The cover picture is a disturbing metaphor for its subject.
In 1992 Andrew and Janise were married.
This poem “What Once Was”, is by Andrew Smith, posted in July 2022 on Facebook.
what once was; is so long ago.
two fools, insanely naïve;
i pinch myself; it’s not a dream.
what once was, left many clues.
there are pictures and videos,
of that time & all that was seen.
what once was, is our foundation.
keeps us solid & built to last.
despite life’s storms.
what once was, a gift we share.
has brought us to our life; here.
& now a feeling that is so blessed
& now a love that is so strong.
Tomorrow, July 25th, is their 30th anniversary. By coincidence today July 24th is the 35th anniversary of when Erika and I started living together. It’s fun to post this book review today, with the coincidental anniversaries.
I know Andrew Smith as my accountant, the man I see once a year at tax time. Through social media I discovered that he wrote a book: “Rebuilding Janise: A Family’s First Year After A Stroke”
The subtitle gives you a perfect synopsis, but there’s a lot more to it.
Janise Smith had a stroke March 18, 2019. The event impacted the whole family, meaning Janise, Andrew and their sons.
Andrew explains in his introduction that “before Janise’s stroke we were an affluent Black Canadian family with Caribbean roots. Janise managed the family and was always in the midst of organizing events to support the female movers and shakers of the Scarborough area of Toronto Ontario. ”
That was before.
He tells us that “after her stroke everything in our lives changed. Our family dynamics and our individual and our collective roles were impacted beyond our imagination. Starting with the crisis of finding Janise unconscious, the frenzied drive to the hospital, and then the uncertainty of whether she would live, as a family, we faced what it truly means to love and back each other through adversity.”
In a way this book makes perfect sense, given what we know of Andrew. Every year when Erika and I visit with our assorted notes, he makes order out of our chaos, the receipts, T4s and T4-As, our muttered pleas for mercy & understanding.
Save us from the CRA Andrew! Okay I may be exaggerating. But our visits are full of laughter and joy. Andrew is the most fun we’ve ever had with an accountant, by far.
Given his usual meticulous attention to the details of our lives, his patience with our stories, his ability to drill down to find the rules we need to know, he would be the ideal helper. Andrew was always very kind & gentle examining our various documents and patiently hearing our anecdotes. At times he feels less like an accountant and more like a father confessor or a psychotherapist.
He’s good at what he does.
Of course there’s also the matter of his relationship to Janise. This might be the most romantic enterprise I’ve ever encountered. I remember asking him whether he had seen the film 50 First Dates, which is a very romantic movie that reminds me of the challenges they face, with some parallels to the patient daily structure Andrew brings to his family life.
The book reports the day by day progress of Janise with her loving partner & caregiver Andrew resembling a journal in some respects.
I think the discipline has been also been good for him, getting him to meditate, to write, to exercise. He has the soul of a poet, nurtured by his routine and his discipline.
There is an ongoing positive vibe to the book, gratitude for what they have as a loving family, dodging the more serious outcomes while looking ahead with hope to better days.
Andrew has an unusual sense of humour, self-deprecating, making fun at the darkest moments. I feel privileged to be taken into the presence of these feelings he shares with us, not papering over the messier aspects of rehabilitation.
It’s personal for me having seen something similar in my mother’s rehab at Bridgepoint Hospital. While my mom is much older, what she faced is simple compared to the aftermath of Janise’s stroke. I wonder if I connect better with this account of Andrew and Janise because I had my own look at rehab. As I ponder my relationship with my mom & her ongoing challenges I’m aware that the story has two sides to it, as much the drama of the healthy caregiver as a portrayal of a person doing rehab.
There’s a lot to it, as you may discover in your turn.
Andrew Smith’s Rebuilding Janise is available from Amazon in both in e-version & paperback editions. To find him click here.
Andrew posted this useful chart concerning stroke.