Book Review: Designated Daughter — The Bonus Years With Mom
I was afraid to read this book. Afraid it would hit too close to home.
And I was right . . . it did.
But I loved it so much, I read it cover-to-cover twice over!
What Is a Designated Daughter?
Here is the definition in the author’s words:
“When my mother became a widow, I became a Designated Daughter — the sibling who would try to take up the empty space that had always been filled by Dad. What I found in walking beside her was my own strong space. . . .
Designated Daughters are all over the country, all over the world. We are a secret society of women, instantly recognizable to one another. We sit in doctors’ waiting rooms holding our mothers’ hands. We hold the coats, we hold the purses, we hold our mothers’ arms like suitors. We become so close, so bonded, we form a two-person silhouette.”
This book recounts D. G. Fulford’s eight years as Designated Daughter for her mother, Phyllis Greene. Fulford writes honestly about the joy and sadness that result from living this role. Her words filled me with laughter, and yes, a few tears, as she recounts their time and travels together.
Phyllis Greene adds her unique perspective on their experiences at the end of each chapter. And this brings another important voice to the story, and the book is richer as a result.
A Part that Made Me Laugh
After a doctor referred to her mother’s breasts as “boobies,” Fulford writes:
“Boobies? Boobies? My mother did not have boobies, my mother had a bosom. A bosom is what ladies such as she have. (I have tits.) I called her on it in the car and she ‘fessed up. The booby bit had bothered her. We don’t even have to talk to communicate anymore.”
A Part that Is Just So Real
This one passage really hit me in the gut. I couldn’t have described being a Designated Daughter any better than this:
“It seems as if it happens in an instant, but it takes a lifetime. Our mothers go from aging to old. We Designated Daughters become familiar with crisis mode, as our mothers’ well-being differs from day to day. They put their trust in us though we do not always trust ourselves. The road ahead is not going to be easy, each step a different test.”
Greene writes humorously, yet with great insight, about her difficulty in accepting the aging process:
“Who ever would have thought a wheelchair would be a joyride?
Years ago, when we were on our way to Florida, I had caught a glimpse of a couple we knew crossing a concourse ahead of us. The wife was pushing her husband in a wheelchair, and I said to Bob, in my stupidity, ‘The day I need a wheelchair at the airport is the day I stop traveling.’ How cocksure I was, and how fast I changed. By 2002 air travel was a disaster, and I wasn’t so great myself in the walking category . . . . Never say never. I ordered a wheelchair as I made my reservations. It’s the only way to go!”
Who Is This Book For?
Even though the title says Designated Daughters, this book is for Designated Sons, too. While it is a fact more daughters than sons are family caregivers, sons will see themselves in many of the same situations Fulford faced with her mom and should also read this book.
In fact, all baby boomers should read this book! Because even if your Golden Oldies are healthy now and aging gracefully, as stated in Fulford’s quote above, it could take only an instant and you may find yourself as a Designated Son or Daughter before you know it.
Plus, it will deepen your appreciation for all the great (and even not-so-great) times you’re currently having with your aging parents. Even before you reach the Bonus Years.
What I Wish For
Reading this book made me feel like I had met these women. Even though the book was just published in 2008, I already want an update on how Phyllis Greene is doing health-wise and otherwise, and how D.G. Fulford is coping (and what color her hair is now). I hope there is a sequel planned by this special mother-daughter team.
Buy It Now
Click on this link to purchase the book (I will earn a few cents commission from Amazon.com):
Designated Daughter: The Bonus Years with Mom