Today’s guest post is by Rhett DeVane, author of “Mama’s Comfort Food,” “Evenings on Dark Island” (with Larry Rock), and “Accidental Ambition” (with Robert W. McKnight). Her new novel “Cathead Crazy” is the “story of one woman’s determined journey through love, loss, and the surprises of mid-life.” Rhett’s post gives us a glimpse of the realities and inspiration behind the novel.
The Sandwich Generation
Over 10 million Americans are part of the “sandwich generation,” caring for both children and elderly family members. This group falls between ages 34-54, and are of all cultures and ethnicities. Caretaking brings a crash course in legal and financial matters, difficult medical decisions, and questions about housing. Add to that, finding time for the caretaker to rejuvenate before his or her own health and relationships suffer. Wow.
As the years pass, I realize what a charmed childhood I led— raised in the gentle rolling hills of North Florida with two outstanding parents, fresh air and homegrown vegetables, and always more than enough dogs, cats, chickens, and the occasional rescued tortoise, squirrel, or rabbit. My parents were my my biggest cheerleaders, especially my mom. As she put it, I served as “her caboose,” until her later years when I became “her engine.” After my father’s death at 79, Mom stayed in that big farmhouse on Bonnie Hill until her late 80s, when she decided to move close to my home in Tallahassee.
My brother lived a few towns distant, and my sister in Tennessee, so I became the go-to, go-get, go-crazy girl. The one who gets called at 2 a.m. when the ambulance is on the way. The one who dries tears. The one who occasionally thinks of steering her car one-way out of town and not leaving a bread trail.
Mom and I did the typical “girly” things: we shopped, enjoyed the monthly mani-pedi, tried new local eateries, and gossiped on the front porch. I got caught up in the goings-on at her assisted living facility and never visited that I didn’t end up laughing, or at least in a much better mood. It wasn’t all nirvana; there were times when we stomped all over each other’s last nerve. We kissed and made up, then pressed on.
Cathead Crazy follows one woman’s similar bumpy journey. But it could be anyone’s. The anecdotes are based on truth, either personal or those shared with me. Though Mae has many of my mother’s traits, Hannah’s mother is much more cantankerous. Nor did I have two teenaged kids to add to the mix. Fiction demands drama, so I went all-out to torment Hannah. Poor dear.
In our reality, my family faced the sudden death of my sister Melody, six months before my mother “left for Home.” Both women are reportedly doing well on the Other Side (as my brother and I have been shown in dreams); my mother drives a bakery food truck and my sister sings to those nearing death. They stay busy. No huge surprise.
The draft for Cathead Crazy idled in my computer’s hard drive for over two years before I could bring myself to revisit it. And how grateful I felt that I written it as I rowed my leaky caretaker canoe upstream. The memories flooded back, and I healed as I slugged through the revisions.
I think Mama D would be proud. She’d say, “Sugar, this one’s a keeper.”
Cathead Crazy Launch Party
While paperback and Kindle editions of Cathead Crazy are already available on on Amazon, the party is yet to come. If you’re in Tallahassee, Florida on April 26, stop by the Mockingbird Cafe from 5:30 till 8:00 pm to meet Rhett and enjoy the excitement that’s part of the official launch of a new book.
“This one will make you smile, make your eyes leak, and make you want to rush to the kitchen to bake a batch of fresh ‘catheads.'” – Rhett DeVane