Two weeks after my son turned three, we moved in with my parents to help care for my mother, who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The next six months were the most difficult of my life. Trying to parent a three-year-old is hard enough; trying to parent a parent at the same time was a recipe for a nervous breakdown.
We made it through, but it wasn’t easy. At the time, I searched for a picture book that would help us explain to my son what was going on. No luck. So we came up with some creative ways to explain things on our own. When my husband and I went to a family therapist for guidance, she was impressed with some of our strategies. A lightbulb went off: I was going to have to write the book myself. Only of course I couldn’t; I was living it. It was all I could do to get everyone dressed in the morning. And it all cut a little too close to home.
My mother lived with us for three years, and when it was no longer safe for her to be at home, she lived another two in a nursing home that specialized in dementia. After she died, it took an additional seven years for me to get the distance I needed to be able to write Nana Speaks Nanese.
I found a marvelous illustrator, Maurício Corteletti Água Viva, who captured the warmth of the story and the love the characters have for each other. He worked for months on the illustrations. It all came together.
Nana Speaks Nanese will be published on Mother’s Day, May 12, 2019. I have dedicated my part in it to my mother, Joan, and my son, Matthew, who always remembered the love.
I hope it helps other families going through this devastating diagnosis.
Please note that all images are copyright 2019 Maurício Corteletti Água Viva. Used here by license with the illustrator.