The Day We Met: A Novel
by Rowan Coleman
This book moved me in a way that is hard to explain. Three—soon to be four—generations of women cope with the role reversals and the inherent tensions involved when Claire, a forty-something wife and mother is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Her world and her connection to it are rapidly disappearing into a fog. She tries to anchor herself to stay present in each moment.
While riding on a train, Claire explains to the reader, “And yet, looking at my reflection, in the window opposite, hollow and translucent, I see a woman disappearing. It would help if I looked like that in real life—if the more the disease advanced, the more ‘see-through’ I became until, eventually, I would be just a wisp of a ghost. How much more convenient it would be, how much easier for everyone, including me, if my body just melted away along with my mind… Then we’d all know where we were, literally and metaphysically. I have no idea if that makes sense, but I like that I remember the word metaphysical.”
Claire can no longer drive, teach, read to her three-year-old child, or be trusted outside alone. And while she remembers loving her husband, she no longer feels love for him. She worries that if emotions are so easily altered, if they are real at all. Her mother tries to reassure her.
“I think they are real,” Mum says. “I love you more that I have ever loved anyone—even your father, and I loved him very much. And Greg loves you, and that is real, much more real than I thought, I’ll admit. Esther and Caitlin love you. A lot of people love you. And all of the feelings they have for you are real. I think it’s love that lasts. It’s love that remembers us. It’s love that is left when we are gone. I think those feelings are more real than our bodies and all the things that can go wrong with them. This”—she pinches her forearm—“is just the packaging.”
The power and endurance of love and the ways in which we show it are reinforced through what could have been a very depressing tale, but instead is hopeful, uplifting, surprising and–at times–even funny.
“What will be left of us all, is the love we have given and received.”