This is a poignant, beautiful memoir about the seemingly insurmountable challenges that life throws at some of us. For the author, we wonder how she can go on, how she can rise to the testing of her patience and fortitude. Can she continue to put one foot in front of the other, day after day? Can she continue caretaking everyone around her, many times putting her own life on hold?
Wanting desperately to have a child, the author suffers miscarriage after miscarriage and questions if her body is meant to bear life. On the other end of life's spectrum is her mother's elder years with the complication and heartbreak of Alzheimer's disease.
Campanella is a good daughter, a dutiful daughter, tirelessly (although truly exhausted) caring for her parents in the midst of chaos—paperwork hoarding when her father (the man who has always been in charge) can no longer keep up with it, a refrigerator full of spoiled food for the same reason, and her mother's incontinence and memory loss.
Alzheimer's disease is like a thief of life's sweet memories. Campanella writes about her mother: "I miss her, my funny, sweet mom, the ways she was there for me...I miss our walks around the neighborhood, the way we'd laugh about something silly until our stomachs hurt...I'm sorry I didn't talk to her more when she was able. I didn't realize the time would be so short." (181) Many of us have experienced this robber disease.
While the author and her siblings share the responsibility of her parents, she also cares for horses at her small boarding barn as she tries to hang onto her dream of spending time with them and sometimes competing. They are like the children she doesn't have.
All of this, including the tried and failed pregnancies, is often handled alone as her husband (although supportive) pursues his career and travels the world. They love each other and try to stay connected. Her husband invites her on trips: "We could get away, see some really cool places and have some fun."
Campanella even joins him on a couple of trips across the Pond, but all the while is worrying about her parents, her horses, and her desire to be pregnant. She writes, "It sounds good and easy when Joel says it, and I appreciate that he wants us to be together. I want that, too. But lately fun has become a foreign concept."
Painstakingly written over two decades, Campanella's memoir evolved from journal entries and revised drafts critiqued and encouraged by her writing group. No wonder so many years went by. How could she find the time to write while in the midst of the maelstrom of life swirling around her?
This book is a gift that Campanella lovingly and transparently composed. It's a tribute to love, family, life, and faithfulness. We all go through challenges. Sharing them sometimes lightens the load and in so doing helps others who may be on the same journey.
Ann Campanella was formerly a magazine and newspaper editor, but her real love is writing creative nonfiction and poetry. Her collections of poetry include the award-winning What Flies Away, and she received the Poet Laureate Award twice from the North Carolina Poetry Society. Her work has been published in local and national journals and anthologies, including the bestselling A Cup of Comfort series. She has a degree in English Literature from Davidson College, and lives on a small horse farm in North Carolina with her family and animals. Visit her website.
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