Wife/Author Shares Journey of Parting in New Book

Written by Ann Byle on . Posted in Local

memoirCarol Rottman has journaled for most of her life, so it made perfect sense to journal about her husband Fritz's journey through Alzheimer's disease and cancer.

She didn't have as much free time as in earlier years, but when she had a few minutes she recorded thoughts, feelings and emotions during this difficult time. Those journal entries have become her newest book titled "A Memoir of Parting," which came out earlier this year through Principia Media.

"I'd think about something for several days before writing it down," said Rottman. "Looking back, the book feels real and honest because it was written while everything was happening. I wrote because I needed to work things out in my head."

The short chapters in "A Memoir of Parting" are what she calls chunks, usually a page and a half to two pages with a beginning, middle and end. Rottman was at first concerned that her chunks weren't in strict sequential order.

"I never expected this to be a book and thought I'd have to revise the whole thing so it was in order. But my writers group said it worked," she said.

Fritz Rottman died of a blood cancer, common in those who have had transplants. He'd had a kidney transplant seven years before his death. Alzheimer's disease had come on gradually, a slow decline that his wife and children noticed but didn't comment on and that his kidney doctor noticed. Fritz himself called it "memory issues."

The events of the book take place over the three years before his death in March 2013. It is a universal story of grief and parting that cuts across ages and demographics. Rottman has sprinkled pictures throughout that chronicle their younger days, their children and grandchildren, and the finals years of Fritz's life.

"Younger couples can look at it as an example of the marriage bond," she said. "You start with a marriage of equality, but as soon as someone dips out of that range, that fairness and equality take a hit. The person who is well has to constantly adjust to the present reality, which changes all the time. Alzheimer's or any form of dementia is always changing."

Children whose parents are dealing with illness or dementia will benefit as well, but any person dealing with change will find help. "Those who have the hardest time with things like this are those who plan their lives and believe there won't be anything like Alzheimer's because they've made good plans and decisions."

Rottman never questioned her husband's ultimate destination as a Christian, but now that she's through it she recognizes an instinct toward survival. "I think that's what this book is: my instinct to survive this thing. Working things out on paper helps stop the rattling in your head."

Rottman wants readers to remain hopeful, to recognize that a diagnosis is not the end of living. Families can be drawn together when something isn't fixable, when they must learn to live what what can't be fixed.

"I don't want anyone to think this a heroic story of me; this is an endurance story. There was a lot of temptation to make it look easier than it was, or to inadvertently make me look better than I was," she said. "I want this to a hopeful book, not a dire forecast of what happens with Alzheimer's."

Rottman, who lives in Grand Rapids, teaches "Telling the Stories of Your Life: Creating Memoir" twice a year in Calvin College's CALL program. She is also author of "All Nature Sings: A Spiritual Journey of Place" and "Writers in the Spirit: Inspiration for Christian Writers."

Find her books on Amazon.
Author Information
Ann Byle
Ann Byle is a freelance writer and owner of AB Writing Services. She writes for a number of publications including WMCN, Publishers Weekly, CBA Christian Market and Grand Rapids Magazine, and is author or coauthor of several books including The Baker Book House Story, The Call to Care: A Compassionate Response to Caring for Vulnerable Children (2018) and Christian Publishing 101 (2018). She and her husband Ray, a science teacher, have four young adult children.

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