Entering the Blue Stone: most important book you could read this year

December 9, 2013

India posts will resume tomorrow. Meanwhile, this is absolutely worth knowing about.

I hadn’t seen my father in more than a year. While it’s true I lived 3,000 miles away, it was also true that he lived in a facility for Alzheimer victims (and yes, they ARE victims) and the last time I’d visited he wasn’t sure who I was at first. But this time, I was bringing the man I loved to meet my only living parent. 

A nurse buzzed us through the locked doors and we walked down the hall to my father’s room. Outside his room was a memory box of photos–my parents’ wedding, the three children as kids, the kind of thing meant to jog a shredded memory. “Yes, I live here, these are my people.”  I wondered how effective it was.

I entered the room and saw a man sitting in my father’s easy chair.  He was heavy and bloated beyond recognition. Could this be my father, who worked out two hours a day every single day and who took great pride in his slim, muscular physique? Who injured his rotocuff at the gym doing too many pullups at age 70 showing off his abilities for far younger men? Who jogged 1o miles a day before it was trendy? He looked semi-conscious and so heavy that he couldn’t even get out of the chair.

I went over to hug and greet him. He could barely speak and neither could I.

This couldn’t be my father.  MY father was a physician, a sharp diagnostician in his pediatric practice, a man who read immunology journals for fun. My father could dominate a discussion with his strong opinions and loud voice. My father joked with kids about carrots growing out of their ears.

This man? I didn’t know him.

I looked at my boyfriend through my tears.  “But this wasn’t what he was like!”  He pressed my hand.  No, he’d never know the man that was my father. That man was long gone.

These were my thoughts as I read the excellent memoir, Entering the Blue Stone by Molly Best Tinsley, about her parents’ last years and if you read no other book this coming year, make it hers. Several reasons. If you’re helping your parents through their end of life stages, her experience will help you navigate it in the best interests of your folks and your own sanity. And if you’re getting up there in years, yourself, her experience illustrates why you should make your own end-of-life wishes known while you still can.  I’m someone who wants to avoid that like the plague, but this book helped me face decisions that M. and I need to make together. (Thanks, Molly, for providing the book to me.)

Ok, about the book.  Her parents–sharp, interesting, fun — ended up in a continuing care facility. These facilities seem to make sense–the aged can progress from independent living to assisted living to nursing home care as the years go by. But a facility must be carefully chosen and a watchful eye kept over care decisions–and care itself.

Tinsley writes dispassionately about growing issues with her parents’ condition and care. I noticed that lack of emotion right away and wondered. But by the time I finished the book, I saw the power in the distance the author placed between herself and the story. Many stories about lives ending in nursing homes are difficult to read. In fact, I won’t read them.  But this book is different. The things that happened were awful–but Tinsley let the story tell itself and in that way, it made more of an impact on me. I saw clearly some of the decisions I need to make now for myself, and also where we went wrong with my father’s care. I hope others will read this book and inform themselves so they can be more informed assistants in their parents’ end of life. Or their own.

So here’s what I learned:

The elder care system in the U.S. is seriously flawed and family must be heavily involved every step of the way. Every single step, including overseeing the meds given–and often. There seems to be no such thing as too little involvement.

Most of us don’t know much about the end-of-life process–I know that I’ve been reluctant to confront it. But if we don’t, we could end up victims of this flawed system. In telling her parents’ story, Tinsley teaches us the things we need to know about how we can leave the world with, I hope, I bit more dignity.


Available at all the usual places, but why not buy directly from boutique press Fuze Publishing, that ships free instead of the behemoth online place we usually buy our books? Help support independents, because Amazon has declared war on publishing.

6 comments on “Entering the Blue Stone: most important book you could read this year
  1. Ryder Ziebarth says:

    Funny you should post this today. I spent part of yesterday in tears, as I unwrapped one tiny ornament after the other, most of which hung from my childhood trees. I called my mom and dad to tell them how glad I am each year, to be able to remember the past in this way. My mother remembered some of the ornaments –the cookie cutter diorama, the spun glass Christmas trees they had created and sold to Henri Bendels in New York as one of their many craft projects together–my father, had no idea what I was talking about, and hung up. Mom sighed and said “it’s getting worse. You have no idea what it’s like around here.” And although I do, and I know it’s hard on her, both parent refuse to admit they need more help. Dad is now in total denial that he has any aging issues. I will read this after the holiday,I don’t think I could take it until then. Thanks for posting.

    • admin says:

      I am so sorry that you have to go through this. With us all living longer, I guess it was inevitable. I think you’ll find this book helpful when you are ready to read it. Blessings to you all.

  2. Janie Emaus says:

    My mom just moved into independent living. And so far, she’s doing great at 88. Like you, I find it hard to read books about this topic. But I may look into this one.

    • admin says:

      The distance with which she writes makes it bearable and believe me, I don’t read stuff like this. I read this one nonstop one day.

  3. Helene Cohen Bludman says:

    Your post really made me stop and think, Carol. I am very lucky that my parents, both on their late 80s, are healthy and independent, but I know I need to prepare for the future now. You have convinced me to read this book.

    • admin says:

      It’s quite different from most books like it, but it’s a cautionary tale and it really did make me think about my own personal plans.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Follow Carol


Here you’ll find my blog, some of my essays, published writing, and my solo performances. There’s also a link to my Etsy shop for healing and grief tools offered through A Healing Spirit.


I love comments, so if something resonates with you in any way, don’t hesitate to leave a comment on my blog. Thank you for stopping by–oh, and why not subscribe so you don’t miss a single post?


Subscribe to my Blog

Receive notifications of my new blog posts directly to your email.