Mark Aherne, a middle-aged man, receives an emergency phone call to come to his parents' home as soon as possible. Once there he can no longer avoid the fact that his elderly parents need help if they are to continue to live independently. Over time, with equal amounts of love and irritation, he helps with their health problems, the onset of dementia, life in a nursing home, and death. He believes that he will escape making the same mistakes in his old age. Meanwhile, he remembers his changing relationship with his parents throughout his childhood, his teenage years, and his life as a young husband and father. Facing his own lost opportunities and the inexorable passage of time, he comes to realize that he's not so different from his aging parents as he once thought. With alternating chapters between the past and the present, Mark comes face-to-face with a revelation about each parent’s life, information that illuminates how a moment in early life has lifelong effects. FEEDBACK is appreciated.
Mark remembers the day when as a child, his father was so angry with him that his face had an indelible expression of rage. Years later this memory resurfaces when Mark is a father in charge of keeping his baby daughter from disturbing a restaurant.
Mark's father acts strange after his wife's death. Over dinner with his children, he announces that he plans to sue the nursing home for negligence in his wife's death.
Mark arrives at the hospital and is shocked to learn that the doctor doesn't expect his mother to last through the night.
After working in the garden all Sunday morning, Mark is too exhausted to visit his mother in the nursing home. He promises to himself to visit her after work on Monday.
Mark interviews for the Naval Officers' Training School but isn't accepted. Due to be called up for the draft at the end of the summer, he opts to enlist in the US Air Force to avoid going to Vietnam. His father supports his decision to enlist; Mark enjoys his father's respect.
Aunt Ellen has died. Mark and Leslie accompany their mother to the lawyer's office for the reading of the will. Mark and his sister are bequeathed money. Their mother receives shocking news which causes her to review her entire life.
Mark and his mother visit her aunt Ellen in the nursing home. He is shocked at how much she has deteriorated since he last saw her. She begins scratching at herself around the scar of an old operation. The story behind the operation will have a significant effect on his mother's life.
Mark is now in high school. When he arrives home from a date, he enters the house as quietly as possible. Nevertheless, his mother is always awake and comes downstairs. He knows he's in for a monologue of his mother's grievances about his father.
Mark becomes more and more depressed as he watches his mother decline into dementia. But when he visits with his sister and father he is surprised and shocked by a new discovery.
When Aunt Ellen doesn't answer the daily check-up phone call from Mark's mother, she and Mark drive to her home to see if anything is wrong. No one is there. Then Mark remembers a special place his aunt retreats to in her building.
Mark has never been close to his father, sometimes thinking he is not the kind of son his father wanted. They never discuss emotional issues together, especially never about sex. While at Boy Scout camp Mark learns how to masturbate. And then he bonds with his father in an unexpected way. His father never knows it happens.
Mark visits his mother in the nursing home and finds her distant and distrustful. Only when he arrives home does he realize what has happened.
Mark is confused by the information about sex he overhears at school. How can he learn more without being made fun of? Then his school schedules a meeting about human sexuality for seventh-grade boys and their fathers. The information is surprising and unsettling. On the way home, his father tells Mark he can ask him any questions he has. Mark knows he will never ask his father about sex.
Mark prepares for his first camping trip with the Scouts. The weekend begins with an embarrassing incident when Mark puts on his pack. Later he cooks a spaghetti dinner to earn his cooking badge. The memory of that event is still with him.
A delusional patient at the nursing home interrupts Mark's visit with his mother. The woman insists that he take responsibility for securing the bank's vault. Her manner is so angry that Mark has no choice but to comply.
Mark has his comeuppance in the sixth grade. His teacher, Miss Kuesik, is a recent graduate from college with no tolerance for a teacher's pet. At her hands, Mark experiences the greatest disappointment of his life to that point. Later Mark commits the biggest mistake of his grammar school career. He must confront a bully and his own conscience before he resolves his mistake.
A short chapter describing two tasks Mark had to do before going to school: carry up oranges from the basement and take a bath while his father shaved. Each memory had a distinct smell; one of them would tell him something important when he started down the path of puberty seven years later.
Mark's mother enters a nursing home for rehabilitation. As part of the intake process, she is evaluated by the rehab supervisor. The session doesn't go well. Meanwhile his mother has a problem with her roommate. Later in the chapter, Mark meets his parents as they return from a lunch date. Mark imagines his parents as teenagers walking home from high school.
One of Mark's memories. Obtaining a book he needs for a 5th grade spring project becomes a major life learning experience for 10 year old Mark. An experience that still resonates almost 50 years later.
Mark's mother falls and his father doesn't have the strength to pick her up. Mark and Leslie discuss hiring a home health aide, but the father doesn't think their mother needs one. Leslie buys a MedAlert button for each of her parents. While she is on vacation, their mother falls again.
Mark visits a friend for the afternoon. Billy says he has something to show Mark: racy photos. But Mark also sees that Billy has three silver half-dollars in the drawer. The temptation is too great!
Two more memories of Mark. The one that has stayed with Mark for his entire life is the selection about the kiss. Five seconds burned into his memory.
I wrote the first drafts of this story in writing classes in the late 70s. It has changed considerably since I dug it out and decided to include some memories Mark has of his Aunt Ellen. Later chapters continue the story. What is Aunt Ellen's surprise?
This part concerns the angst of an underage Mark sent with a note downtown to buy his mother's cigarettes. Mark and Leslie steal their mother's cigarettes one at a time in an attempt to keep her from smoking.
This is common situation in which middle-age parents find themselves dealing with the issues of both elderly parents and teenage children. In both cases the problems may be difficult or unsettling, but overtime one sees the humor in them.
Mark's father runs into a problem when he tries to move the boat he is building from the cellar to the garage. He wants to finish the boat before the end of summer, but this doesn't sit well with Mark's mother. Their argument alarms both Mark and his sister who are playing upstairs overlooking the garage..
Mom loved to tell stories but she was not good at it. One of the problems was Dad who was annoyed if she exaggerated a story. When he interrupted her, she got annoyed and clammed up. One evening she told a story about a minor accident she had earlier in the day.
Mark's mother receives her handicap parking pass for the car, but the Registry of Motor Vehicles wants her to come in and retake her hands-on driving test. Or else she'll lose her license.
Mark watches the movers empty his parents' home. His parents seem to have no sadness when driving away from their home of fifty tears. Mark cannot understand and climbs the stairs to his bedroom for a last look.
After a public relations lesson for her father, Leslie resets the prices for the items on sale.The lawn sale at the Aherne home begins.
Mark and Leslie are successful in convincing their parents that they must move from their home to an apartment for safety reasons. Helping his Dad to clean out the attic, Mark sees his past fly out the window.
Mark's father is interested in sailing and building boats, creating model railroads, and scouting. As a child Mark has little interest in these activities. When he is taken on a camping trip as a four-year-old, he makes a startling discovery.
The Ahernes travel to a friend of Mr. Aherne to buy a dog he raised and an incident in the friend's barn.
The family history of Mr. Aherne: the tragic death of his father; the meeting with his priest for a Scouting requirement; how WWII delayed his marriage to Mark's mother; the marriage and the honeymoon.
Mark's childhood memory of third grade in 1954 when his mother came to address his class. What are your memories of the day when your mother or father visited your classroom?
This chapter introduces Mrs Aherne's family:: the conflict between the two sisters; the circumstances around Mark's mother's birth; the relationship between Mark's mother and her mother.
Mark and Leslie Aherne realize they must talk to their parents about their drinking. This chapter is Mark's memory of the effect of alcohol on his family from his early childhood to the time of his marriage and young children.
This first chapter introduces the reader to the Aherne household: the parents George and Harriet, and the children Mark and Leslie. A major theme of the novel is the effect alcohol has on family dynamics.
Introducing the theme of memory and how a brief fragment can affect an entire life. The main character, Mark Aherne, states, "For me, everything changed on a September afternoon in 2004..."
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