Dayton Daily News
A tender fictional portrayal of the aging and their caretakers
I’m older than I was five minutes ago. So are you. None of us are getting any younger. Some of us are in persistent denial about aging and will do almost anything to attempt to slow the process. There are others who embrace it, experiencing it without many fears or regrets.
Many Americans are living longer, this spawns turbulent moments as older citizens confront physical ailments, cognitive issues, and ultimately, mortality. Then there are all the people who have to take care of this aging population.
In her novel “One More Day” Diane Chiddister takes us inside Grace Woods Care Center where we observe how some fictional elderly are dealing with end of life issues and how some of their caretakers are handling that responsibility.
The story is told from the alternating points of view of four central characters; two staff members at the care center and two residents at that facility. Most of the action takes place within the walls of this cozy little place.
Beth is the person who has been in charge. She’s empathetic,
dedicated to her job and the residents within her care. She’s proud of the level of service this fairly small enterprise has been providing for the elderly residents entrusted to their care.
Sally is 42 and has been working as a nursing assistant at Grace Woods since she was 17. She’s completely devoted and lavishes affection on the residents. Like Beth, her work is her life. There’s really not much going on for either of them outside of it.
Lillian is lost. She has dementia. The facility isn’t really set up to handle her cognitive issues. She wanders the halls. She just wants to find her home. She knows this place isn’t it. Lillian is quite quick-she keeps escaping to wander the streets vainly searching for her house and family.
Thomas is a retired professor. He has a brilliant mind. Sally, his caretaker, is fond of him. He’s nearing the end. Chiddister’s title, “One More Day,” becomes his mantra. That’s all he wants. As he enters hospice care he is reunited with his estranged daughter.
The author steadily builds tension; the facility is being sold to a large operation, they will expand it. The new boss is not appreciative of Beth’s legacy. Lillian’s escapes are another cause for growing friction and liability. Thankfully, Liliian also renders bittersweet comic relief.
Sally falls in love with a colleague. Her self doubt is the main obstacle for her happiness. Meanwhile Thomas bids a poignantly gentle farewell: “in her mind, Sally sees Thomas rising up from the bed again. He seems to be soaring, up, up, into the sky. He’s moving away from the world.”
“One More Day” brims with emotion as characters face life issues: love, lack of love, the desire for a home, feeling passion for a job, losing a job, and finally, bidding goodbye to a life.
This book marks the fiction debut for Chiddister, a long-time journalist and former editor of the Yellow Springs News.