Abstract by Richard J for book, The Way Life Is
Being young, in love and full of anticipation of a great life together is not a
guaranteed shield against life’s unfair and unexpected traumas.
Indeed, The Way Life Is, by award-winning writer Rick Johnson, tells the true
story of a young Canadian couple suddenly faced with the myriad of challenges of
parenting children with disabilities. It’s about how they stubbornly insist on putting one
foot in front of the other when it would be so much easier to stop and throw in the towel;
it’s about faith and it’s about standing fast against adversity in the name of commitment;
it’s about love.
As this courageous couple struggles to accommodate their own personal needs,
desires and demons within the context of coping with the ever-changing special needs of
their children, the emotional intensity is both exhausting and compelling. Once you start
reading, you won’t want to put it down.
Their first-born, Sara, arrives with a rare, insidious and life-threatening disability
known as Prader-Willi Syndrome; Gina arrives needing immediate open-heart surgery
and then a number of subsequent procedures in order to survive. All the while, Andrew,
an active and exceptionally healthy little boy is born in the middle and must fight for his
share of love and attention.
Years later, the author and his wife, Patty, take a long-postponed car trip to
Newdale, a small village on the Canadian prairie where she grew up. Both sets of their
parents have died by this time so there is no one to visit, except the half-torn down house
in which Patty spent her childhood.
“As we rounded the corner of her street, we noticed the front steps of the old
house were gone and the windows were all completely out. This was the house Patty had
called home until she moved into Winnipeg in 1969, six months after she finished high
school, and where her parents had continued to live until 1985. It was sad to see and
brought a tear to Patty’s eye, but apparently the current owners were tearing down the
“With no one around, we stopped and walked through the old ghost. The furnace
had been torn from the basement and the floors bared down to the boards, except near the
front door, where a bit of the old red, patterned carpet remained; a tattered remnant of
what Patty’s father had meticulously laid in the early 70s.
“The untold hours of love and care put into that house, the periodic painting, the
wall papering, the nurturing, were now all for naught – just vague memories among a few
of us who happened to have passed the same way.”
The couple’s experience that day reminded them of all the “miles and miles” they
had themselves traveled during their many years together and they knew instantly that for
them as well, it was not the meticulously laid carpets, nor the cars, the furniture, big
screen TVs, the careers, computers, clothes or cell phones for which they had bartered
great portions of their lives in towns and jobs they may not have always like, that were
important and dominated their reminiscences. On the contrary, they knew it was the
many times that they had teetered at the very edge of survival that demanded revisiting,
particularly the mayhem and milestones as a family facing exceptional challenges, the
unexpected gifts and guests that their special children had brought to their lives that
would endure the test of time and which were worth sharing with the world.
As they continued their drive that summer, their reminiscences of the hard, hard
times that had a lifetime ago turned their young, tranquil life together into a “hell on
wheels” became The Way Life Is. In putting their story to paper they hoped that others,
who, perhaps, also faced the crazy-making nature of Prader-Willi Syndrome, the terror of
infant heart surgery, the vacuum of depression, or who were just trying to keep it all
together in the face of unexpected twists in the road of life, might find strength or
opportunity for growth, some small connection to greater meaning or, at the very least,
perhaps a wee bit of clarity about what good might lay beyond the crisis of the day.
Two of a number of testimonials written after the book was published, state:
“…I think it’s a truly incredible book… It’s all beautifully written and the
introduction is especially nicely done… the type that grabs readers right away and makes
them want to read more… You are going to find that your book really connects with
people and will not only comfort, but also inspire them.”
Brenda Fehr, Entertainment Editor, Transcontinental Media Inc.
“The book, besides being a good read, forces one to come to grips with life's
tragedies and trials, tribulations, which one never asks for. But all the same, one must
confront, cope and deal with the ‘challenges’... It is a positive spin to use the word
‘challenges’ when one wants to use other words, like ‘horrors of life’ instead.”
Bob Braybrook, friend of the author
The Way Life Is, available online, is published by Trafford Publishing of Canada