My grandparents, while in their early sixties, the age I am now, were diagnosed with severe progressive neurological disorders; my grandfather had ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, my grandmother, an aggressive form of Parkinson’s. They lived in a modest stone house, downtown Hamilton, Ontario. My mom and dad were their main, almost only, source of support.
While my parents cut the lawn, shopped, and banked for them, I followed my grandmother as she shuffled around the kitchen making a Finnish staple, “Pulla”. And I watched my grandfather put classical music on their Hi Fi, usually Sibelius, then hook himself up to a tube connected to his liquid “lunch-in-a-bag” hanging from the chandelier in the centre of the living room. He had lost the ability to swallow.
Even though I was only around eight at the time, their struggles made me ache. But I also marveled at their ability to still find joy in their shrinking worlds. And their desire to hold onto what independence they had, shaped me, profoundly and forever.
In high school I was told about the profession of occupational therapy, and that, at its core were: the view that there are lots of ways to live a life; the belief that autonomy and self-determination is what makes us whole; and the assertion that we have the right to take risks. In that instant, I knew I was meant to be an OT!
My career spanned several decades, throughout which I embraced those core OT values – that is, as a professional, with my clients. However, as a parent of three sons, sometimes I wasn’t so sure.
Ready to Come About, being released by Dundurn Press this May, is the story of my improbable year on the North Atlantic, and my personal journey within, through which the mom in me ultimately became convinced there is no more precious gift than the liberty to chart one’s own course, and risk is a good thing… sometimes, at least.
Given the OT subtext of Ready to Come About, I emailed OT Extraordinaire, Sue Baptiste, to ask if she would be an advance reader. Her answer was an immediate “yes”, and her praise, swift and high.
To my delight, here is what she had to say:
Recently I joined Sue for a wonderful lunch in Hamilton.
Thank you so much, Sue Baptiste!