Book Review: F.S.O.

It requires figuring out how to use the sump pump, install storm windows and charge a dead car battery – alone.

figuring_shit_out_amy_biancolliI suppose we’re all trying to F.S.O. But Amy Biancolli had to deal with it, in part, in a rather public way.

A few years ago, her husband, Christopher Ringwald, spoke at my church. He had written a book called A Day Apart, subtitled “How Jews, Christians, and Muslims find faith, freedom, and joy on the Sabbath.” He signed my book, “Thanks for the topic and the wonderful evening.” I barely remember what, if anything, I had to do with facilitating his visit, but so be it. I had a few email conversations with him after that date, which was probably c 2007.

He was accompanied by his wife, Amy Biancolli, who I “knew” mostly from her syndicated movie reviews that appeared in the local paper, the Times Union. I found her observations useful, and fairly in sync with my point of view.

If I were to pick a person least likely to commit suicide, it would have been Chris Ringwald. But, evidently, in his last few months, he developed a mental illness that forced him to do just that in September 2011, and in a very public way, off the roof of a hospital parking lot less than a mile from their home. Mike Huber of the TU wrote a lovely remembrance.

This left Amy, of course, a widow, with three kids to raise alone. Beyond her grief, and dealing with her kids’ sense of loss, Amy had to figure out how to organize the “crisis ziti” that came pouring into the house from friends and neighbors, how to go back to work, but also how to mow the lawn, which Chris used to do, but he’s not here anymore. In other words, as her book and her blog read, F.S.O.

Chris so hated that four-letter word, while Amy, I can attest from some times I’ve run into her, is drawn to it. She did NOT feel strong, amazing, incredible – all the terms people said that she was in the days and weeks after Chris’ death.

F.S.O means dealing with guilt, though, as someone who had dealt with her sister’s suicide two decades earlier, she recognizes it’s not her fault. But it also requires figuring out how to use the sump pump, install storm windows and charge a dead car battery – alone. It means creating new family traditions, a different Thanksgiving venue, a shorter Christmas tree, a vacation in Ecuador during which she does not drown. It addresses her evolution from not shaving her legs to the realization that she’ll want another Mr. Manly Pants someday.

The book is sad. And funny. And practical. And true.

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