In How to Forget: A Daughter’s Memoir, Kate Mulgrew writes about the stark contrasts of her relationships with her parents. “My father never saw me act — he found actors an unsavory breed,” the Orange Is the New Black star tells Closer Weekly in the magazine’s latest issue, on newsstands now. Her mom, on the other hand, “came to every film and TV set and play I was in. We were more like friends than mother and daughter.”
Her parents’ deaths were just as different. “It’s one thing to say goodbye quickly, as in my father’s death,” says Kate, 64, whose dad died of brain cancer at 83 in 2004. “He elected to die the way he died, so it was much easier to endure and witness that death.”
But her mother suffered from Alzheimer’s disease for nine years before she passed away at 78 in 2006. “Hers was a descent into darkness, and one that she would have given anything to have avoided,” Kate says. “There’s nothing pleasant, noble, exalting or cathartic about it. It is the single most unforgiving and merciless illness in the world.”
Though Kate lives in L.A. and her mother was in Iowa, “I was her health care guardian, so I was there as often as I could possibly be,” she says. “At the end I was there every day.”
By writing How to Forget, Kate (whose 2015 autobiography Born With Teeth was a best-seller) hopes to help others dealing with loss. “There’s no shame in bemoaning the death of one’s parents,” she says. “There is no shame in one’s own great sorrow, and it should be shared so that it can be better understood.”
She also works to shed light on dementia as a member of the Alzheimer’s Association’s National Advisory Council. “The better we understand it, the sooner one will come to a cure,” Kate says. “It begins with a deep kind of grief that we hold to ourselves. If we let it go with a little more grace and vulnerability, we stand to learn more about one another.”
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