When the book on the shelf speaks to you

I’ve always been a big fan of the library. One of my favorite things to do is to have a quiet hour or so by myself at the library to be able to walk through the aisles  and scan the books to see what books speak to me.

Sometimes it’s with an intended result in mind, such when I stroll through the cookbook shelves searching for a cookbook that will offer me some ideas for my sons’ school lunches. Other times I have no intention at all, I just walk slowly and scan the titles to see what draws my attention.

Last time I went to the library, the book that caught my attention was “Textbook” by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. I’m not sure why this was. Perhaps the book was on display so the cover showed the photo of the rainbow at the end of the road and it reminded me of a recent song I wrote with the line “hypnotized by the white dotted line winding on the road ahead.” Or maybe the author’s name sounded familiar enough to pull the book off the shelf, I really don’t remember. But I opened it, looked it over and it looked interesting so I added it to my stack (which included a couple of cooking with kids cookbooks and some piano music books, as well as some writing books for research.)

Anyway, the book was a quick read, very creative and fun to read. One of the unique things about it is that throughout the book, she offered many opportunities for readers to interact with her and other readers by texting messages on a certain topic to be posted on her book’s website. I didn’t send any texts, but I loved the idea of it.

During one of the readings, I turned to the inside of the back cover to learn more about the author. She looked kind of familiar and her name sounded kind of familiar, but I still couldn’t place her. As I was reaching the end of the book, my curiosity got me out of bed to get my phone to Google her.

I knew the news was bad when the Wikipedia search result started off Amy Krouse Rosenthal was…”

As I read further, I learned why her name seemed familiar – I had read an article she wrote earlier this year about her husband of 26 years: “You may want to marry my husband,” which ran in The New York Times on March 3, 2017, 10 days before she died from ovarian cancer. She was only 51.

“Textbook” came out in August 2016 and she died seven months later.

In the last “chapter” (they aren’t so much chapters as they are sections of a textbook – for some reason I feel like I need to clarify that), she wrote about how her farewell moments always end with “Bye. I love you. Thank you.” and she writes,

“If I were on my death bed, my family surrounding me, my bony hands holding theirs, I’m shout-whispering, ‘Bye guys! I love you so much! Thank you! I love you forever! Bye, I love you. Thank you.” 

I couldn’t read this without tearing up, of course, especially now knowing how poignant these last words were. Rereading her New York Times article, I saw that she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in September 2015. Although her cancer isn’t mentioned anywhere in the book, there are many references to  how quickly time passes and reminders how we should treasure the small moments in life.

So I sat at my computer after midnight with tears in my eyes because as you read this book, you feel like you want to be friends with her and the loss now feel much larger than it would have had I Googled her name before reading the book. What a huge loss of such a positive, humorous, thoughtful writer. (She also wrote lots of children’s books, grown-up books and made short films.)

I also just wanted to send a big thank you to AKR for the reminders she included in her book. I finished the book at the end of a day when my younger sons fought throughout the day, our house was a mess and my inspiration was running low.

So thank you, Amy, for reminding me that someday I will treasure these moments of having the boys here at home so I shouldn’t get frustrated that the bedtime process took nearly two hours tonight and that we should be thankful and appreciative of the time that we do have, because it’s not something that lasts forever.

Those are always important reminders to have, while we still have the opportunity to put them to use, so thank you.