Book Jacket

 

rank 2859
word count 93265
date submitted 28.01.2014
date updated 29.03.2014
genres: Non-fiction, Biography, Popular Cul...
classification: moderate
complete

Not Really Gone

Barb Shaya

A heart-wrenching and inspiring story of love and commitment between a woman and the grandmother who raised her.

 

In 1962, Barb''s troubled parents divorced when she was just ten months old. Since the court deemed neither parent capable of raising Barb and her siblings, they became wards of the court slated for foster care. Barb's grandmother, just having resumed full-time work after raising her own family, reversed directions taking in the children and raising them as her own. Struggling through a family legacy of alcoholism and depression, Barb's grandmother modeled strength and wisdom to endure the most challenging of times.
As Barb moved toward adulthood, she encounters her own issues with addiction and abuse - alternating between pushing her grandmother away and craving her grandmother's closeness. Barb marries and begins a family of her own just as her grandmother's health begins to decline, requiring Barb to take on more and more responsibility for her care. Sandwiched between two generations, each increasingly needy, Barb learns the true meaning of love and commitment.

 
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tags

alcoholism, caretaking, children, commitment, death, depression, divorce, dying, grandma, grandmother, hope, hospice, love, memoir, non-fiction, rape

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15 comments

 

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Prelude

Every difficulty in life presents us with an opportunity to turn inward and to invoke our own submerged inner resources. The trials we endure can and should introduce us to our strengths. Prudent people look beyond the incident itself and seek to form the habit of putting it to good use.

                -Epictetus

 

 

In every family there is a rock – the person who is the glue that keeps things together, the engine that keeps the family running. That rock was my grandmother.

I write this story out of fear – fear that if I don’t my history will be lost forever. I look around me and there is nobody who shares my history. When my father died a tragic death in 1976 it drove a wedge into an already unstable family. We scattered like chips of ice in various directions, never to become whole again.

    As the enormity of my grief over my Grandmother’s death gradually fades, I fear that my memory of life with her will fade as well, and there is nowhere to turn to revisit the majority of my past – to validate its existence. When Grandma died, I lost my prime witness. And so I struggle to write all that I can remember and all that I can piece together so that I can continue to loosen my grip on my grief without also losing my past.

    This is a different kind of love story. Not the romantic, soul mate love of most love stories, but a definition of love I have found to be truer and more lasting. The love I will describe is that which breathes life into those it reaches – a love which becomes the receiver and the receiver becomes the love; a love which continues to bloom even after the death of the lover. This story is about the love my grandmother gave to me, breathed into me, taught me, and tasked me with carrying forward.

 

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Bill Birtch wrote 90 days ago

finished to end of chapter 3. A well written, touching story. The attention to detail, and your excellent recall of events make it totally believable. You characters all come alive, tragic as many of them are and I've developed a certain empathy for you. I will definitely be back
Just one small edit : "Dad spent his time hanging...,both of which he was quite skilled." the last part of that sentence doesn't work grammatically and I believe the whole sentence will need to be rewritten.
BTW, I live in London, Ontario, not far from Hespeler.

Bill Birtch "A Few Acres of Snow"

RJBrown wrote 117 days ago

Hi Barb, This is a CWOG review.

Your SP: Sums your work up well. I always read the pitches after I have read the body of work. I think this is a fitting and sensitive summation.

LP: I'm not sure of what your end goal is for your work, if it is to be published then just be careful of repeating yourself. The Long pitch is almost the same as the opening to the book which is well written and enthralling. If this work is for you and your loved ones so that you can pass it down through generations then this may not be relevant.

I was only a portion of her experience, yet she was the most significant part of mine. – What a lovely and honest way to look at life.

With each closing ‘I love you’ there was a thick air of importance. This is such a poignant line. These three words can become habit so easily, a sentence that sprouts out before you even know you have said it, like just another variant on goodbye. I love the fact you have described in in such a way as to make it clear to the reader that there was more thought there than that.

And when Gigi and I find a home – This should read found, not find.

The way you describe hearing your grandmothers garbled speech and the 911 call was intense, I felt all the fear you had felt and understood it deeply. That moment mortality hits and the realisation your most loved one might not be around forever is terrifying. I hope you found this as cathartic to write as I am to read.

The story of your parents’ divorce is saddening, and only heightens the selfless attitude displayed by your grandma. To quit work and care for three young children once you believed those days were behind you is a special thing. I can understand why you chose to write this memoir.

I didn’t understand Pauline was hired help, I thought she and grandma were friends. This is a great way of looking at life through your eyes as a child, before we are really aware of money and the realities of life. I find it interesting reading about this, as we don’t really have help like that here in the UK, it must have been a confusing scenario as a child.

In terms of readability it might be worth considering splitting the third chapter on here in to two, it seems very long and could be off putting to readers, though that very much depends on what you want to achieve, as with many memoirs, it is just for you and doesn’t matter one bit what other people want. Ultimately, I say do what feels right to you, as these are your precious memories.

The end of chapter three was so very upsetting and must have been horrendous for you at the time. I am so sorry for all the loss you have suffered in your life.

I have to say that I think it is a remarkable testament to your grandmother that you have done so well in your own life. It sounds like had she not been there, your childhood would have taken on a much darker significance. I have really enjoyed reading about her and the early years of your life.

This is a well written memoir full of emotion and insight. Try and grab as many readers as possible, as I don’t feel there is anyone who could fail to be impacted by your inspiring story.

High stars, Barb, and good luck!

R
X

celestria wrote 121 days ago

I did not read the whole thing, only a few chapters, but I sense I will be experiencing the same thing when my grandmother goes (although she is expected to be cremated, ugh), I particularly like your reference to every family has a rock which one would expect to be your grandmother, then it turns out to be you.

AliyaM.books wrote 146 days ago

From just the prologue and opening sentence, I can see that this story is very human with human characters. While summary can be hard to read when you have the attention span of a (Oh hey look, at that facebook notification) sorry... You get the picture. It's sometimes hard to focus. Other than that, you have a lot of potential here to tell a love story that isn't traditional, but necessary.

Shiloh Yazdani wrote 153 days ago

You've written a strong, emotionally charged story that doesn't read like a boring telling of family history, but a fast-paced story. It will appeal to many.
Shiloh
"Courage Through Faith"

Michael Matula wrote 159 days ago

This is a CWOG review:

I thought you did a very good job with this, and I found it to be a very heartfelt and well-written story.
A couple times, I wondered if a sentence could be tightened up a bit (like with “Fortuitously, there was a family living around the block—sharing a fence with the Zeiglers—who had six children.” - I might have gone with something like “Fortuitously, a family with six children lived right around the block, sharing a fence with the Zeiglers.”) but that could simply be personal preference.

In chapter 1, I wondered about the inclusion of the realtor bit, as I wasn't sure how that anecdote fit with the rest of the story, and I found myself more interested in what was going on with the grandmother than in a house that hadn't previously been in the family. I might be the only one who has this issue, though.

Overall, despite a couple very minor quibbles, I thought this was very well done so far.
High stars.

Mike
What, the Elf?

Meg Wearing wrote 159 days ago

This is a lovely tribute to a loved one, long lost - beautifully written. I wish you luck with it.

Meg Wearing

Gentleman Jay wrote 161 days ago

Barb,
This is a very thoughtful and loving memior. I don't really like giving feedback for something so personal. A few house-cleaning things: "Died a tragic death" could be simplified to "died tragically" and you said a person followed by "that" when it should be "who". Otherwise, it seems very polished. Good luck.

ShirleyGrace wrote 161 days ago

Barb:
I just finished reading five chapters of your work. I have only positive things to say about it. It is well written. In my own prologue I mention that my grandmother was the glue that kept the family together.
One thing that really jumped out at me was, "I was only a portion of her experience, yet she was the most significant part of mine". What a lovely statement! How great was this woman.
How sad that sometimes we, or at least I, was never fortunate enough to relate to my grandmother woman- to- woman with all the things we face in life. I feel I missed something there but perhaps that is not meant to be for how would a woman in her fifties or sixties relate life experiences to a teenager. I did move in with her during high school.
You certainly have some bad memories and yet how fortunate you were to have someone who nurtured you and helped you develop values in life. I can not recall a new dress or shoes in my childhood, as mentioned in yours. I do remember one birthday party given for me by an aunt and there was a large tiered cake.I recall many many beatings. I recall shame at going to school with black eyes and loose teeth and bald spots on my scalp. I remember the teasing and jeers.
There was no alcohol, just complete ignorance.
True-life stories do not as a rule do well on this site. I have heard more than once, "Oh no not another one". I hope sincerely it will be different for you. So many on here deal with sexual abuse in their childhood and much of the time by a parent. With all the problems, it seems you did have a good childhood, not ideal to be sure but good none-the-less.Your descriptions are spot-on and your characters brought alive on the pages.
Much luck with this.
Shirley Grace

Shelagh Watkins wrote 172 days ago

Hi Barb,

I read the first two chapters and thought they were excellent. I feel as though I know your grandma from Bradford already! Just two telling moments that had her right there talking to me: "woozy" and "we'll have to wait and see ..." In the north of England, woozy means feeling a bit sick and out of sorts, not dizzy or giddy. "Wait and see" is a nice way of saying "be patient until we know more" -- my dad said it so often, it almost became a catch phrase!

One or two suggestions from Chapter One:

"... glue that keeps things together" is contradicted by "scattered like chips of ice in various directions, never to become whole again."

Glue suggests a kind of permanence; could you change it to twine or string or some other method of holding things together that can unravel?

Ice chips have medicinal uses. They can also be bought in different flavours. They conjure up the image of something made and then broken into pieces to serve a purpose.

Suggestion: scattered like fragments of glass/ broken toys or something that is broken by accident rather than desire.

Good luck with this!
Shelagh

James knee wrote 172 days ago

Hi Barb, I finally read a couple of chapters of your book, and really did enjoy it. You're right in saying this isn't the genre I'd usually read. But the fact that I still found it intriguing is a testament to your writing, which I found to be clear and consise, while still offering great descriptions. I understood very early on what your grandmother meant to you (I assume this is autobiographical?) as like you say, every family has a rock. I particularly liked your reflection on the way your grandmother was such a huge part of your life, but you only occupied a portion of hers. Overall, I thought it was insightful and beautifully written. I wish you the best of luck, I'm sure this will do very well here.

BarbShaya wrote 173 days ago

Hi Barb,

A return read
Not Really Gone is a well written and moving account of the author's early life and family history.
You have some great imagery in here - I particularly liked 'scattered like chips of ice' early on.
You clearly loved your grandmother very much and I think writing all this down is a wonderful way to remember her and to share her with others. I like her, she sounds like a strong, loyal woman who knows her own mind.
You write very vividly about you grandmother becoming ill, and I'm sure this is something a lot of people will identify with.
Your Dad's sporting injury is sad. Being British I don't really know what the credits and grade points mean, but I get the idea that it was average from the C, D and F bit
You don't really mention your mother's history - where she came from or what she did before she married - is this because you don't know?
The household routines and childhood memories are beautifully recalled. I can almost picture myself there. I am so glad you had such wonderful grandparents to look after you.
Oh dear - maybe Dad learnt from Grandpa. Very sad. Grandpa obviously wasn't so wonderful.
'Grandpa was no of delivering..' capable missing
I guess grandpa and grandma's relationship shows the complexities of marriage. I'm glad she realised she loved him in the end - better than realising you had spent your life with someone you did not really like.
Golden Syrup on Yorkshire pudding? Maybe I'm thinking of the wrong thing. My daughter has been known to drink gravy out of hers, but never golden syrup.
Custody battles are horrible and make people behave in ways in which they ordinarily wouldn't.
Dad is unthinkingly very cruel about the card.
End of the first chapter is very sad.

I would have read on but there seem to be no more chapters now.

You say somewhere that you became very good at observing things and that is so true, so much of this is beautifully observed. I think you have a real talent for the little details which make what you write moving and memorable. Thank you for sharing your story

Pippa



Thank you Pippa for your thoughtful, helpful and kind words. Already fixed the missed word - good catch!
It is true that the reason my mother is scantily described is because I did not have, nor could I excavate, much information about her. I have heard similar comments before and I wonder if I need to make it clear that I knew little about her??
I checked to make sure the rest of the book is available on the website, and it is - just in case you desire to read on.
I will reach out to 'friend' you so I can follow your work, comments, and bookshelf. I appreciate your giving me some of your valuable time.
Take care,
Barb

Pippa Whitethorn wrote 173 days ago

Hi Barb,

A return read
Not Really Gone is a well written and moving account of the author's early life and family history.
You have some great imagery in here - I particularly liked 'scattered like chips of ice' early on.
You clearly loved your grandmother very much and I think writing all this down is a wonderful way to remember her and to share her with others. I like her, she sounds like a strong, loyal woman who knows her own mind.
You write very vividly about you grandmother becoming ill, and I'm sure this is something a lot of people will identify with.
Your Dad's sporting injury is sad. Being British I don't really know what the credits and grade points mean, but I get the idea that it was average from the C, D and F bit
You don't really mention your mother's history - where she came from or what she did before she married - is this because you don't know?
The household routines and childhood memories are beautifully recalled. I can almost picture myself there. I am so glad you had such wonderful grandparents to look after you.
Oh dear - maybe Dad learnt from Grandpa. Very sad. Grandpa obviously wasn't so wonderful.
'Grandpa was no of delivering..' capable missing
I guess grandpa and grandma's relationship shows the complexities of marriage. I'm glad she realised she loved him in the end - better than realising you had spent your life with someone you did not really like.
Golden Syrup on Yorkshire pudding? Maybe I'm thinking of the wrong thing. My daughter has been known to drink gravy out of hers, but never golden syrup.
Custody battles are horrible and make people behave in ways in which they ordinarily wouldn't.
Dad is unthinkingly very cruel about the card.
End of the first chapter is very sad.

I would have read on but there seem to be no more chapters now.

You say somewhere that you became very good at observing things and that is so true, so much of this is beautifully observed. I think you have a real talent for the little details which make what you write moving and memorable. Thank you for sharing your story

Pippa

Robyn Quaker wrote 174 days ago

Not Really Gone by Barb Shayer
Well written at a steady pace.
The Prelude was a light touching introduction and then the next more lengthy chapter gave a good insight into your family history without being overpowering. It was sad when your grandma had a stroke but she fought it.

Next we get more insight into your parents background and the sadness of them divorcing but you seem to have a stable childhood with your grandma until your mother wants some time with her children and you tell the court that you don't want to be with her because she smokes! That made me chuckle but your mother was furious.

It was so cruel how she sent you to meet the helicopter bringing the dead servicemen home.
I liked the way you began to study everyone supposedly to try and make sense of the fragile world you lived in.
Daddy bled to death. A poignant sentence at the end of the chapter.

Despite being only fourteen you showed courage and won the dance competition even though Rosemarie favoured
Beth.

You tell your memoir clearly with no frills but bring a little humour into it and the love for your grandma shines through very early on. I have popped this on my watchlist. Good luck.

Robyn Quaker
Halfpennies And Blue Vinyl

Robyn Quaker wrote 175 days ago

Not Really Gone by Barb Shaya
I was attracted to this book by the pitch and cover. Popped it on my watchlist and will comment more tomorrow.
Robyn Quaker
Halfpennies And Blue Vinyl

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