I had the recent pleasure of receiving a review copy of Conversations Across America by Kari Loya. It’s an insightful look not only at a father-son relationship dynamic after the father is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, but also a visual and cultural snapshot of America.
There is much to find inspiring about the book. How many of us would be in good enough physical shape to bike across America? I know I wouldn’t and the fact that his father is able to do so while in the early stage of Alzheimer’s is admirable. The obstacles that the father and son duo face on their long journey mirrors the challenges one faces on the dementia caregiving journey. The open road facilitates difficult but necessary conversations between father and son.
The other component of the book offers photos and quotes from people Loya and his father meet along their journey. There is a diverse mix of voices and you likely will not agree with all of them, but it does offer some insight into how we ended up where we find ourselves now. Out on the road, random acts of kindness are not only welcome but necessary. Time and time again, strangers rise to the occasion.
Ultimately, Conversations Across Americais a love letter to his father, the natural beauty of the country and the helpfulness and resilience of those living in small towns. It’s a coffee table book with a conscience.
Sometimes, I think Mom departed the planet at just the right time. When I look back over the past year, I think of all of the horrible tragedies that have happened, the numerous, deadly terrorist attacks and mass shootings that have taken so many innocent lives.
My mom did not understand all of the politics and history behind international terrorism, but a mother crying over the death of a child in a market bombing? My mother could connect with that based upon a universal sense of humanity and compassion.
Mom never understood why anyone would choose to act out of hate, instead of love. I sometimes was dismissive of her simplistic attitude, but we could certainly use a bit more positive thinking in our world right now.
At the same time, there is deep division in America, as we find ourselves mired in an ugly political season and having to face serious issues that don’t have easy answers. Perhaps those who have already departed are the fortunate ones.
Still, there is much to appreciate about America, and what the country has been able to accomplish over its history. When a terrible event occurs, the outpouring of compassion and generosity that occurs offers a glimmer of hope for our country. My mom always focused on the good in people, and I’m going to try to adopt a bit of that attitude in her memory.
My parents loved America; my mom served in the Navy and my dad immigrated from his beloved homeland of northern Ireland and became a U.S. citizen. Hopefully that sense of pride is not lost forever on future generations of Americans.
Today, I hope you and your family are able to enjoy time together, however you mark the day.