Sunday, May 25, 2008

BBBT--Wa.ter for Elep;hants

This book tour's selection was For Elep.hants by Sara Gruen. I really enjoyed this book and if you haven't read it, I recommend adding it to your to-be-read list. I picked it up on a Friday and was finished by Sunday night. The characters are very compelling and well, I love the circus so it was a fun but interesting book to read. The amount of research that the author did to ensure that the time period was accurately portrayed was very refreshing and made for a wonderful novel. Anyhow...


What is your favorite circus related memory?

I went to the circus a few times as a kid but my favorite Circus memories were at the Circus Museum in Baraboo, Wi. I got to ride an elephant. The elephant was decked out in full costume and the ride was just around the circle but being so high up and on top of a powerful animal that could at any moment just change it's mind and run wild was pretty cool for a 12 year old. But at the same time, there is something truly amazing about such a large animal that is tame enough to allow children to pull it's ears. It is one place that I would love to go back to as an adult and see just how my younger self saw things differently.

On page 109, old Jacob complains about how his family keeps secrets from him: "And those are just the things I know about. There are a host of others they don't mention because they don't want to upset me. I've caught wind of several, but when I ask questions, they clam right up. Mustn't upset Grandpa, you know... Why? That's what I want to know. I hate this bizarre policy of protective exclusion, because it effectively writes me off the page. If I don't know about what's going on in their lives, how am I supposed to insert myself in the conversation?... I've decided it's not about me at all. It's a protective mechanism for them, a way of buffering themselves against my future death..." Reading this, I could see myself in both Jacob & in his family members, both in respect to our infertility situation and other matters. Whose viewpoint do you relate to most in this passage and why?

I would have to say that it depends on the person that I am dealing with. We have some family members and others that we are more apt to share things in a more open manner but there are other family members that don't really need to know. I know that part of the reason that we aren't open with those other family members is that they are not open with us. The relationship needs to be two ways. However, when concerned with a person's age and health, while I do agree that sometimes things need a bit of a buffer, I feel that if it is something that you would have shared with them all along then it should be shared regardless of the situation. I do think that as people realize that others are moving on either in age or in life that it is very easy to pull away when you think that the relationship is going to end in one form or another. I don't like that reaction but I think it is a very common reaction to potential change.

Something that struck me about this book in particular was the rich, descriptive way the author handled Jacob as an elderly man. His frustration was so apparent, his physical manifestation so perfectly described, that of all of the elements of this book Jacob the Elderly is what stays with me. You had the sense that Jacob didn't foresee his latter years being the way they were, and his almost "ride off into the sunset" ending perhaps what he had envisaged for his end. Do you think about what's at the end of the road someday? When you think about it, what do you see for yourself?

If I get to choose, I would like to die without much complication and with most of my sensibilities. When I was 18, I was added to the list of the family members who took care of my Grandma when she was in her 80's. She wasn't diagnosed with Alzheimer's but she did have a case of dementia and lost control of most of her bodily functions. I took 2 or 3 of the 5 days and then they each took one day a week. My uncle lived with her so he covered the weekends. It was not a fun experience. She was mean and ornery most of the time and at other times she was as loving as she could be. She didn't like to get up in the morning and would sleep all day if allowed. It was hard and it was a situation that I would not want to be in again on either side. I feel for those taking care of their loved ones when they need much help. While it is a great sacrifice, it is one that I hope to never ask someone to make. It is hard both emotionally and physically. Plus, I often thought that there were many times that my Grandma questioned why she had to live so long to have her granddaughter change her depends.

On the other hand, my Grandpa on my father's side is in his 90's and is still very independent. He drives for very short distances and is very computer literate. He is often quiet but doesn't seem to lose his place in conversations and events. He seems to have very few age related issues and just moves a bit slower. He has lived an active life and still gardens to the best of his ability. He is aging gracefully and this is how I would like to age.

Hop along to another stop on this blog tour by visiting the main list at You can also sign up for the next book on this online book club: The Empty Picture Frame by Jenna Nadeau (with author participation because she's a blogger!)


Samantha said...

I think growing old gracefully is something that we all espouse, but is something that's so hard to do. My grandmother also had Alzheimer's and it was very sad and difficult watching her decline. My grandfather also went through some decline, but then later in life he seemed better able to adjust to his life and found happiness again, even with some physical limitations. Jacob was definitely having some difficulty with discovering that he was old and his new place in the family. We never really learned much about his children, but I would think they would love him very much.

Lori said...

You got to ride an elephant!

I, too, would much rather age like your grandpa than like your grandma. Kudos to you for taking care of her, especially at that stage of your life.

loribeth said...

You reminded me that I rode an elephant once too -- it was a baby elephant at a game farm in northern Alberta, almost 35 years ago (eek). Pretty cool.

All this talk about how we'd like to age reminded me about a book written 10-15 years ago by two sisters who were both over 100. I think their name was Delaney, & the book was called "Having Our Say." They were black, one was a teacher & one was a dentist, & it was just amazing, the times they had lived through & what they had accomplished in their lives. They lived together, kept up on current events & did yoga every morning. I always said that if I have to be a little old lady, I want to be like them. ; )

Gabrielle said...

howdy fellow elephant rider! Amazing how its just about the only thing I remember from the experience, but it involves my every sense - I can still recall the smell, the feel of its skin, being scared, the back of the ring being so dark, almost dank....

Thanks for sharing!

JuliaS said...

I've never ridden an elephant - though been to a circus. I don't really care much for crowds so it wasn't a very fun experience. I remember enjoying the trapeze artists though.

I would love to be active to the very end - vibrant and still sharp as a tack and just one night, go to sleep and not wake up the next morning with a peaceful smile on my face.

Thanks for your thoughts!