At just past seventy, Alex Witchel’s smart, adoring, ultra-capable mother began to exhibit undeniable signs of dementia. Witchel reacted as she’d been raised: If something was broken, she would fix it. But as medical reality undid that hope, she retreated to the kitchen, trying to reclaim the mother who was disappearing in plain sight, by cooking the comforting foods that were her mother’s signature.
Reproducing the perfect meat loaf was no panacea, but it helped a grieving daughter come to terms with her predicament, the growing phenomenon of “ambiguous loss” — loss of a beloved one who lives on. Gradually Witchel developed a deeper appreciation for all the ways the mother she was losing lived on in her, starting with the daily commandment — “Tell me everything that happened today” — that set a future reporter and writer on her path. And she was inspired to turn her experience into this bittersweet account that offers true balm for an increasingly familiar form of heartbreak.