Brooke’s Husband – Elena and Gracie’s Dad

She is an author, a cancer research advocate, an entrepreneur and a mother. She is also my wife – and I am simply known as “Brooke’s husband”.

Today “Notes Left Behind” received the recognition of the Ohio author program for prominent authors in 2009. To celebrate, a formal celebration was held at the Cincinnati Public Library atrium, complete with presentations, speeches and cookies and punch. In 2009 alone, 175 books about history, fiction, science fiction and non-fiction were penned in Ohio. There were four books about the Cincinnati Reds, eight children’s books, countless history books, one book about bugs and one book about illiteracy (which I question who will be reading). And there, in the 24 page program, was a description of our book:

Desserich, Brooke: “Notes Left Behind”, William Morrow Publishers, New York, New York 2009

Several lines below appeared my name:

Desserich, Keith: See Brooke Desserich

Brooke was the first to point it out. “Look dear, at least this time they mentioned you”, she said. She’s right. Look up “Notes Left Behind” on any major search engine or bookseller and all you’ll see is Brooke’s name as the author. I assume it is because there simply isn’t enough space to include “Keith” as well as a long name such as “Desserich”. Brooke tells me it’s because everyone likes her more. And she might be right.

When I first began the journal, we did so only for Gracie. In many ways it was my personal note to her passing on the lessons of her sister, but as more people started reading the journal it became so much more. In truth, I never planned on writing every day – it just happened that I had so much to tell. But it wasn’t until we failed to update the website one night that we realized how many people were involved in Elena’s journey. And after fielding over 20 concerned calls the following morning, we quickly realized we had to provide updates, if only to reinforce to friends and family that Elena was, in fact, all right. So we wrote. Some nights I’d write about a lesson, other times about a memory. Occasionally I’d write out of anger and desperation, only realizing at the end of the journal that it could not be shared. And so in the dawning of those few mornings I would turn to Brooke and ask her to write in my place.

She never did enjoy the journal. For her it was a chore and the cancer was something she wanted to forget. Instead she wanted to remember Elena as she was prior to November 29th, a talented and beautiful little girl untouched by the disease that would one day take her life. Still, she wrote, often in haste and usually about the events of the day. And in the book, every entry from Brooke is duplicated by a secondary entry from me that will remain private and only for Gracie. Even today, Brooke has yet to read the book or even glance over the entries I write online. For her, it is still too painful. And I understand.

In television and radio interviews, people ask Brooke about the cereal kisses, the Hello-Kitty walkie talkies and letting Elena drive in the empty parking lots. They figure she wrote these entries. She shrugs and talks of what she remembers. Later, she opens the book on the way home to recall. And then, as we drive to our house, she laughs as the memories return. In truth it was me that wrote about these memories and more in an effort to put on paper what I knew we would forget one day, both for Gracie and for us. And even I need the book to remember.

Lately we’ve decided to divide and conquer. Brooke runs the charity and I do the speeches and interviews about the book. Considering I wrote the majority of the journals and she does a much better job of managing the charity, we figure this is a good compromise. Still, there isn’t a time when I’m asked if Brooke can speak or participate in the interview. After all, she’s the main author – I’m just a ghost writer. And everyone does like Brooke better.

Today as they called us to the stage of the Ohio author’s program to present a certificate for the book, Brooke whispered in my ear. “Maybe your certificate will say ‘Brooke’s husband’ under your name.” Maybe. Still I’m used to it. And even if the certificate says nothing else, I’d be just fine with framing the description as my most significant achievement of all – husband and father.

Brooke’s husband, Elena and Gracie’s dad – after all, they’re the real stars of the family. And I’ll be just fine writing it all down.

2 Responses to “Brooke’s Husband – Elena and Gracie’s Dad”

  1. Michaela says:

    I’m sure Gracie likes more as a father than a writer. I love the way you write, I would like to write more like you.
    A few days ago I was at the doctor with my Dad, (again, this time for me) and we got food on the way home, but I wanted to stay in the car when he went in to order. I was reading Notes Left Behind, and then I looked up to see if my Dad was back, and I saw a bridal store… The minute I saw that store the words “Pick out your dresses” came to mind.
    I couldn’t see it too well, but I did pick out a dress I would want to have at my wedding, and then I saw a hot pink dress with “squibble-squabbles”. Haha, I thought it would be perfect for Elena! Thank you, thank you for sharing your wonderful family with us.

  2. Pierrette says:

    I find it completely unfair that you are represented this way especially from the publishing agencies and the websites/organizers/etc. that promote the book.

    I know you say it doesn’t matter – what matters is Elena and the message that we all need to find a cure for cancer so that no other parent will journey what you have had to go through.

    I would hope that Brooke would sympathize with you because as a father, especially one who wrote the majority of the journal entries, you are recognized for the profound effect you have had on the lives of many for your unselfish way of sharing your story, your journey, your lives.

    I also trust that you both, as a couple, will look at each other and see Elena in each other. She and Gracie are what bond you. Know that you are both having a profound impact on the lives of a lot of people. Rejoice in that – together – and walk hand in hand in what is a journey of souls bound together through love.

    With respect and appreciation,
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada