This review of Rose Colored Glasses, A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Hope is being submitted for W.O.W.’s (Women on Writing) Blog Tour.
Whatever literary genre an author chooses for her work, the goal is always to tell a good story–one with characters fully developed and to whom the reader can relate in meaningful ways. Whether or not we see our own lives reflected in the lives of the characters, the better the story is, the more we will care about them and the more memorable will be our experience of reading the book.
In Jo Ann Simon’s memoir, ROSE COLORED GLASSES, she reveals a life-style that many readers will not have had the luxury of experiencing–a self-supporting woman, able to eat out at wonderful restaurants and traveling the world–yet, none of that really matters. In the end and at its core, Simon’s emotional wiring as a strong woman allows us to be inspired by her optimistic spirit.
As with all stories, readers bring their own life experiences and relate to different aspects of the book with different degrees of appreciation. Some readers will inevitably be totally uplifted and inspired by Simon’s love story. After being married for twenty-five years, divorced, and having no interest in men or ever marrying again, she had the good fortune of meeting Tom, a man who had been married twice and for whom she initially felt no attraction. Yet after months of becoming friends, when“he took me in his arms,” she writes, “it seemed like my feet never touched the ground. He took control with light magical moves that made my heart melt. At that moment we became one in our own little bubble of unspoken feelings. He really had a hold on me and I didn’t want him to ever let go of me.”
Unlike most young lovers who jump into love with unbridled enthusiasm, Jo Ann and Tom’s relationship exemplifies the depth of mature love, two people meeting in mid life with a barrel of experiences behind them, all of which nurtured their love in ways that were filled with respect and endless adoration for one another. “The best part of falling in love” she writes, “was being friends first. We learned everything there was to learn about each other. We shared stories of our past from childhood to the present day. We opened our secrets to each other and wept through the tough stuff, while laughing over the ludicrous. Nothing was held back.” And their relationship was one that most of us dream about and few have the pleasure of experiencing.
As we ride the waves of their incredible love story, we are struck–as they are–by the unexpected attack of ill health, a tick bite on Tom while vacationing at their favorite beach on Block Island. At first it was thought to be Lyme Disease and after many doctors’ visits and differing opinions, the final diagnosis was ALS.
“The most important thing was to protect him as much as I could from this horrid disease and to make him as comfortable and happy as he could be,” she writes. “Hopefully my optimism would rub off on him. I put on those rose-colored glasses with a passion in my soul. Our calendar became the zig zag of the doctor maze to find answers. Hope is the thread that holds you together when you are falling apart. Hope can wind itself around you several times like a reassuring hug to make you feel like anything is possible. I had hoped that there was a better truth out there than ALS. I needed to have hope to save my Tom, to save us.”
Jo Ann’s hope certainly did help them both, but it couldn’t save Tom. It’s always a hard pill to swallow when your only wish is to save the one you love and it’s not possible.
After Tom’s death she experienced what many who are close to a loved one experience– signs that made her feel his presence and gave her strength to go on. In her eulogy, we hear her say “It’s hard to make sense of it all. Everyone has a certain time on this earth, and we should all make the most of it every day. You could be gone tomorrow. Love the people you love, tell them you love them. Enjoy what you have and savor it. Be positive. It does not help to be negative. Do these things and you will have no regrets. . . Tom’s world was one in which anything terrible could be transformed into something wonderful. This is where Tom lived his life, on the back of a butterfly. He was always on a holiday from reality in his mind. Life was good, fun and a constant adventure.”
How emotionally wonderful it would be if all of us could live on the back of a butterfly! Tom’s influence on Jo Ann allowed her to figure out what the new norm in her life was going to be. So, she moved forward one day at a time and tried to be positive . . .the challenge helped her work to put those glasses on again.
She decided to write, “to document everything that happened in our lives, so that I would never lose any part of our love and our life together.” She knew that “grief was the culprit and that she was lost in her loss.”
While most readers have experienced the death of a loved one–a family member, a spouse, or a dear friend, there’s never a right time to lose a loved one. For Jo Ann, Tom’s death was a shocking loss and one in which–despite her rose-colored glasses– she experienced most of the normal stages of grief: denial, anger, depression, and finally acceptance.
“In the relatively short time that I knew Tom, we took advantage of every opportunity to enjoy every day, every moment. We traveled extensively, owned a restaurant together, and worked hard, and played as much as we could. We enjoyed our families and friends by spending time laughing and crying together. How we loved each other was the best testament of a good life. We also had our calamities of life as all people do, but if you had to measure the fullness of our lives, we would have measured full to the brim.”
As the book ends she tells us, “I will try to live and make the most of each day. I will also try desperately to have no regrets. . . . . . How does anyone go through this loss and ever be whole or normal again? The real question is whether I will have the mindset to pick myself up to live the fullest life without Tom by myself.”
One can conclude that by simply asking the question, Jo Ann does pick herself up and in so doing shows us all how best to survive and move on with the memories and Tom’s love in her heart, allowing him to be by her side even after death.
ROSE COLORED GLASSES is deeply felt and honestly expressed.
About the Author
Jo Ann Simon, a corporate executive, is a lifelong nutmegger, living in various locations in the Nutmeg state of Connecticut. She is a constant traveler, exploring the world including her favorite country, Italy. When she is not traveling, Jo Ann loves spending time with her family, friends and her seven grandchildren. Her day job running a company, painting fine art, gardening and writing fill in the blanks of her life. Palm trees are essential in her personal landscape with beaches to match.
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