Being Vulnerable and Authentic

I enjoy people. I enjoy getting to know people. I would much sooner have a one-on-one meaningful conversation with someone than spend time at a big party having trivial chit-chat.  Not that I get invited to many big parties, you understand. Still, having a so-called deep conversation –something beyond the weather and local news – takes risk, trust and vulnerability. But I believe that it is how we come to understand each other better, how we can come to see things from a new perspective, sometimes even come to understand someone else’s situation with a little more empathy.

So it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me when I was told that people want to hear my personal story as to why I came to write my book Grounded. But it did come as a surprise!  I never wanted to be the centre of attention in my story, although I am the narrator. The closest I came to identifying myself is at the end of the prologue under the title Mystery Question with the accompanying Clue.

Although the author and narrator, I was always hesitant to disclose the fact that I am Marie in the story, as to me Billy is the real hero. I sometimes feel that I almost need to apologize because I came out the one more-or-less unscathed physically, (not counting having leg surgery years later) whereas my friend never walked again. And who also died early in real life.

I come from a traditional, rural, conservative, more -less private family – my mother for sure being the quiet one. Whereas, my father loved to be around people and enjoyed fun. Although serious like my mother, I am my father’s daughter when it comes to being a people person.

So when I got sick, it was a private matter and other than an emergency, like calling the doctor, you didn’t say anything private on the phone. After all, someone might be listening in on the party line. And there was always that someone who seemed to know all the latest gossip.

I wish that I could remember more details of when I was sick as it was never spoken of at home after my recovery. Our parents always protected us from knowing if there was a financial downturn or anything they thought we didn’t need to worry about. But the images that are still sharp from my childhood are waking up in the spare room, which was weird as it was kept only for company. I  also remember Dr. Smith coming which meant that something serious had happened. And of course, I remember that my legs wouldn’t move. Because I was in and out of sleep at the time due to the fever and with the passing of time, there are some details I never knew or have forgotten.

Mom was a worrier. This is something I can well understand being a mother myself, and especially for her at the time knowing that our closest neighbour’s child had already contracted the virus. Because I was young and had recovered, for the most part, I never asked her to tell me what exactly happened. Even in old age, after I had written my book, she didn’t want to read it, saying it might make her sad or cry. And crying was not something that one did back then, as one had to be strong. I tried to tell her that it all worked out okay. Still, I had the feeling that she wouldn’t talk about it because she felt guilty, that somehow she should have protected me more. Realizing this, I explained that she had actually saved me because she called the doctor in time, even though she would not have known the importance of doing so within the first 24-48 hours, otherwise irreparable damage would already have been done.

Years later, while visiting my mother at the retirement home, suddenly one day, out of the blue, she said, “It was a hot day in August. The men were threshing in the back field…” and then she stopped.

I don’t know if my mother ever did read my book. I hope that she did as I dedicated it to her mother, my grandmother Love, who had infantile paralysis as a child and had to learn how to walk again.

Every day when I go for my walk, I am so grateful that my legs did come back to life and that my legs still work this many years later!

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