Sunday, October 11, 2009

Elder Sex, The Angel of Death and Other Quirkiness

I discovered Kathleen Molloy after she left a comment on a blog post I did about Canadian Literature. I don't know Kathleen but I am always thrilled when I receive evidence of strangers reading the blog. So, I Googled her and found that she had written a book called Dining with Death. I decided to order the book for my summer reading list and support this Canadian author's first novel.

The book follows senior citizen Zophia Žvirgzdas. Actually, 90% of the characters in Molloy's book are seniors. Zophia is terrified that she is going to die alone and have no one to bequeath her estate. She takes out an ad in the hopes of finding a gay man to emulate a grandson (despite a few marriages, she is childless and thus grandchild-less). She figures that gay men have all the traits that she is looking for in a grandchild.

This is our introduction to Zophia but quickly, it becomes apparent that this story is not just about her quest for a beneficiary. Rather, it takes you through her world - friends, acquaintances, social services - providing insight and not so subtle commentary on the quality of life and care of seniors in our country.

Frankly, it took me a little while to get into the groove with this book. I found it a little disjointed and all over the place. However, Molloy soon won me over with her humorous, sensitive and often poignant portrayal of the diverse, challenging and, unfortunately, lonely lives of seniors. She also doesn't hesitate to throw more than a few barbs aimed at our government systems and policy makers. I was particularly moved by the side story of Zophia's roommate Violet and amused by The Angel of Death who appears to the dying as popular Canadian personalities. If I were dying, I would like him to appear as Paul Gross - no Mountie uniform though, I prefer the disheveled Men with Brooms look. But that's a different story.

This is timely for me as both of my grandmothers have recently been moved into long term care facilities for differing reasons. I've been seeing and experiencing first hand how, despite the efforts of caregivers, the government, social workers, family, aging can be a lonely and scary thing. This book reminded me that the elderly have all had lives prior to being rendered to a less active, more dependent situation. They were veterans, career women, parents, children, siblings, sexual beings with a lust for living. In many cases, we will all be lucky to live half the lives some of these people have lived. And, hopefully, not face those "twilight" years alone and isolated.

Dining with Death
Kathleen Molloy
Organized Frenzy