Monday, January 11, 2010

A cautionary tale

The overwhelming message of "The Water Giver" is wear a helmet.

I don't think that was the intent of its author Joan Ryan who subtitled this story of her experience with her son "The Story of a Mother, a Son and Their Second Chance."

But that was what ran through my mind constantly as Ryan recounts the months of surgeries and rehabilitation her son, an experienced skateboarder, endured after his fall on a San Francisco street.

She is surprisingly unsentimental through it all, something she credits to her training as a journalist. Where some of us would be reduced to tears and hand-wringing, she is spurred to note taking and crafting plans.

I admired that about her.

Her prose has a certain way of making the reader pause. You're just reading along, following the journey, when you reach a sentence that stops you in your tracks and makes you say, Hmmm.

Things like:

"We were beginning to understand how different the rhythm of illness was from the rhythm of life." or

"We think everyone else has it all figured out. But we're all stumbling around in dark rooms bumping into the furniture and stifling our cries so no one else will know." or

"43 percent of all deaths among five- to nine-year-olds are from traumatic brain injuries."

A sobering statistic to say the least.

And while Ryan's story does speak to the power of second chances and the bond between parent and child, it's that statistic that kept coming at me.

- Tricia Ambrose

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