Of course, Jo Maeder didn’t really marry her mother.

English: Photo of Jo Maeder with Mama Jo, subj...

Photo of Jo Maeder with Mama Jo, subject of the memoir “When I Married My Mother” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But, for lack of a father, she did everything a spouse would have done to take care of her mother, when, at 79, it became clear her mother could no longer live alone.

She left her career as a DJ in New York City, bought and refurbished a house in North Carolina to be near her brother, and moved her mother out of Richmond to set up housekeeping together.

Such a decision usually involves convincing a parent they need taking care of.

My mother lived on her own, drove her own car, rented her own apartment and paid her own bills until a massive stroke at 83 rendered her unable to live alone the rest of her life.

The only concession she had made to age at that point was moving away from the hectic traffic of suburban Atlanta, to the wide, straight, flat avenues of Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she could be near the only living relative of her generation, her sister-in-law.

Maeder’s mother was no more convinced that she needed taking care of than my mother had been.

With the difference that Maeder’s Mom was a hoarder.

When a neighbor approached Maeder about the imminent danger to her mother, Maeder and her brother began making plans to buy a house for Maeder and her mother to be near her brother, in North Carolina.

Maeder’s Mom called 911 one day when she felt sick.

They sent an ambulance.

And, they condemned her house as a health hazard.

Plans to move her to North Carolina accelerated.

It takes a skilled storyteller to let your awareness grow, slowly, that Maeder is never going to live in New York City again.

Perhaps it was the indefiniteness of living with her mother until the end, three years after she moved.

But, it appears that the South, and the family she didn’t know she longed to be a part of, seduced her.

In the end, though boxing and sorting through the stuff Maeder’s Mom had kept over the years was as painfully emotional as it is for anyone going through their parents’ things, it also uncovered family stories she did not know to ask about.

  • Why did no one from the family attend her mother and father’s wedding?
  • Had their father really not given her mother any alimony in the divorce?
  • Had their parents ever been in love?
  • Why did her mother collect so many dolls?
  • What was her grandmother’s role in all this?

This painful childhood drove Maeder to spend her adult life in New York, away from family.

“Our family ties were like wisps of a cotton puff that couldn’t hold a single thing together.”

“As far as I was concerned, the less we saw of each other, the better.”

Three years taking care of your mother can change your feelings about family.

Maeder still hasn’t moved back to New York.

Click below to hear an interview with the author, Jo Maeder.

Click here to order Maeder’s book, “When I Married My Mother: A Daughter’s Search for What Really Matters – And How She Found It Caring for Mama Jo.”

Click here to read Jo Maeder’s New York Times article about what to do with your mother’s doll collection, “The 700-Doll Question.”


Carol Covin, Granny-Guru

Author, “Who Gets to Name Grandma? The Wisdom of Mothers and Grandmothers



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