Welcome to the Departure Lounge
Adventures in Mothering Mother
By Meg Federico
(Random House, Hardcover, 9781400067954, 208pp.)
Publication Date: February 10, 2009
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The adventure begins when Meg’s mother, Addie, vacationing in Florida, takes a spill. At the hospital, Addie bolts upright on her gurney and yells “I demand an autopsy!” before passing out cold.
“One minute, she is unconscious, the next, she’s nuts,” observes Meg Federico in this hilarious and poignant memoir of taking care of eighty-year-old Addie and her relatively new (and equally old) husband, Walter, in their not-so-golden years.
Addie’s accident is a portent of things to come over the next two years as Meg oversees her mother’s home care in the Departure Lounge, the nickname Meg gives Addie and Walter’s house in suburban New Jersey. It is a place of odd behaviors and clashing caregivers, where chaos and confusion reign supreme.
Meg had expected that Addie and Walter would settle into a Rockwellian dotage of docile dependency. Instead the pair regress into terrible teens. Meg watches from the sidelines in disbelief as her mother and stepfather, forbidden by doctors to drink, conspire to order cases of scotch by phone; as Addie’s attendant accuses the evening staff of midnight voodoo; as the increasingly demented Walter’s sex drive becomes unbridled and mail-order sex aids are delivered to the front door. Meg jumps in to cope with the pandemonium–even as she struggles to manage her own family back in Nova Scotia.
With a fresh voice and a keen eye for the absurd, Meg Federico writes a story that will resonate with the generation now caring for their parents. Welcome to the Departure Lounge is a moving and madcap chronicle of a family–their moments of joy, the memories they’d rather forget, and the just plain loopiness of their situation. “How’s life at the Departure Lounge?” Meg’s brother asks. Meg doesn’t know where to start. “Let’s just say the drinks are outrageous, and they never run out of nuts.”
Meg Federico regularly writes humor for the National Post. Her work has appeared in The Globe and Mail, Shambhala Sun, and Agni Magazine (Boston University Press). She has written commentary and created documentaries for CBC Radio. For several years, she wrote a successful column, “Transitions: Issues in Caregiving,” for the Halifax Daily News. She lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, with her family.
“Meg Federico has written a deeply moving, hilarious, and unforgettable manifesto on mothering her mother, as Addie takes center stage in the finale of her life. Book clubs will rally around this one–for the laughs, for the sheer honesty, and for the lively discussions that will ensue. Federico has woven the details of her experience, sometimes tragic and always transcendent, into a memoir you will not be able to put down. This is a mother-daughter love story, with an ending that sparkles like the finest diamond.”
–Adriana Trigiani, bestselling author of the Big Stone Gap series and Very Valentine
“Dealing with her aging mother and stepfather is not fun, but in Federico’s deft hands, it’s poignant, terrifying, and very funny.”
–Phyllis Theroux, author of California and Other States of Grace
“[A] frank account, by turns sad and terribly funny . . . Federico gently delineates the humiliating burden caused by the loss of memory, while humanely portraying a brave new sympathy and understanding between her mother and herself.”
–Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“What Meg Federico thinks of as her parents’ spiraling out of control is sort of normal behavior in the South. That’s why I loved this book so much–it’s wise and hilarious, and, no matter where you live, you’ll get something out of it, especially if you have aged parents.”
–Gayden Metcalfe, co-author of Being Dead Is No Excuse
“Federico, who has the eye of a sitcom writer, views her mother with a mixture of love, humor, sympathy and exasperation. . . . A funny yet touching portrayal of the indignities of aging.”