Sunday, April 15, 2007


This is a wordy blog site, I know, because, you know, I LIKE words. Words are my life. I will try to add some visuals, especially when I take off for Qatar next week to attend a global disabilities conference. Meanwhile, here is another absolutely superb letter in response to the book. It is written by Joe Patten, a father of two from Baltimore, and it expresses perfectly how stories like mine travel and where they might land. I am Joe's dad, only a few years younger. We both live in the kingdom of the sick, to use Susan's Sontag's term, and we often get lost. Thank you, Mr. Patton, for this:


I am a salesman in the Baltimore, Maryland area. This past Friday
afternoon, while driving, I needed to take a leak and replenish the coffee. Barnes & Noble seemed like a good place to accomplish this. Bathroom first - Coffee second. After leaving the men's room, I was walking through the biography section on my way to the coffee stand and saw a book with a picture of a man in a wheel chair. I was in sort of a hurry, but I did pick up the book to read the overleaf because about two years ago, at the age of 71, my father was diagnosed with a condition - transverse myelitis - less than three years into his retirement. I cancelled my afternoon appointment, bought my cup of coffee, found a couch, and read for the next two hours. I bought the book before I left, and had it finished by Sunday.

I'm the only surviving child of my parents, 46 years old, married for 22 years, have a son away at college and a daughter in private high school. Our life, and the 1-2 hour distance that my parents live from me (depending on traffic), has limited me in my complete understanding of my father's condition. I fully understood the physical aspect of his condition that he and my mother are coping with, but for a long time I have felt that his mental perspective has been kept hidden from view.

Two years has passed and I was hoping that the attitude he was displaying was genuine, but at the same time, I wondered. He and I are close, but it seemed he was keeping something from me. I went to see him yesterday. I told him that I had read a book about a man that had been diagnosed with the same condition as he, and that I understood some things that I had not before, especially when it came to terms of acceptance and moving on. He cried. He and mom have educated themselves and used all of the online resources to gain a better understanding of what has happened to him, but he still has questions. He is still in the "Dark" stage of learning to deal with his life he now has. He has publicly accepted his condition and understands that there was probably nothing he could have done to have prevented it, but I think when it's just him, he still asks "why?".

I read about twenty books a year, mostly books that have been given to me. There are some books that that have left a footprint on my life, but this book of yours has created a whole new category. It's the new "Self Help in Understanding the Unexplainable Things in Life (that we don't have enough time to ponder to arrive at our own conclusions without the guidance of experienced people)" category. "The Best Seat in the House" has set the stage in my library.

I am going to give Dad this book on Easter Sunday. He was 71 years old when diagnosed. He was retired. He has rehabbed to the point where he can walk with a walker short distances. He has full use of his upper body. He does not currently use a wheelchair. I think you can see the impact this book is going to have on him. Thank you for hanging in there to clear the "Dark Chapters" of your life and taking the time to write about it. Thank you for your honesty about the facts. And please understand that your book is going to have a therapeutic impact on my father in a way that none of us ever could.

Best Regards,

Joe Patton


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