"I thought about those who have waited for battle, or for hurricanes, or for news of foreclosure on their homes, and I imagined it must be like waiting for your mother to die."
Pieta by William Zink is a lovely novel about family. Jim lives with his mother. Living in the house is also Alex, Jim Priest's daughter. The beauty of the story is that age does not matter. Although Jim's mother is on her death bed and a widow, she is also an elderly woman living on a see saw. On her up days she knows her son, Jim. On her down days, she doesn't recognize him. She has times of thinking her dead husband is still alive. In her mind, he is still out in the shed sculpting the Pieta. "My mother has been adrift, slowly departing this world for several years. We have all seen it, and to varying degrees tried to deny it. Her fatigue, more than the dementia, is what pulled her away from us."
The beauty of the novel is that Alex, Jim's little girl, is able to be a part of this small family circle which very soon will become smaller still. I loved the questions asked by Alex about her grandmother's present, past and future. There are times when Grandma Zink is alert enough to give answers to Alex's questions.Oddly, Alex asks questions about death I would like to know myself.
With death drawing near, family stories are remembered. Painful memories remembered and discussed. I liked the remembrance of Jim's mother posing for the Pieta while Jim's father carved out the mother figure.On a different level, Jim's change of role is memorable. More than a son he becomes a caretaker. What would have been an embarrassment to him earlier in his life is now just a chore that needs doing in order for his mother to feel more comfortable while sitting or lying in bed. "She held onto the walker as I slid down her sweatpants and underwear. I left her, and told her to call out when she was finished."
While growing up with his other siblings, Jim felt resentment, hurt, because he never seemed able to please his dad. I did wish that the dad had been alive for a little while in the story. Than I could have read heard his voice, seen his gestures, felt the way he touched Jim's shoulder or the tone of voice when scholding his son. Instead, I only hear about him through what others say about the father and husband.
Pieta by William Zink made me feel less afraid of death. It is another part of life's journey. There is birth. There is death. The small family circle comforting and easing Jim's mother on to a new journey seemed so kind, peaceable and loving. I'm glad to have taken the journey with this small family circle. I will always remember Pieta.