Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Q&A with Barbara Rubin




Barbara Rubin is the author of the new book More Than You Can See: A Mother's Memoir. It focuses on the life of her late daughter Jennifer, who suffered a traumatic brain injury in 1991 and passed away 19 years later. Rubin lives in Washington Crossing, Pennsylvania.


Q: What inspired you to write this memoir focused on the life of your daughter Jennifer?


A: It was a beautiful story that deserved to be told but only because it had the possibility of helping others. Unfortunately, just as our family had to navigate through the quagmire of brain injury, many tens of thousands of people throughout the world suffer a similar fate every year.


By writing my book, I hoped to expand the awareness of this type of injury and the ramifications it has on not only the survivors but their families, friends, and communities.


Jenn’s unique disability of not being able to communicate added more complexities to her rehab and gave an interesting twist to the story.


Not falling within the realm of what service providers usually saw in their clients, Jenn’s condition called for creative thinking for them to know how to treat her. Our family and her caregivers were also challenged to find ways for her to connect with us as we helped her relearn basic life skills. There was no script on how to do this; it was a matter of trial and error.


As her mother, I made it my mission to rebuild a life for Jenn that was interesting and filled with people and adventure. In doing so, I enabled all of us to move well beyond the normal routines of caring for someone. We were amply rewarded for our efforts by seeing Jenn’s smiling face as she found a way, without words, to touch the many people who came to know and love her.


If my book encourages one caregiver to go beyond simply providing for the basic needs of a person in their charge and inspires them to pursue new and interesting avenues in serving their client, then More Than You Can See is a success and attained a worthy goal.


Q: The author Linda Joy Myers said of the book, “This book is perfect not only for parents who want to learn from Barbara's journey as a mother but for all of us who need to be reminded that life is a gift and it's up to us to cherish and celebrate every moment.” What do you think of that description, and what do you hope readers take away from the book?


A: I love Linda Joy’s summation of my book, and her thoughtful insight into its subtle message on parenting. Throughout the story the strong bond between my husband, Mark, and me is evident. This is what helped cement our family together when stress and pain could have easily driven us apart.


Our shared goal of giving Jenn every opportunity to have a fulfilling life meant we had to support each other while keeping in mind her younger sister, Amy, was also greatly affected by the change in our family dynamics and needed our attention and guidance.


Mark and I never lost sight of our role as parents and worked together to ensure both of our daughters not only survived the trauma from Jenn’s accident but came out stronger and more resilient from it.

Recognizing how precious life is and how it can change in an instant through tragedy is at the heart of Jenn’s story. This was another of Linda Joy’s takeaways from More Than You Can See. We often need reminders to not be so caught up in our daily routines that we lose sight of the important things in our lives and what matters most in our overall happiness.


Families who face tragedy quickly understand the trivial nature of the many things we place great significance on until harsh reality strikes and awakens them to what they truly value and hold dear.


By reading my book, readers have an opportunity to not only feel tragedy as lived through my family but also experience the joy and triumphs that were part of our journey. Each chapter should give readers renewed determination to embrace their loved ones as though it were their last moment together.


I think there are as many different issues addressed in my book as there are possible takeaways. I would hope my story will stimulate conversation among fellow readers regarding empathy and tolerance, provide direction to those whose path is unclear after tragedy, or start the healing process for those who suffer from a similar painful occurrence in their family.


If nothing else, it is a human-interest story that should give readers an opportunity to reflect on what defines a life well-lived and how acts of kindness can bring out the best in them and their community.


Q: You describe some very difficult experiences--what impact did it have on you to write the book?


A: To write this book, I had to revisit some painful memories that I had carefully buried in my mind. It took years of healing before it was remotely possible for me to write this story. Even then, I wasn’t sure if I had the ability to conjure up those memories and then be able to, once again, stow them away in a place that would not be harmful to my mental and physical health.


Fortunately, enough time had lapsed so I could tell the story and survive the anguish I had to relive by remembering details long hidden in the recesses of my memory to get the story out of my head and onto paper.


I didn’t expect the writing to be a source of healing for me, but in many ways it was. In interviewing the various people who were front and center in the story, I learned important things about Jenn that I didn’t know before, things I treasure and would have missed if not for this book.


Writing offered me a chance to reflect on my family’s journey, to look deeply into myself as a mother and advocate for Jenn, and to see my daughter for all her beautiful qualities.


Q: How was the book's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: The original title was A Different Voice, but after one of my editors read the manuscript, she suggested More Than You Can See as it spoke to the true context of the story. I wholeheartedly agreed with her.


Because of Jenn’s unique disability of having no communication, it was hard to recognize all her talents, skills, and ways she connected to people. The title clearly expresses what I came to recognize as I started writing the book; there was so much more to Jenn than what I was able to see while living in the moment.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I am taking a break from writing for now as I focus on helping to create awareness for More Than You Can See.


I do still work on my various art projects, do adventuring with my husband, Mark, and go to as many of my grandson’s lacrosse games as possible. I continue to love learning, creating, and exploring, as I race against time to pack in as many meaningful experiences as time and energy allow.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I feel that as an author, my life is literally an open book, exposed for all the world to see.


I do have many activities that I enjoy pursuing on a regular basis: reading (no surprise), painting, teaching myself to play the piano, biking (e-bike), hiking, kayaking, playing bocce and canasta, travelling (when there isn’t Covid to worry about), and having a good political debate.


I am always looking for the next new chapter in my book of life and pondering what the next thing is that I will try.


Readers can find out more about my life’s story on my website: https://barbararubinauthor.com. It also offers a way for people to contact me and share their story, comments, or insights which I welcome.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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