Memoirs by Proxy
Beth Harlan Greb, author
"Memoirs by Proxy" is a series of memoirs, including the author's own. For her parents memoirs she draws on the thousands of letters and documents they had kept, beginning before they married in 1941. He was an Iowa farmer who became the Legal Vice President of Eastern Airlines. She was a New Hampshire typist who became his sophisticated and charming wife. The author examines parents and grandparents and great-grandparents in the context of their generations. She then goes on to reveal her reactions to growing up with a father who was seldom at home and a mother who took her children on an extended field trip all over the United States, leaving them with relatives for extended periods of time. As she grows to adulthood, the author finds her mother more and more difficult to be around, and her mother is unaccepting of the problems of her grandchild who experiences a catastrophic mental illness. Mental illness is a main theme of this book, but there are sub-themes of religion, as well as the failings of the medical and social arenas. The author describes her struggles to understand and to help her mother, and is rewarded by knowing it was the right thing to do to have her mother live at her home for the last year of her life. Reading through thousands of letters and documents, author Beth Harlan Greb had the experience of meeting her parents and brother again in the context of their time. Memoirs by Proxy is a window to the past; a narrative that looks at the author's preceding generation filled with lessons for the present one.