“A well-written love story.....…. inspiring and heartfelt, with a touch of sweet sadness at the end.” An Amazon commenter.
It might be realistic, but fiction is still fiction
As a writer the late-life, October Years stories I tell are fictional, but hopefully realistic. For instance, in Best Friends and Promises, when I depict Aaron Peck’s struggle to maintain contact with Leona as she slips further behind her disorienting Alzheimer’s veil, I am painting what I hope is a convincing word-picture of an imagined scenario that will end in only one way. Still, though I appreciate the affirming validation of readers who find my account convincing……it is in the end a work of fiction, a figment of my imagination, something less than real.
Reality, however, is not a fiction
If, however, you are drawn to reality, a well-told story of actual events, you would be hard pressed to do better than a new book by Luke Fritz Jr. An ALS Love Story: Updates on Pat is absolutely real, and all the more convincing because of that. There, in a setting of stark reality, in the face of a daunting ALS diagnosis, Fritz offers his very personal account of an extraordinary woman and the love they share……caring for each other while battling that unwelcome intrusion into their long and enduring relationship.
To be sure, his is an unvarnished, inspirational love story.……the harrowing tale of an aging husband who sets aside everything to devote his life to the care of his ailing, failing wife. From the beginning they realize that ALS will be a relentless adversary, whose path ultimately leads to only one destination. Yet their journey will prove be an illuminating time of love, joy, humor, and yes, some sadness.
The battle is joined
A while back I posted an October Years blog titled “October works best as a shared effort.” Fritz’ story is a perfect example of that truth. In the face of long odds the two of them, Luke and Pat, vow to resist her diagnosis, to impose their will on the inevitable. And my, how they resist. Time after time they manage to wring bits of loving sunshine from a universe of dark, unyielding clouds. You can sense the resolve in Luke’s defiant, yet situationally appropriate humor……those special moments when the two of them renew their determined stand against an unpromising future.
And theirs will not be a private story. At every step, through even the harshest times, Luke provides family and friends with the email updates that are central to his story. With that simple, but effective literary device Fritz offers the reader an easy to follow account of Pat’s ALS struggles and their continuing attempts to find the ‘normal’ in what has become an increasingly ‘un-normal’ world.
Each chapter begins with one of Pat’s friends reminiscing about the woman they knew so well. And always, at the heart of Fritz’ narrative are telling hints of what he manages to avoid. His account is undeniably emotional, yet comfortably calm. The couple’s struggles are often touching, yet never saccharine, and dramatic, without unnecessary drama. At every turn the reader senses Pat’s thankful confidence in her windmill-tilting knight……even when his armor seems a bit tarnished.
In the hands of a loving caregiver
Month after month Luke’s waking hours, sometimes twenty-four at a time, are increasingly devoted to tasks that Pat can no longer do for herself. As her decline continues he assumes responsibility for her grooming and personal hygiene. Meal preparation and housekeeping chores, so much a part of her natural ‘mothering’ instinct, are handed off to him. In time he is even feeding her.
As his care-taking role expands, so too does Luke’s inventory of special equipment……the mobility, health care, and treatment devices necessary to maintain Pat’s comfort and functioning. At every turn he consults with ALS specialists, learning to use the new tools they suggest. As always he carries on with a single, overriding commitment in mind. He will provide the care and comfort she needs, in their own home, doing what needs doing. She will not be sent off to some impersonal care facility.
Pat’s story is a family story
From beginning to end Pat’s story is a powerful family-centered account, one that includes their three children, each of them an inheritor of their parents’ strong will. While Fritz gently tugs the reader toward a calm acceptance of the end of life as an actuality, rather than an abstract possibility, he offers up-close insights into a special sort of alchemy. With indomitable determination the entire family, all five of them, face trials that would surely overwhelm and embitter most of us. Yet through it all their unquestioning support for each other never waivers.
It is probably not coincidental that each of them……mother, father, and children……has found his or her life’s calling as teachers. To a person they share an unselfish gift of caring for the vulnerable and needy. Each of them will weather their own life-changing trials and emerge with an inbred desire to share their gifts.
Why tell a story like this?
In Fritz’ own words Pat’s story was written to “Raise awareness of ALS and share the essence of a superbly remarkable lady.” Together the two of them had set off on a great adventure, a daunting journey littered with speed bumps, unexpected detours, and surprising touches of hopeful anticipation……culminating in what one reviewer terms a surprisingly “sweet sadness.”
In his telling he creates a heartfelt rendering of lives worth living, even in the face of imminent death……two caring persons who literally give everything they have to give in the name of their love. And as he recounts the chronicle of his brave and caring heroine, Fritz proves that a story like theirs certainly has room for two heroes.
Truth in advertising
The paperback edition of An ALS Love Story, with its many color photos, is more expensive than the books I normally buy. However, the Kindle version, at $3.99, is the kind of bargain I love……a wonderful, feel-good read, in spite of the sad conclusion that Fritz never attempts to dodge. The proceeds from all sales are being donated to ALS research.