Hope and Heartbreak

Want to read something inspirational?  The Red Bandanna (2016) by Tom Rinaldi should fill the bill. From a youngster to a hero plus the red bandanna that was so much a part of who Welles Crowther was all his life.

Chapter I

You will meet Welles growing up just before they moved to Upper Nyak, NY.  He was 7 years old when he and his father were having a discussion between fashion and function as they were dressing for church.  Welles was having difficulty getting his necktie just right and called for help.  It was then he noticed his dad’s pocket handkerchief.  “Can I have one too?”

His dad found a white one for Welles along with a red one.  His dad put the white one neatly folded into the pocket of Welles’ suit pocket telling him that it “was for show”.  The red one “was for blow” and it should go in his rear pocket.  “You’ll always have it when you need it.”

Being short compared to his buddies, cheerful Welles made up for through his work ethic and using his brain.  His energy enabled him to play high school hockey and lacrosse.  He always dreamed of being a fireman and eventually joined the fire department after spending time there with his dad.

He headed off to Boston College where he played lacrosse and majored in business.  Upon graduation he began a career at an investment firm.  This position took him to the 104th floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center.

Chapter II

This part of Welles story begins with the question.  What would you do in the last hour of your life?  September 11, 2001 was a sunny, cool morning.  A perfect morn to golf, walk to work, for flying.

At 8:46:40 A.M. all that changed when a plane crashed through seven floors of the North Tower of the WTC.

At 9:03:02 A.M., a second jet slammed into the South Tower, also taking out seven floors.

At 9:12 A.M. Welles tried calling his parents to assure them he was all right.  He left messages.  “Mom…this is Welles.  I…I want you to know that I’m okay.”

At 9:59 the South Tower collapsed.

It was not long before the entire world came to know about the attack and collapse of the World Trade Center towers.  Welles did not make it out before the collapse.

Chapter III

Welles’s family stilled yearned for closure just like hundreds of others.  As the search through the rubble at the site continued.  Eventually Welles was found along with the bodies of NYC firemen.

Stories then began popping up in the media.  Stories about a man with a red bandanna on his face rescuing people in the South Tower.  His family realized their son Welles died doing what he loved.

Through his mother’s determination folks who Welles helped to safety were found.  They shared how Welles had led them to safety through the horror of that day.

The story in The Red Bandanna does not end there.  The red bandanna has taken on new life as a symbol of courage, heroism, sacrifice.  You may know the story, but do you know the details.  This little book is worth your time.

Here is an ESPN YouTube video that goes along with nicely with this book:

Next up is another tearjerker so just going to warn you up front…Every Note Played (2018) by Lisa Genova is not an easy book to read.  It is a realistic portrait of living with ALS, marriage, hope, and heartache until the end.

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis is what most of us know as ALS or Lou Gerwig’s disease.  Maybe some of you participated in the Ice Bucket Challenge which drew attention to this disease.   It is author Lisa Genova’s hope that after reading this novel you have a “deeper and more compassionate understanding of what it feels like to live and die with this disease.”  It sure opened my eyes.

Richard Evans is a famous concert pianist.  He has traveled the world.  Music is his life above all else even his wife Karina and his daughter Grace.

Karina and Richard have been divorced for three years.  She blames Richard for the problems leading to their separation.  She also blames him because she did not get to follow her musical passion of jazz piano when they moved to Boston.

Their daughter Grace, now in college, has no real connection with Richard.  When she was growing up, he was either on the road performing or practicing hour after hour.

Richard’s ALS came on slowly with what was thought to be tendinitis.  His tours had to be shortened or canceled in order to rest and have physical therapy.  That was a few months ago.  He now knows the truth.

Karen learned of Richard’s diagnosis when she attends a graduation party of one of her piano students.  Karen attended the party alone.  Once she noticed Richard was not there, she bravely steps up to greet Hannah’s parents to make small talk.  They are surprised to learn Karen is unaware of Richard’s ALS.

On the five block walk to Richard’s apartment, Karen has worked up a sweat.  She has not seen him since Grace’s high school graduation over a year ago. When he answers the door, he appears to be fine.  The visit did not go smoothly.

Richard’s diagnosis is kept from Grace.  They did not want anything to interfere with her studies and her time on campus.  She had little forewarning as to what she was going to find when she came home for a Christmas visit.  Grace only knew her dad was living back at home and they would talk about it when she was there.

Needless to say, Grace was surprised when she saw her father. “She averted her eyes and forced a soft hello.  Stiff and mute, she endured their carefully planned introduction to ALS 101.  Then, without a word, she withdrew to her room.”

One other character who needs mention is Bill, Richard’s caregiver.  He does not play a major role in the story line.  But any time Bill makes and entrance, the story lightens.  It is almost like he is an angel bringing some cheer and light to the not pretty life of living with ALS.

I did not have much sympathy for Richard or Karina for that matter until Richard decided to take a walk.  From that point in the book it started coming together for me.  Grace begins to understand her parents, and the reconciliations that are long overdue begin.

It was very sad to see how his talent was taken from him.  Every Note Played reads like a very realistic portrait of living with ALS…the hope, the heartache and all that is attached until the very end.

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