Wednesday, May 7, 2008

BOOK REVIEW: Into that Good Night by Ron Rozelle

The world changes around us, but our memories are like dynamic imprints- preserved on a mysterious gossamer fabric in the mind. But if that fabric is disturbed by trauma or disease, memory can dissolve into wisps of smoke that filter through the searching grasp of our thoughts, and leave nothing but a residue of disconnected feelings and emotions.

In his memoir, Into That Good Night, Ron Rozelle illustrates that which is so difficult to explain, the tapestry of memory, and how it's gradual unraveling from the affects of Alzheimer's disease impacts the relationships of a father and son. However, the book is not so much about memory lost as much as it is about memory found.

Rozelle's own recollections of his journey through time are as touching and heartbreaking as the scenes depicting the gradual loss of his father's keen mind. Of particular note is Rozelle's account of racial issues in the early 1960's. This facet of the narrative strikes it's first bitter cord in a seemingly causal, but emotionally frustrating instance in the author's early years and interlaces throughout the story. The slow acceptance of integration in the small, East Texas town of Oakwood, where his father was Superintendant of Schools, appears to be a separate theme. But it honestly depicts how a potentially damaging culture shock was cushioned by one stoic, tolerant, principled man and only through memory is this made clear. Lester Rozelle's almost invisible methodic approach to the situation left not even a ripple in a process that could easily have left a wide gulf of ignorance and confusion, and had he been anything less than the man he was, then his son's memory of the events would have been tragically different.

Even as the author describes the slow progression into dementia, the static parts of his father's life- his fastidious manners, his genial, good-natured acceptance of even the most tragic circumstances, remain intact. At the end of the book you are aware, that even a quiet, humble life well lived is worthy of recollection and honor.

This is a powerful, well written memoir and after reading it, I am left with a bittersweet impression: the people and situations described within the pages are now part of my memory, and considering the subject matter, it is a sobering thought.

Highly recommended for anyone who is dealing with the loss of one or both parents, or the slow theft of cognizance by Alzheimer’s disease.