An unprecedented telling of an increasingly common experience: a gay man caring for his elderly parents
My Father’s Keeper is the moving story of Jonathan Silin, a gay man in midlife who learned to care for his elderly parents as a series of life-threatening illnesses forced them to make the difficult transition from being independent to being reliant on their son. Their new needs and unrelenting demands brought them into intimate daily contact and radically transformed what had been a difficult and emotionally fraught relationship.
My Father’s Keeper chronicles the unexpected ways in which the ideas and skills Silin acquired as an early childhood educator, a specialist in life span development, and a compassionate witness to the devastation of the HIV/AIDS crisis came together with his interest in human psychology to deeply inform his thinking about the dramatic changes in his family’s life and increasingly influence his role as his father’s (and mother’s) keeper.
Through the months and years of his parents’ decline, Silin reflects on their history as a family, recalling the pain of his father’s psychological struggles through midlife and the uneasy, imperfect process of accepting his son as a gay man and accepting his son’s partner into the family.
My Father’s Keeper is a book about beginnings and endings, loss and redemption, the ethics of intervention, and the pressing needs of two extremely vulnerable populations.
“Silin achieves a rare balance between clarity and immediacy, universality and specificity, and this is a supreme work, a searingly precise investigation into the times when ambivalence must coexist with love.” —Philip Huang, East Bay Express
“Jonathan Silin’s story is uniquely his own but it could be yours and mine. Precious human documents like this prepare us for what lies ahead. They teach and they heal.” —Terrence McNally, author of Master Class
“Jonathan Silin offers a series of valuable reports from what might be called the country of farewells, using his raw experience to explore important questions about childhood, education, parenting, privacy, control, mental health, old age, death, and forgiveness. This is a rich, careful, honest book, both nakedly personal and coolly philosophical.” —Christopher Bram, author of Gods and Monsters
“Primarily a search for the ethics of caretaking, and the boundaries that waver between parent and child when death looms, My Father’s Keeper is also a book about a gay Jewish teacher who loses his own life partner while his parents are falling apart. Rich with the strange parallels between coping with young schoolchildren and ‘the frail elderly,’ Silin’s conscientious analysis only makes the rocky decline of his two very real parents all the more moving. A wise, insightful book.” —Andrew Holleran, author of The Beauty of Men
“Jonathan Silin writes with analytical precision, delivering, without undue sentimentality, a look at the private struggles and quiet delights of caring for aging parents . . . a series of illuminating investigations into the themes of aging: independence, guilt, control, acceptance, forgiveness.” —Julie Hanus, Utne
“Responsible and poignant . . . Silin’s story reinforces the importance in making every day, every second cout, especially when those days are spent in the precious prescence of the people who raised us.” —Jim Piechota, Bay Area Reporter