I’d always believed that if I splayed my body in the dirt, I could protect my mother from her plummet from the sky. The forced ejection from an airplane. I’d also thought of the fall as a singular event requiring a dramatic sacrifice to insulate her. But each day she repeated her tumble to the ground. Sometimes she’d land as graceful as a ballerina, and she’d flash a mischievous grin before pirouetting away. Other times, she’d crash into the earth, breaking her bones and soiling herself in the process. I didn’t move fast enough and I couldn’t predict her trajectory. With time, I discovered my role was not to buffer her descent. The most I could hope for was to pick her up, patch her up, and hope for a better tomorrow. It wasn’t me that eased her way as she deteriorated into her illness. It was Dionne Warwick, Tom Jones, Frank Sinatra, and Perry Como. She gravitated toward their lighthearted crooning tunes and, no longer encumbered by any inhibitions…my mom danced.
Filled with touches of unexpected humor, Dance with Me, is a huge-hearted account of a relationship between a daughter who loses her faith in medicine, and a mother who dances in the face of the disease stealing her thoughts and memories. Susan Badaracco watched her grandfather succumb to Alzheimer’s and when her mother was later diagnosed, she wanted to give her mother a “soft landing”. But dancing with Alzheimer’s is not a graceful affair. Crafted with short stories, she allows a peek into the locked memory care unit which she compares to “an unexpected trip to another country where they don’t always speak English”. With harrowing honesty, she presents the challenges and bittersweet emotions faced by the caregivers of the afflicted. An unforgettable memoir of endurance and transformation.