Margaret Kramar is the author of Searching for Spenser, A Mother’s Journey Through Grief, her memoir about a child who died. It was published by Anamcara Press in November, 2018.
How is it that you decided to write a memoir about the birth and short life of your son?
I never made a conscious decision to write it. Instead, I accidentally “backed into writing it” when I was editing a manuscript. The agents were telling this author that his prose was dull and lifeless. He didn’t get it, so I e-mailed him, “Do it like this.” I then wrote the emergency room scene when Spenser became unconscious, sat back in my chair, and said, “Oh my gosh, I’ve started a memoir about his life.”
Your son had a disability. What emotions did you experience when he was born?
I went to the hospital expecting to deliver a normal, healthy baby like his older brother. Instead, Spenser was put into the neonatal intensive care unit instead of the happy newborn room where smiling relatives and friends peer through the glass and ask, “Who does he look like?” Upon delivery, he looked like a drowned rat and there was a question whether he would even live, let alone lead any semblance of a normal childhood.
So he had the disability of Sotos syndrome. What did that mean in terms of his development?
Sotos syndrome occurs in about one in every 10,000 births. The kids are characterized by certain distinguishing facial features and may experience cognitive delays. Because I was raised in a family that stressed academic achievement, I worried that other kids would make fun of him, and that he would never go to college as I did. Unfortunately, my husband never accepted Spenser, so his disability was a factor in our eventual divorce.
So despite the early negative prognosis, how did things turn out?
Spenser far exceeded any limits that anyone initially placed on him. He got honors in reading and spelling. He loved to act out stories, perform on stage, sing and draw. He danced on the subway when we took a trip to Washington, D.C. He was also a friend to everyone. He never wanted to be pitied or treated differently, but instead, wanted to be just another one of the kids.
But then when he was ten years old, he died.
Yes, that was a time of considerable anguish and pain, but I drew on the strength of my faith and a tremendous outpouring of support from my family and friends. I also attended local meetings of an organization called The Compassionate Friends, an international support group for parents who have lost children regardless of age or circumstances.
You mentioned that his death transformed you. How so?
When you lose a child, you realize that every day is a gift. Although you mourn his death, you celebrate and draw closer to the wonderful friends and family who still surround and love you. You reorder your priorities so you can devote your efforts to making this world a better place. You understand that this world needs our unique talents, knowledge and experience more than ever.
“This book is a reminder that living with a most difficult and painful thing gives us choices. Making the right one makes all the difference. Margaret Kramar has written this story for all the right reasons. And no matter who you are, you will find yourself in these pages.” ~ Maryemma Graham, University of Kansas Distinguished Professor & Founder/Director, Project on the History of Black Writing
You can learn more and get your copy of Searching for Spencer on Amazon