The fact that a read a book seems trivial until you realize that I haven’t read a book for two years because of my strokes. Reading was my hobby, and that fact that I could not read anything is demoralizing for me.
It took me several months to complete the book. I often thought I would not do it. But, I had incentive because a long lost relative gave a book to me hoping it would give me incentive to read a certain book called “Wish You Well” by David Baldacci.
First published in 2001, the story starts with the Cardinal family moving from New York to California due to money problems, then shifts to the mountains of Virginia after a car accident leaves the father dead and the mother paralyzed. The time period is in the 1940s.
It was incredibly difficult for me to read that book. I used to read so fast. Now, I do reading therapy, but I still get frustrated. To read at all, I need to have no distractions and I need to read very slowly. I have to read every word. If not, I have to back track. The process is humbling and maddening.
But, I did it for several reasons. First, I just wanted to prove to myself that I could to it at all. The second reason I had to read that book was to have a connection with my mom. When she was on her death bed, Mom told me I should write a book about my strokes. I have a goal to do that -- when I can.
When Mom was dying, I asked Mom about her family often. She did not want to discuss it because she had a horrible childhood. When she was a girl, betrayal, beatings, and horrifying circumstances were her lot in life. I wanted to find out about her mother’s family. She found her mom when Mom’s was 22, and it was not a story book ending. I wanted to find out if there were any signs about strokes in our history. Mom gave me an address for a forgotten half-sister. Their “mother” died of an cerebral hemorrhage.
After Mom died, I started to research about Mom’s family. Through Mom’s half-sister, I found a woman who was Mom’s cousin. Out of the blue, I called her. It was a shock to her. They assumed the baby was adopted. I visited with her several times, and we met in May. It was a great visit though we were sad that Mom did not live long enough to meet her cousins.
That cousin sent “Wish You Well” to me last fall. She sent a letter with the book, and in part she wrote, “I felt the connections of finding long lost relatives or in our case unknown relatives. I know that reading is difficult for you at this time.” She continued writing, “I thought of you in the courage displayed by the characters in the story. After your strokes, many people would have given up but you have fought your way back against all odds and now your story till help many others. I can’t tell you how proud I am of you.”
That note meant the world to me. Through lost decades, her words encouraged me to read that book. Her note was a placeholder in the book. When I thought I could not go on, I read – slowly and halting -- that note, I persevered. It seemed that Mom was channeling her.
This book is filled with family history, tragedy, a stroke, and hope. It was a stunning book for me to read in so many ways.