My friend Roger told me about this book.
Can I just stop for a moment and gush on serendipity? If it weren’t for my dearest, long-time friend Betsy, who saved me in my teenaged years, introducing me to Roger, who has already become one of my favorite people on the planet, I might never have found this book.
And… that would have been a shame!
Folks, I opened it three days ago straight from the mailbox (and in front of four other books in various stages of read-ing-ness piled on my bedside table) and didn’t put it down until this morning, when I finished it (along with a box of Kleenex needed for the tears I couldn’t stop.)
Ah, tears. So needed right now… so cleansing… but I digress.
It was there – literally on the first page – we meet Jane, an English mentor and teacher who offers to teach Scott everything she knows.
You may wonder…
And, so the story begins.
Scott does not linger there because it is not the story she is here to tell… but it is a part of it… the part where Scott takes a line…
If not now, when?
And tucks it in her heart to be taken out when needed throughout the rest of her life.
Scott breezes through some early history but it clearly isn’t the focus of the story-to-come. We know this and enjoy the foundational work, including fun tidbits like how she played Maggie in… the original!… Dark Shadows! C’mon… now… c’mon… only one of my favorite shows of all time! I remember Maggie! I mean, how neat is that?
And then, she meets the man (twice!) who will become the perfect man for her. Geoff Miller and Scott lived what many would consider a charmed life. And, lucky us! We get to come along for the ride, road-tripping up the coast of California (to one of my favorite places! Cambria! Read about my time there in this blog post) and flying to New York, and across the pond and back again. In between, there are friends and parties and quiet, romantic hikes and picnics. Both were in the Entertainment Industry Sector… she as an actor and writer, he as co-founder of Los Angeles Magazine along with being editor & publisher… and together they formed a company to develop film and TV projects. Life was good!
Then, sixteen years into their marriage… a monster called Progressive Supranuclear Palsy PSP entered and didn’t leave. I’d never heard of it! It never ceases to amaze me how many things we don’t know – especially about our clunky human bodies. It was neurological and was going to affect everything. Scott would become her husband’s caregiver.
Geoff’s neurologist suggested Scott keep a daily journal and indeed, she did! The contents later built the foundations for books on the subject of caregiving, grief and the lessons learned through loss.
(By the way: This book is not Scott’s first on being a caregiver for her husband. That would be Last Dance at the Savoy.)
I can tell you with certainty what sets this book apart from most others on the subject of caretaking a person (specifically a spouse) with a debilitating illness: She took what she learned during and applied it after. <<< This is the self-help aspect that SHINES!
I’d like to stop for a moment and share that my friend Roger, and then Scott, both without knowing, gave me a gift that I could pass on. It’s not something I’ve discussed openly because it’s not entirely my story to tell. However, there is a portion of it that is absolutely mine, as daughter. You may remember my dad took a fall in December, 2017. The aftermath was almost as terrible as the accident itself, as he needed surgery, nearly died, got a wicked infection, nearly died, and rallied, though the doctors say he should have died. I credit tacos. He always said his love of tacos would get him through anything that ailed him. (Warm fuzzy memory!)
So, Dad is still with us, thank God… but… things are simply not the same. Depression and anxiety didn’t disappear as he got better physically and he still seemed frail. He was more forgetful than usual. He’s in his mid-80s, so of course you don’t expect a jaunty bounce-back… but… this was different. Lingering. Earlier this year, he was diagnosed with dementia. While it’s not yet severe, it’s significant, and my mother, who is younger than he but not much (sorry, Mom!) and has physical issues of her own (one very significant back injury that required surgery and still didn’t take care of the pain), is taking care of him on her own – along with some fabulous doctors, of course! But the lion’s share… it’s hers.
As I read the first part of this book, I cried my eyes out. I cried for my daddy and my mom… and me, unable to help… so far away. I also cried for Geoff, who understood what was happening and couldn’t stop it… and Scott, who (quite frankly) is my new hero. She would probably think I’m being maudlin but when you read about her packing prowess (including toilet seat and wheelchair) for a lengthy cruise you can’t help but be amazed. That cruise, by the way, was their swan song… and it’s a beautiful testament to their love, devotion and courage.
Then, I read part two and cried again… it’s the part about grieving, dealing with the minutia of funeral planning… learning to navigate friendships as “a single” and a bit of a surprise at the end, too… as Scott goes on the trip of a lifetime… to China! She went with a girlfriend she trusted… and had a FANTABULOUS time. Her first stop when she got home? The cemetery, to tell Geoff all about it!
And then, part three… where she joins the FBI. Kidding, but not, because she takes classes with the FBI Citizens Academy to help her understand investigation for a book she was writing. You’ll wonder if there’s really such a thing? Click the link! For realz, peeps! Is that not cool, or what?
Scott also gets involved as a volunteer with CurePSP – to join with others in offering a roadmap for others to follow and hopefully find a cure!
And… later… when she’s ready… a lovely man magically appears and becomes a travelling companion and perhaps more. Thank God for technology as they’re on opposite sides of the world and email & Skype keep them connected. <<< By the by, she says, and I concur, that “talking” in this way sometimes makes for deeper connections. As I met my husband online (he in Canada, me in the US) and there was no Skype then, email it was! And, snail mail. LOL I remember when I got my first photo of him in my hands… he was so adorable. But yes, I digress.
But here’s – perhaps – one of the most important things about this book: It’s a thread weaving through the whole thing and it begins on the very first page – with Scott’s mentor Jane, who says:
“If not now, When?”
If not now. When?
When I finished the book, I wanted to know more, as my friend Roger knew I would. And so, I reached out to the author and asked her for an interview. I mean… if not now, when? Right?
She graciously acquiesced… and guys… look for an interview with Kathryn Leigh Scott by early December, where I ask about Jane, her self-help rituals and also about a little thing she calls “Happy Hour”. I can’t wait!