In January I had the pleasure of traveling to Boston for an event with my friend Tony Memmel. Due to some unforeseen circumstances (ahem – missed my bus from Madison), I ended-up getting to the airport a little early. I sat down to eat breakfast and a little while later I noticed Tony and his mom, Katie, sitting at a table on the other side of the food court. Instead of going over, I just watched. I know that sounds creepy, but I don’t mean it that way. I just mean that I watched a mother and her son enjoying their time together. They smiled, they laughed, they looked comfortable; like two people genuinely enjoying each others company. Eventually, I did make my way over and we walked toward our gate together. They hugged, said their “I love you’s” and told each other to be safe. “There’s all this weird construction around the airport right now; I don’t like that she has to drive in it,” Tony told me.
Having recently finished Katie’s book, Five Fingers, Ten Toes: A Mother’s Story of Raising a Child With a Limb-Difference, the exchange I witnessed between the two of them in January comes as no surprise. They are quite the pair, those two! In her book, Katie recounts her journey as a young mother raising a different kind of child. What I love most about Katie’s story is the honesty with which she tells it. Her struggles, her fears, her bad reactions, her confusion…all on display. What is also on display, though, is her growth and her wisdom. She shares with us her philosophies on parenting and tells us how she did it without making the reader feel like they’re a bad person if they don’t do it the same way.
It was so interesting for me as a limb-different person to read about the experience from her perspective. To hear about the painful beginnings in the delivery room and to know that my own mother went through much the same experience. To see the many parallels between Tony and I. My mom read the book, too, and hasn’t felt able to talk about it with me yet. “It’s so, so powerful, Ryan,” she told me, “I’ve had to set it down numerous times to just cry and remember.” She connected so deeply with the joy and the pain that Katie went through and found it overwhelming to know other women went through the same thing. If you’re a parent, especially a mom, of a limb-different child, you need to read this book. It will affect you deeply.
Ultimately, though, Five Fingers, Ten Toes is a book for anyone that likes a good story; Katie’s is rich and she tells it well. And it’s not only Tony’s inspiring story about overcoming obstacles along the way to becoming an accomplished musician. It’s a story about a mother and a father, finding their way. A sister (Hi, Megan!) who was loved by her brother and parents and has her own story to tell. It’s about a family. It’s about love and respect and hope.
And I, for one, am I’m so thankful Katie shared it.