A Polio Life Becomes Fiction
Despite the fact I had polio, or perhaps because of it, I work out at World Gym about five times a week.I often gaze at parents who bring their little kids in for daycare , and think how different things would have been years ago.
It would be completely ghastly and unimaginable for these young, peppy mothers to imagine their kids not in ballet or soccer practice, but instead in heavy, clunky braces and framed in awkward crutches from polio.
In that other generation, mothers knew their children’s innocent years may be lost, and their future as adults limited, at best.
And grimly, they knew it had been their responsibility to protect their kids. And, somehow, they failed.
I mention this because all this came to mind when I gave the eulogy at my mother Iris’ funeral years ago. I realized how the polio mothers were very much victims of the disease, and rarely are even acknowledged for their lifelong devotion.
So I wrote a memoir of her silent commitment, and it was published from Palm Springs (I live nearby) to Los Angeles to Peoria (where I had my therapy) to Paris (where I once worked) to Taipei. Based on the overwhelming emotional response I received, I wrote a novella, TOO EARLY FOR FLOWERS: THE STORY OF A POLIO MOTHER.
It had to be fiction, because my mother would never talk about the immediate years after I got polio at the age of two. There was no Oprah nor Facebook for support. Her self-taught strength came from within.
In writing the biopic, I continually envisioned it as a movie, something like I REMEMBER MAMA and THE THORNBIRDS saga.
The young actress Ksenia Solo read the work after I approached her. I had seen her in ‘The Black Swan’ and in her SyFy series, ‘Lost Girl’ and was moved by her beauty, sensitivity and fragility, yet somehow infused with a hint of grit and fearlessness.
She wrote me that as a young woman she had no knowledge of the million dead mothers and their selfless quest, and she also saw the film potential for polio awareness : A way to tell the world through entertainment about those noble, unsung heroines, and the courage of the little victims.
She will produce ’TOO EARLY FOR FLOWERS’ and star as Iris.
Actress Ksenia Solo: Polio eradication advocate to support the cause with a film
Also, she has become an advocate herself, and has written and spoken about polio several times to her important world-wide fan base, putting a young face to an old disease:
To the Women Who Fight Polio: You Are My Heroes
You see, my ebook is not just about the fact that Mom devoted her early life to my exercises. It was through daily encouragement, where optimism had to balance with pragmatism. She told me that the whole world is out there waiting for me, that God chooses only the bravest boys to suffer so much, and that my future is unlimited because He would always look out for me.
So I lost my braces, and after college graduation headed out, to the furthest place I could from Streator, Illinois: Sydney Australia. And then I traveled the world several times over for years.
Eventually, word came that Mom had a stroke, and she called out to me. She had been widowed twice over, and I was her oldest surviving son. It was no duty: It was a privilege.
So I returned to her, and helped her exercise and gave her words of encouragement, and told her of the world she could never see because of her devotion to me.
Life came full circle for us both.
Tragedy can inspire triumph, and Ksenia and I want to tell the world.
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