Though caregiver was not part of my basic personality type, my ticket back across the country was into my childhood home with my 96-year-old mother, where I lost and then found again my grown-up Self.
Alternately heartbreaking and hilarious, Mother Lode: Confessions of a Reluctant Caregiver is a memoir of Gretchen Staebler’s move across the country to live with and care for her 96-year-old mother, from whom she has been contentedly distanced by the continent between them for thirty-six years. She promises one year, then her mother will move to assisted living and she will find her own, new life, their relationship magically having become all she ever longed for it to be. Could it be that easy?
She leaves her clutter-free home, her work, and her friends to return to her small home town in Washington and the house where her parents have boxed, stuffed, and stashed more than fifty years of history into every drawer, shelf, and cubbyhole. As mother and daughter each stubbornly cling to their independence, their battles echo the clash of adolescence and menopause.
Confronting her mother’s advancing dementia, vision loss, and hypochondria with humor, frustration, and compassion—and wine—Staebler slowly comes full circle to a relationship of heart and acceptance with her mother.
She came for a year—she stayed for the end.
Mother Lode was a 2019 finalist in the Pacific Northwest Writers’ Association Contest for Unpublished Work.
What People Are Saying About Mother Lode
“Mother Lode redefines ‘coming of age’ in the drama of an independent daughter who moves back to the family home to care for her elderly mother. The story unfolds page by page, week by month, as Gretchen takes us artfully into her relationship with her mother, her sisters, and a house packed with memories. Specific in detail, universal in appeal, told with wit, wisdom, and compassion: if you ever had a mother. . . if you ever had a family. . . if you ever wondered if you could go home again, Mother Lode will intrigue, delight, and open your heart.” — Christina Baldwin, author of eight books, including: Storycatcher, Life’s Companion and The Circle Way.
“Those who bring their elderly parents to live with them have become the backbone of the nation’s long-term care system. Gretchen Staebler tests her own backbone when she does the reverse and moves back to her childhood home to take care of her 96-year-old mother. Staebler’s eye for just the right detail in just the right place is on full display throughout this beautifully rendered memoir about the infinitely puzzling and always complicated mother-daughter bond.” —Katie Hafner, author of Mother Daughter Me and host of Our Mothers Ourselves podcast
“We come to the support of our aging parents open-heartedly, begrudgingly, even fearfully. Sometimes, though, we are able to see the strength and love in the contrary parent, knowing our own strength has come from just such a source. Gretchen’s memoir travels a contradictory journey with her mother toward an end that surprises even the author.” —Rev. Catherine Fransson, author of Loving the Enemy: When the Favorite Parent Dies First.
“With compelling storytelling and great wit, Gretchen Staebler’s Mother Lode illuminates the valiant lives of the mostly forgotten and the nearly invisible: our elders and their caregivers.” —Theo Pauline Nestor, author of Writing Is My Drink: A Writer’s Story of Finding Her Voice (and a Guide to How You Can Too)
“A touching chronicle of the author’s time with her mother. Gretchen has a talent for description, and her descriptions of the Pacific Northwest are astounding. Her voice is realistic and raw—she doesn’t pull punches, giving her writing a genuine truth that many readers will relate to.” —Early reader
“This luminous memoir, told with compassion and humor, takes us through the last few years of life of the author’s nonagenarian mother after she returns home to the Pacific Northwest to care for her. Gretchen has a gift for storytelling and a flair for dialogue, and her descriptions of everyday happenings and scenes of natural beauty invite the reader into the intimate details of her life. —Early reader
“What a rich and wonderful book! The story runs the gamut of emotions from sadness and loss to discovery and joy—a beautiful love story. This book will have a broad appeal. So many women (and a few men) are caring for aging parents. It is a time that raises so many questions, a time for opening up to the past, caring for the needs of a loved one, figuring out your own place in the world, accepting the paths taken, mourning those not taken, and plotting a future. Gretchen’s memoir addresses it all.” —Early reader
“Having already walked this journey, Mother Lode was cathartic . . . it said to me, ‘Whatever you did, it was your best, so it was enough.’” —Early reader