I Found My Tribe by Ruth Fitzmaurice
Opening sentence: “Three-year old Sadie says that Dadda talks with his eyes.”
I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for this truly enchanting book. I Found My Tribe is Ruth Fitzmaurice’s memoir about how she dealt with her husband, Simon, being diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease in 2008. Written in extremely poetic and beautiful prose, it’s full of sentences that I just adored, like: ‘Love is glorious and so is food. Put the two together and dreams can come true.’
Through the book Ruth achingly describes how slowly, over years, she could do nothing but watch as her wonderful husband’s body started to shut down, until he was only able to communicate through eye-recognition software on a computer: ‘MND is like water torture, slowly drip-drip-dripping. A tiny nerve ending, a small piece of strength gets stolen every single day.’
Along with caring for Simon (with the help of nurses), she is also raising five children: Jack, Raife, Arden, Sadie and Hunter (as well as a dog and a cat) and is so honest about how hard this is, ‘These children are everything but they’re not my friends. Mostly they’re not even friendly.’ Her family is one of her tribes, but she also has another very important one – her friends and the sea. She so eloquently describes how her family life emotionally and physically drains her – she just needs a few moments a week to herself, to rejuvenate, to find solace and she does so in the sea. More specifically, the raw, untameable power of sea swimming off the Wicklow coast in Ireland with her friends Michelle and Aifric.
There were so many moving moments in this book, but I was particularly taken by a story Ruth tells about the difficulty of buying a present for Simon and how she wants to get him something he will really appreciate, ‘I paint the wall outside our bedroom window white, muttering about grey depressing brick. My idea is to paint a mural so the man in the bed has a magical view.’ I mean, isn’t that the most wonderful thing? Through the years, Simon’s MND gets a lot worse but Ruth and Simon maintain their relationship, even welcoming twins in 2012, 4 years after he was initially diagnosed. Ruth is also very supportive of his career, as Simon became the first person to ever write and direct a film – My Name is Emily – using eye-recognition software – a pretty incredible feat.
On a related note, in January I read The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly, Jean-Dominique Bauby’s memoir of being diagnosed with Locked-In Syndrome after suffering a stroke (he wrote the whole thing by blinking his left eye.) It was fascinating to read from his perspective about a man who has lost the ability to move his body and I feel that, as a first hand account of how you cope when someone you love goes through this trauma, I Found My Tribe is a wonderful companion to Jean-Dominique’s memoir.
I Found My Tribe is a book that really makes you put your own problems in perspective and take a moment to reflect. Ruth is such a strong, courageous woman – her pain, frustration, joy and hope are perfectly captured on each page, making it both heartbreaking and enlightening to read.
About the Author:
Ruth Fitzmaurice was born in 1976 and grew up in Co. Louth, Ireland. She was a radio researcher and producer when she married film director and writer, Simon, in 2004 and had three children. In 2008, Simon was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease and given three years to live. Simon went into respiratory failure in 2010 and was accidentally placed on a ventilator during an emergency procedure. He decided, against medical advice, to keep the ventilator; Ruth and Simon went on to have twins in 2012. Simon passed away in October 2017.
Follow the Tour: