There is nothing easy for a caretaker who is in the throes of day-to-day, intricate insanities of caring for a very sick family member. To convey the feeling and frustration, the visceral heartbreak, the moments of joy, and sheer physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional exhaustion is an incredible task. Pat Stanford not only shines in conveying the true, real, and at times, gritty, story of life as the primary caretaker for her brain-injured sister, Barb, “Boo Boo,” but she does what great writers do: she places the reader there.
After stepping over the trash-laden, hoarder-house belonging to Boo Boo, listening to the same incredulous complaints of a brain-injured lady over and over who saw herself as “cracked,” and was sure to use that to her advantage, and feeling amazed at the moments of profound truths Boo Boo communicated, the reader knows the life of the caretaker. The reader has a glimpse into the life of one who is brain-injured.
The injury changes the path. What was once hoped and planned for will no longer be for the patient and those in the caretaking role. There was never going to be a “fix” to Boo Boo. In the attempt to “fix” her, essentially help provide a life of meaning and fulfilment, we instead ourselves become fulfilled by the story Pat conveys: there is no pretty or peace in a life of one severely brain-injured. In the endlessness and enormity of the caretaking task, it seems there is no relief.
But there are lessons. And, those come from surprising places where the brain-injured person has once trod, and the point at which the injury occurred, the point at which Boo Boo’s life changed, is the point at which Pat’s changed, as does ours as readers. The choice to accept the glimpses of directional light, of hope, of understanding – makes all the difference.
Boo Boo made a difference. And Pat, in her openness and sincerity, makes a difference in our lives as readers and for those who want to understand more about brain injury with her first book, “Fixing Boo Boo.”