When Meg Federico's eighty year-old mother and newly minted step-father were finally forced to accept full-time home care, she imagined them settling into a Norman-Rockwellian life of docile dependency. With a family of her own and a full time career - a thousand miles away from her parents - Federico hoped her mother and step-father would be able to take care of themselves for the most part, and call on their children when they really needed them. After all, why else would an eighty-year old woman remarry? But after a fall while vacationing in Florida, Federico's mother, Addie, sits bolt upright on her gurney and yells, "I demand an autopsy!" before passing out again. It's the first in a string of moments both heartbreaking and hilarious that make Welcome to the Departure Lounge such a riveting read. As she watches from the sidelines with horror, Federico's parents turn into terrible teens - with licenses to drink and drive. Fighting off onslaughts of dementia and Alzheimer's disease, Addie and Walter, forbidden to drink by doctors, conspire to order cases of scotch by phone; Addie's attendant accuses the evening staff of midnight Voodoo; Walter's inhibitions decline as dementia increases and mail-order sex aides arrive at the front door. The list of absurdities goes on and on as Federico tries to take some control over her parents' lives - and her own. With her fresh and easy voice, Federico writes a story for the huge generation now dealing with the care of their parents. You'll laugh and cry as you take the raucous ride with Meg Federico in this powerful debut.
©2009 Meg Federico (P)2011 Audible, Inc.
I give the book a high rating because the story is told so well, backed up by solid narration - I felt as though I were (vicariously) living the events as they unfolded. At the risk of re-hashing the plot (something I frown upon generally), Federico's mother and step-father have managed to "fake" their way along as their mental health deteriorated; her mother was losing her sight as well. On vacation in Florida, however, Addie suffers a traumatic episode, triggering a "crisis" situation, until her death (it wasn't clear to me how much time elapsed, a couple of years perhaps). Addie and Walter had been married and widowed, bringing children to the union, but The Brady Bunch this is not - toleration, not cooperation, best describes the kids' relationship; he had sold his house and moved into hers after the wedding.
Getting Addie home to New Jersey was a story in itself (Walter's daughter had taken him back alone shortly after the incident). She's placed in a facility, which ... doesn't work out. Various health aides are hired in shifts to look after the couple at home from then on, with the author and her siblings doing their best to "supervise" things long-distance. The step-sister, who lives nearby it seems, is implied to do as little actual work as possible. She's mentioned only a couple of times, once as she had "taken her father to New York for the day in a limo." The implication being that she's lazy and self-centered.
Meanwhile, he becomes more verbally and physically abusive to everyone in the house, including Addie. The author mentions in a short aside that she was advised having (them) declared incompetent would be too difficult to pursue. Having some experience with such things in New Jersey, she should've moved her mother into a facility, citing the documented problems. Later on, there's a memoir-ish section on Addie and Meg's backgrounds, which was useful in putting the story in perspective.
Final thoughts ... Meg was either as naive (I hesitate to use the term "clueless") as she maintains, or a bit of a martyr. That may sound harsh, but if I had a physically abusive stepfather like that, I'd have gotten my mother out of there - or at least tried, in spite of the pessimism of those she says consulted. That having been said, I recommend the book for the writing, and narration - one of those cases where I'd say the audio seems preferable to reading the printed version.
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