A personal story of crisis, commitment, and hope from the best-selling author of Memoirs of An Ex-Prom Queen
One day it happens, the dreaded thing that will change your life forever, the more dreadful because, though you've half expected it, you don't know what form it will take or when it will come, and whether or not you will rise to the challenge. For Alix Kates Shulman, it happened on July 22, 2004, at two a.m. on a coastal Maine island in a remote seaside cabin with no electricity, running water, or road to reach it—where the very isolation that makes it a perfect artist's retreat renders it as risky as life itself. She woke to find that her beloved seventy-five-year-old husband had fallen the nine feet from their sleeping loft and was lying on the floor below, naked and deathly still. Though Scott would survive, he suffered an injury that left him seriously brain impaired. He was the same—but not the same.
Each of us has imagined with dread the occurrence of just such an event outside our control that will permanently alter the course of our lives. In this elegant memoir, Shulman describes life on the other side: the ongoing anxieties and risks—and surprising rewards—she experiences as she reorganizes her world and her priorities to care for her husband and discovers that what might have seemed a grim life sentence to some has evolved into something unexpectedly rich.
A fall from a loft bed left author Shulman s 75-year-old husband with traumatic brain injury and utterly dependent on his wife, as she recounts in this deeply affecting memoir of their ordeal together. The fall in the summer of 2004 in their Maine seaside cottage inflicted numerous broken bones, internal bleeding and blood clots to Scott York s brain, causing damage that Shulman gradually learned would take years to heal and probably cause permanent memory loss. Advocating for the best treatment, therapy and eventual care back in their New York City loft became the author s calling for the next year, though to her growing dismay she recognized that her once brilliant husband, a sculptor and former financier, would never make art again or even be able to hold an intellectual conversation. His impairment is rendered particularly poignant as Shulman (Drinking the Rain and Memoirs of an Ex-Prom Queen), moves backward in time over their 50-year relationship, first as college lovers in 1950, meeting up again in 1984, when as divorced adults in their 50s they rekindled their passion and mutual interests and got married. Carving out time for herself and her writing kept her from having a nervous breakdown, and while her hope at times flagged, Shulman s devotion never faltered, as demonstrated by her candid account.
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This is a definitive work on the blessings and burdens of marriage; on the ways the latter enriches the former. It is a sobering and insightful study of the realities of brain damage and disease. It is an unromanticized, yet deeply romantic, tribute to the enduring power of love.
Alix's language is lush and layered, inviting the reader to explore each sentence as if wandering an unknown path with a guaranteed reward at the end. This complexity is balanced by her ability convey emotion and decode the human condition with remarkable clarity and concision.
At 27 and unmarried, I am moved to tears. I will read again and again throughout my life.