While I was working on “Finding Ruth”, a fear lurked in the back of my mind that my mom would never get a chance to see it. Or if she did hang in there long enough, the Alzheimer’s might be too advanced for her to comprehend the fact that I had written a book about her. There was also the niggling thought that the event might trigger a clarity of mind she hadn’t possessed in years, putting me straight in the dog house.
Fortunately, none of those scenarios came to pass. Once the book was ready for publishing, I sent three copies to my brother—one for him, one for my sister who was visiting, and one for my mom. As soon as they arrived, Mel and Brad presented her with a copy. I got a text from Mel: I sure wish we were all together—mom is getting a real kick out of her book! It is so amazing!!
Later, when my sister was back home, she told me about our mother’s reaction when she saw the cover.
“We know who this is,” Ruth said, an expression of quizzical wonder on her face. “Who is it?” she muttered to herself, looking back and forth at her children. Finally, Brad clued her in.
“Is that you, Mom?”
When the realization hit her, she gasped, “It is me!”
After a few minutes of marveling over the fact that the book in her hand was about her, she flipped back to the front cover and regarded the photograph that had sparked my obsession.
“I’ve got to admit, that’s a pretty damn good picture,” she said breaking into a laugh at her own candor.
Though I wasn’t able to witness it firsthand, I can completely picture the scene in my mind. I can hear her actually reading the first sentence on the back cover before her words became nonsensical. I can hear the lilt in her voice, the change in her intonation, just the way it was when she read to us at night. I can hear her laughter, that joyous, almost raucous sound she makes when she’s caught off guard by something that really tickles her.
The truth is I would’ve never considered writing my mom’s story if she hadn’t lost touch with reality. Even if it had occurred to me that doing so would’ve softened her opinion of me, there was no way I could’ve written something so candid. Let’s just say she might take issue with one or two scenes from her past. Not that I can blame her. But in order to tell the story in all its complexities, I had to look beyond her narrative and examine the situation in an unbiased fashion, like a detective at a crime scene.
But after it is all said and done, “Finding Ruth” is a tribute to one amazingly strong woman.
Here’s to all the strong women who’ve made our lives better by having known them!
Until next time…