You just never know what finds it’s way into a story. Years ago, my friend Chris Blair, who had been a school librarian for thirty years, told me about a heart condition that had limited her into her twenties. She couldn’t run, she couldn’t play sports. And I remember wondering, What’s it like not to run, to face so many physical challenges? I kept asking that when I wrote my latest novel, Soar.
When Soar came out in January, Chris wrote me and told me more of her story, and sent a picture of her forty-year-old baseball glove.
I was born in March of 1946 with a heart defect and years before the successful implementation of the heart-lung machine. Instead of having surgery when I was a baby, I grew up with a life of rules – such as, no P.E., no running, limited time in the sun, and being ever vigilant for a sore throat. I didn’t question the rules, it was the way life was. I loved to watch sports and just didn’t understand how people could do what they did.
As years passed, I could do less and less but never thought about it. It was just the way it was.
In December 1974, a cardiologist informed me that I could have a whole new way of life if I underwent open heart surgery, and if I didn’t, I would be in a wheelchair by the time I was 40. Naturally, I opted for the surgery, which was scheduled in June of 1975.
I remember not only the fear I was facing, but also the deep desire to be able to play sports. As an incentive to constantly remind me of that dream, I went to a sporting goods store and bought a baseball glove. That glove laid at the foot of my bed during the entire time of my recovery, and I told myself that one day I would be able to use it.
The recovery period was slow. At first, I could only walk one block, then two blocks, and the distances slowly progressed. Then in October of 1975, when I was 29 years old, I attempted to run for the first time in my life. It naturally was a very slow jog, but better than I had ever been able to do before.
Since that slow start, I have played softball and tennis, become a bicyclist and a hiker, work out regularly at a fitness facility, and live in a world of dreams that expand with each year. I am almost 70 and am getting to feel a sense of youthfulness that I never got to enjoy when I was young.
Do I still have that glove? Absolutely! It is both a memory and a challenge!
I love that!
I wonder what would happen if there were MRIs for novels—seeing the detailed images of the organs and structures, where the elements interact, where they came from originally. A story is like a fossil, in some ways, as ideas, moments, memories, and years press in and make a lasting impression.
Where does a story begin? I used to respond more technically, but now I see it starts in the places in a writers heart that have filled to overflowing. You just can’t help but let it out.
Thanks, Chris, for the inspiration.