terrible people. Jackson’s title tells me she has come to peace with her conscience. Remember, even slightly dented, it is still a halo.

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