The Healer in the Motel

A Story

by Millicent Dillon

What a wonderful, deep story of a daughter and a mother on the outer edge of their lives. Dillon does not compromise the difficulties between them, nor does she say more than she knows. She honors the impossible task of truly knowing another.

Dillon's story of difficult emotions reads like a catharsis, a gift to many of us who have recently experienced a good-bye to a parent or are presently doing so. Catharsis because of the inexpressible guilt mixed with helplessness, rage, grief, yet here courageously expressed, with subtleties more moving than the tremendous act of dying itself.

The best parts to me are the mother's memories of a harsh former world, along with all of its intricate peculiarities. But that they are impossibly wounding to each other is hard to experience--and one does experience it here. Then, the ending is eerily truthful, too--having shut out one's tormenting familiar, one opens a door to all the unfamiliar abyss of the world.

When I reached the end of the story I asked myself, "What happened?" A second reading confirmed that this is the traditional story of the demanding Yiddish mother and the feelings of guilt she causes her children. I see the story played out all around me.


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