After 41 years of marriage, George and Carol Shannon’s time together became increasingly marked by silence. Their three sons had left home, and the couple had taken to living ostensibly separate lives, with George spending time at the driving range working on his golf swing and Carol consumed by her books. This “extended stale phase,” as George calls it, ended abruptly during a trip to Cabo with family. Carol had been subject to “mini-strokes” in the past, but on this occasion, the stroke severely affected the movement of much of her body and speech. Faced with an uncertain future, George, a cancer survivor, provided the majority of Carol’s care following her discharge from the hospital. The memoir is written from the first-person perspective of George and is co-authored by George’s middle son, Chad Shannon, who would often stand in for his father as caregiver. The authors reveal the continual tension and sometimes-frantic rush associated with caring for a sick loved one: “I knew [Chad] could be at the hospital within minutes….I flew for the giant entrance to the unit…this unit was the hospital’s crisis center. The people they brought here faced death.” The mix of terror and hope is palpable on such occasions. They also find humor and positivity in difficulty, describing how the stroke revealed elements of the “true Carol,” transforming her from a “once-unassuming woman” to “a minor celebrity” at her rehab facility who dropped a “dozen F-bombs as she performed a therapy drill.” George shares his emotions candidly throughout. At the time of Carol’s stroke, he says: “I told myself that if Carol survived this, then I would devote my life to making hers better.” Given that the memoir is co-written, Chad’s perspective, which would have added extra narrative dimension, feels strangely lacking. Still, illustrated with family photographs throughout, this remains a tenderly written memoir that pays testament to the selflessness that springs from unconditional love.
A wistful love story and penetrating glimpse into the duties of a caregiver.