Winner of 2017 Giller Prize

Winner of 2017 Giller Prize
Michael Redhill for his novel Bellevue Square

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Memoir By Brian Spare




The Boy Who Couldn't Smile
by Brian Spare
Author’s Note 
  The Boy Who Couldn’t Smile is a journal of how changes shaped my life. I began writing my memoir to simply pen the events of my life that I had told many times for years without much cause for emotion. I quickly found that expressing them on paper was a very different experience. As I wrote about my life, feelings stirred inside me that tugged at my heart, made me search my soul and reflect on my life as never before. I realized that I had a story to tell and I wanted to share it. As much as I wrote this book to recount my past, I wanted to share how I overcame adversity and convey my dreams for the future. If my story inspires even one person to meet the challenges they face, my mission in writing this book will have succeeded.


I relied mainly on my memory to write my memoir. Where it was sketchy I turned to Catharine, my Aunts and long time friends. There are no composite characters, places or events. I used the actual names of people and I gave names only to persons whose names I didn’t know.

PART ONE
I glanced into Mom's bedroom from the hallway as the afternoon sun streamed through the window. The light beckoned me to go in
 “Mom has been dead three months,” I said to myself. “It’s time. I have to do this.”
I took a deep breath to summon my courage and entered her room. All that remained in Mom’s bedroom was the furniture. I had been through her closets filled with neatly hung dresses. They reminded me of so many celebrations and family occasions. I had emptied her bedside table and dresser drawers. Only one thing remained - Mom’s jewelry box atop her dresser. Mom kept anything personal to herself in her jewelry box. I had avoided looking in it when I sorted through her belongings for that reason. I felt I would have intruded on her privacy.
Mom’s jewelry box was now covered with a sifting of dust. In the back of my mind I was apologizing to her for the intrusion as I lifted the hinged lid to reveal two trays of jewelry. I found her favourite pearls, the diamond earrings Dad gave her for their 25th wedding anniversary and the flower broach Catharine and I gave her for Mothers Day.
I pulled open the bottom drawer. In it was a bulging envelope which contained a letter Mom had written. It was dated six months before her death. As I unfolded the letter I sat down on the side of her bed to read it.
 Dear Fr. Matthew
I was so pleased to read in the November Catholic Register of your healing prayers and those who have benefitted from them. I regret not hearing of you before or I would have attended your healing service.
Father, may I impose on you to pray for me and my son. I have been suffering from anxiety and depression for eighteen years. It is really wearing me down. Like the woman who said to Jesus I feel if I could touch the hem of your garment, I could be cured. Father, will you please pray for me for deliverance from this debilitating disorder.
My son Brian, who is now 39, had a brain tumour when he was a child, but not diagnosed until he had surgery six years later. It left him with bi-facial paralysis and medication prevented him from growing.
He is extremely bright. Because of his eye problems he was unable to go to school. My husband and I taught him at home. He made it part time through university right to his PhD. I read most of his material to him. He has had about 16 surgeries, some as long as 6-8 hours. Unfortunately, nobody will hire him because of his facial paralysis. We started him in business, but the “big guy” undersold him. My husband died on Sept. 1/98. I don’t have the money to keep him. Would you please pray that God will intervene and somebody will hire him.
I feel really sorry about your illness. I know the patience you need to have dialysis on top of your cardiac problems. I pray for you. I hope they are heard. Father, please intervene for me.
May God bless you.
                           Yours respectfully
                           Kitty Spare
When she was young Mom had a broad smile that lit up her face. She had a hearty laugh and her eyes sparkled. As the years passed her brilliance faded as depression took hold of her. I didn’t fully realize how deep it was until I read this letter.
“Could I have done more for her?”
Mom, as well as Dad, took pride in my achievements and championed all my ambitions. I was fortunate to have such dedicated, loving parents who were always there for me. A deep forlornness welled up within me as I fathomed, all at once, the events over 40 years. My face could not express the grief in my heart, but a voice in my soul cried out for the life that had come to a screeching halt. Mom was gone and Dad had passed away just nine months before. My life as I knew it was about to change in a very big way.
My parents told me the story of my birth many times. I was conceived after five miscarriages and they saw my birth as a miracle. There were so many girls in both families Mom and Dad were sure I’d be a girl.
Dad asked, “How’s Cathy today?” They chose the name Cathy for their baby girl. When the day arrived – surprise!
 “We have a beautiful baby boy,” Mom excitedly said to Dad, “He’s perfect. What should we name him?”
My parents couldn’t name me Cathy so they settled on Brian after one of Mom’s uncles. They happily counted my fingers and toes.
I entered the world 9:15 AM June 3, 1959 at the Memorial Hospital in Sudbury, Ontario, weighing in at 7 lbs 1 ounce. When they brought me home from the hospital Dad carried me in from the car very slowly and carefully as if I was a very fragile glass treasure. Dad was a proud father. He sat me on his shoulders to walk places while I grabbed a tuft of his hair in each hand like reigns on a horse. Mom finally had to tell him, “Brian has to walk too.” Dad said the first few years after I was born were some of the happiest of his life.
Read the rest of this memoir on brian's blog at  briangspare.com.

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