Writers write about the places and emotions they know best.
For me, the storyline in Then Comes Love came largely from my observations and interactions at my grandfather’s apartment complex.
My grandfather moved to my hometown a few years ago. He’d spent his entire adult life in a house in Scottsdale. It was where he lived with my grandmother for their fifty plus years of marriage. He raised his children there, worked there, retired there.
Now he lives close to our family in an apartment complex for those 55 and older. It’s a wonderful community of people in this unique stage of life, battling with holding onto the past while also trying to figure out what the future might hold. In many ways, these living centers have their own unique social systems that don’t just involve those living there; the families and loved ones of the residents often are pulled into an interesting social climate as well.
Thus, the idea to set this book around the setting of an assisted living center came to me. I thought about the struggles residents face, giving up their homes and everything they’ve ever known to start a new life. I thought about the identity crisis I’ve heard many talk about at this stage in their lives.
And I thought about love.
I’ve seen romances blossom in the halls of my grandfather’s apartment complex. Women and men who’ve lost their spouses often find their hearts opened again thanks to relationships with those around them. Love doesn’t just shut off at a certain age. I’ve heard some residents talk about how they know more about love now than in their younger years.
I also wanted to capture the difficulties faced by the families of the residents in these places. It isn’t easy being a caregiver…I’ve seen how my mom struggles to balance her own life with the needs of my grandfather on a weekly basis. Annie’s struggles are the struggles of so many with aging parents, and it isn’t an easy situation to be in, physically or emotionally.
Finally, I wanted to capture the humor that is often a part of homes for the aging. I can tell you there aren’t any Catherines in my grandfather’s apartment building, at least to my knowledge. But there are Catherine-like comments over trivial matters. There are interesting situations and hilarious observations. There are friendships and frenemies, new romances and interesting events. If you’ve ever been to an assisted living center, a retirement complex, or a nursing home, you know that things are truly never dull. I wanted this energy to be a driving force in the setting of my novel.
Then Comes Love is a novel that exposes feelings and struggles I think many will be able to relate to. Aging, whether it is happening to us or a loved one, is something that forces change for us all, change that can sometimes be difficult to accept. Charlotte, Annie, and Amelia, however, show us that sometimes humor, friendship, and family love can make the change at least bearable if not welcome.
Then Comes Love releases March 18th with Hot Tree Publishing.
At ninety-three, my grandfather has survived a lot. He lived through WWII, serving in the war. He lived through the death of my grandmother, the death of a son, bouts with skin cancer, and a heart attack.
With all of the things he’s survived have come many changes. A few years ago, he left the house he bought with my grandmother, the house my mother grew up in, to move closer to our family in Hollidaysburg. He moved into an apartment complex for the aging, and had to get used to a completely new type of life.
It hasn’t always been an easy adjustment, especially for my mother.
Although my grandfather is able to live independently, my mother truly serves as his caregiver. She is his apartment cleaner, grocery buyer, laundry washer, bill payer, finance organizer, pill refiller, question answerer, and everything else in between.
It’s not an easy job.
Caregiving: The Balancing Act
Like so many, my mom has had to make the adjustment in her life from being the child to being the caregiver. It is a tough task. Not only does my mom work full-time and keep her own life going, she has to also take on my grandfather’s household, keeping it managed and working. Add to that the role she plays in my life, and she’s a busy woman.
So many people don’t realize how difficult it can be when your parents age. With the role of caregiver, even if it is for an independent parent, comes a very tenuous balancing act. Essentially, my mom is constantly balancing three households: her own, my grandfather, and mine. It’s wearing, it’s taxing, it’s stressful, and it’s frustrating.
But she does it with patience and grace. She does it because she has to, but she also does it because she is an amazing, caring person.
I think many women in this age range find themselves in this hectic balancing act. That’s really what inspired the character of Annie in Then Comes Love.
Like so many women in their fifties, Annie is trying to care for her mother while also keeping tabs on her thirty-two-year-old daughter. Annie suffers with feeling like she never really has her own life and feeling worn out. Add to that a divorce and career issue, and you’ve got yourself the perfect storm of a mid-life crisis.
There are many humorous issues Annie has to deal with, some based on my understanding of caregiving through my mom’s eyes as well as my time visiting my grandfather’s apartment complex. Switching to a new life in a place for the elderly isn’t easy on anyone, and it is accompanied by its share of complexities.
Then Comes Love, among other things, seeks to focus on the hectic, stressful, but also humorous life that can unfold when the elderly are forced to find a new place to live.
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