Absorbing account of the author’s sudden plunge into life with a quadriplegic.
Suzy Parker met Ralph Hager on a bike trip in Mexico; they got married and made a life of rock climbing, skiing, camping, and socializing. Then one day when she was 44, her husband went over his handlebars and woke up without the use of his body below his shoulders. Parker paints a most vivid picture of the challenges faced by this once thrill-seeking couple who now must devote the lion's share of their time to getting Ralph awake, cleaned, fed, drugged, catheterized, in his wheelchair, to his computer or the television, and through the day. She was almost undone by the challenge, and her story traces her ways of coping—therapists, support groups, drugs, family, activism—and others’ reactions to the accident. A new set of friends appears as her old circle dissipates. Mama Scott walks in one day and becomes a fixture with her sequins, soul food, and handicrafts; laid-back health-care worker Jerry welcomes Parker into his bed; former Tibetan sherpa Harka moves in to help care for Ralph and get to know America. Rather than climbing cliffs, Parker expends her energy getting Ralph to the movies or the ballpark, and explorations take place much closer to home: in the apartments of house-bound neighbors and at the local supermarket. As in her NPR commentaries and columns for the San Francisco Chronicle, Parker employs a mix of grim humor and unflinching honesty to lay bare the combination of raw despair, hopelessness, and tedium of caring for a man who once climbed mountains and now must have his bowels voided manually. She’s also candid about the surprising remedies (including the affair with Jerry) she grabs for and clings to with a death grip.
Deft, compelling, and unexpectedly entertaining.