Some years ago, my grandmother came down with a virulent skin cancer. My mother took care of her, and that care taking took over her life. Then my mother got colon cancer. Suddenly, she couldn’t take care of Grandma, and I was called in to run between the two of them. But…we couldn’t tell my grandmother that my mother was sick. The excuses we came up with during chemotherapy, when my mother was too weak even to see Grandma, became more and more bizarre.
It was wild and, in many ways, hilarious — a sort of sick, loving, exasperated, goofy family farce. The relationships and dependencies and bossiness and love between mothers and daughters was like a whirling storm, but also very, very much like a French farce with people running across the stage to hide behind doors. I started to think, what if you told this story as a farce? And injected into it an actual romance or two? What if in the midst of caring for your mother or your grandmother, not to mention a toddler, you had a secret romance going on? How to be happy, how to live a life, how to love in the midst of family chaos and illness and emotional devsatation? The intersection between private romantic love and family love has always fascinated me.
Madame Bovary has always fascinated me…
This is particularly a story about women, who are so often the ones who deal with these issues of illness. And it is a story of mothers and daughters.
My mother is fine, by the way. My wonderful, incomparable grandmother, who has served as the inspiration for many characters and for an entire comic view of life, died at age 98. There never was and never will be anyone like her. I miss her.