A Review on Mitch Albom’s For One More Day
I am inexplicably in love with books. If most are addicted to shopping for clothes, my wallet always attends a losing battle whenever I am inside a bookstore. If there is a sickness for it then I have it. The downside is that I have not read a book for a year. I have been busy. It is a lousy excuse, I know.
So anyway, I decided to pick up a book from my large shelf of unread finds. I was all like what is the deal with Mitch Albom? So, I picked up For One More Day. I bought it on a whim at a thrift shop a few months back. The latest publication that I ever read was Divergent. I am not aware of how these modern authors write. So I wanted to see what is the big deal.
Half a day and a whole book read later, I was lying across my bed, staring at the paper plane mobile hanging above me. I was crying.
One tear fell from each outer corner of my eyes. Their journey was painfully slow as they travelled down my temple then behind my ear to the finish line of my nape. It was like a race between a snail and a turtle. I had to go up to my room, the tears were already threatening to fall as I was reading the last few pages of the book. I did not want to make a fuss of being noticed by my mom while I was reading on the couch in the living room.
I stayed there for a good seven minutes before I collected myself and went back downstairs, leaving the book on my bed.
Six hours earlier…
The first chapter of the book was straight forward. There was no drowned-out introductions and long descriptions of what the characters looked like. It was a ‘Bam! Chick Benetton used to play major baseball. Then, he tried to kill himself. Stick around if you want to know why a man who got his dream decided to end it all.’
It conveniently reminded me of the late great Robin Williams.
I continued on reading. Chick’s mother died around ten years ago. He missed her terribly. As how I would summarize, he thought of her as a balm to his wounds and a protector from any adversary.
“…that’s the thing when your parents die, you feel like instead of going into every fight with backup, you are going into every fight alone.”
Yeah, right. My mom never stood up for me. She never supported any endeavor that I planned on indulging myself in. I was not allowed to be part of the girl scout group. I was not allowed to be part of the school dance troupe. I was allowed to be part of the marching band but I got relieved early because I did not attend practices. I was not allowed to. I was not allowed to go to the mall. I wanted to do some small time crafting business. She said I couldn’t. I wanted to be an artist. She said that it was only a child’s hobby. I wanted to go DIY. Same thing. All she wanted was that I stay at home where she could see me. I believed that the word that she said the most was ‘no’.
Back to the story.
Chick lost it when he received a letter about his daughter’s marriage days after it happened. It was clear to him then that he was cut off from the family that he made and broke apart. That was when he lost all hope and decided to kill himself. There was no point in living if no one cared that you are gone.
My dad’s father had eight sons. Their family was terribly poor. My dad used to tell me that they were fed mainly on rice and fish. Soda was a luxury to have only when you were sick. My dad did not graduate from college. He was the fourth of eight sons.
Many years and many trials and opportunities later, the family eventually prospered and my grandfather gave each son a fortune for them to start their own good lives. My father made good use of that fortune. Most of his brothers did not. It consequently became a large family feud. My dad was on the minority side.
I adored my grandfather. I was well aware that my uncles bitterly thought of me as his favorite grandchild. Me. The daughter of the brother that they despised. My grandfather’s sons want nothing to do with him. Thus, he would frequently visit us. I now realize that it was possibly because we were the only household that took him in wholeheartedly.
This caused more bitterness among the brothers. Eventually, my grandfather came to us for a visit. He never left the house ever since.
Times were getting hard and we were trying our best to keep our grandfather’s health up. He was happy yet he longed for his other sons. He still had this hope that the family would find reconciliation. He was still broken and he blamed himself.
It was heartbreaking. I was sorry for Chick. No one should never be allowed to feel abandoned. It is a painful thing to get used to.
“You can be a mama’s boy or a daddy’s boy. But, you can’t be both.”
Chick was made to choose. Either he becomes one or another. He chose to be a daddy’s boy. He had a theory as to why he made such a decision.
“…kids chase the love that eludes them.”
His mom was always there for him. He wanted the same from his father. He played baseball because that is how the would connect. They began with baseball. His father taught him everything. His father molded him to have the dream of playing for the big leagues. His mother was more on the academic side. Baseball, to her, was a sideline. To her, Chick needed his education first.
I was neither a mamma’s girl or a daddy’s boy. I used to have this weird question in my head that I rehearsed the answer to when the time comes that someone asks me in real life. If the dreaded day comes that your parents split up, who will you go with and why? Your mom or your dad? Even at my very dependent age, I chose neither. I’d rather live alone and helpless than choose. This is not because I love neither. My mother’s love or more specifically her approval was the one that eluded me. I knew she loved me even then despite her awkward ways of showing it. My father was the showy one. He hugged, kissed, talked and laughed. My mom was a brick. Yeap, she was a hard cookie. I was closer to my dad but I owed so much to my mom.
I choose to live with neither because, for me, choosing one means turning my back on the other. I cannot bring that much hurt. At least, if I choose to live alone then I can move back and forth between my mom and my dad.
My dad was the reason why I fell in love with art. He taught me how to draw and paint. I was always watching close by when he goes on tinkering things. My mom? She loved to read. There were times when we would spend hours sitting on the couch. We don’t talk. We just read. I wanted to become a professional artist. My mom disagreed from the very beginning. I had no future. If I wanted to study art then I had to finish college first. So, I gave it up. I did not think that there could be a career in reading unless I get paid for reading stories to children.
Chick made a list after his mom’s death. It was a comparative list of the times when his mother stood up for him and the times that he did not stand up for her.
I was thinking that he was lucky and he did not know it. He had at least one parent that believed in him. He had his mom that believed that he could do anything he wanted. My mother always said ‘no’ and ‘you cannot do it’. My father does not say anything at all. I wanted to prove her wrong. I wanted to show her that I can do it. She did not want me to have my own business while I was studying in college. It was not much anyway. I just make accessories and go on to sell them at school. She said ‘no’ and I thought ‘whatever’. I did it anyway. I made up excuses for going home later than the expected time. I said that I had group work to finish but I was actually buying beads and chains for the products that I was making. Then, I would stash them under the bed and work on it when no one is watching. Then, I would sell it at the college. I even sold snacks and chips too. She eventually found out and told me to stop. I didn’t. It continued until I stopped during my last year as I was becoming more focused on my thesis paper.
I thought things would be different now that I am officially employed. I wanted to do something else besides flying. I wanted to continue where I left off when I stopped doing art when I entered college. She said that I should focus on my current job and nothing else. My flying career and my writing career started almost the same time. I did not tell my mom that I was starting to write. I knew what she would say. She eventually found out. She did not ask me to stop. Perhaps, it was because she knew that I would not follow anyway. So, when she sees long paragraphs on the computer screen as I type, she asks me in exasperation if I was making stories again. I would said ‘no’. Oddly enough, there are times that she would ask me to make a necklace for her. Now, she is requesting that I paint for her. I wonder if the day will come when she will ask that I write for her. I will laugh very hard if it does.
Three hours and half a book later…
I was still reading when I read a line that felt like a punch in the stomach. It was unexpected and it hurt like Hell.
“Children forget that sometimes. They think of themselves as a burden instead of a wish granted.”
I always thought of myself that. I was a burden. I always did the wrong things. I always disappointed my mother. I always made the wrong decisions. I was a disappointment. I was nothing like my elder brother. He did good. He was ideal. He was perfection compared to me. Whatever my mom asked, I did. Whatever she said, I followed. Whatever she wanted for me then I pursued. Yet, it appears that everything still falls apart. It was as if I was destined to be wrong. I tried to compensate for my incompetence by showering my family with gifts and financial assistance. I was still very far from redeeming myself. That line made me wonder. Had she wished for me? At that moment, I had to swallow my despair and force my tear (it was just one) back while I forced myself to read past that line.
I was still reading when another ‘punch’ line attacked me. Yes, I am calling them ‘punch’ lines.
“Sometimes kids want you hurt the way they hurt.”
What is with this book? Is this created for the destruction of my sanity?
I did not realize that I was doing it until I read the line. As I grew up, my mother and I would always argue. In the end, I was resentful and she was defeated. No one ever won. Yet, we never backed down from each other. Whenever I saw the sadness in her eyes, I felt that I won the argument. Then, I will be bitter because I was winning. Whenever I saw the anger in her eyes, I was bitter because she was winning.
I suppose I wanted my mother to realize how hard it was for me to live up her standards of being her daughter growing up. Yet, I do not want to hear an apology from her. I do not want to hear her regret things that she had done. I suppose it is because it meant that I won. I knew deep down inside that children are never meant to win over their parents. I suppose I wanted the arguments because it somehow meant that she will be in the pit of bitterness with me. It was either that or we do not speak at all. It is no contest as to which option I choose.
I read some more. As expected, yet I was gullible to believe that there would be no more, there was another ‘punch’ line.
“I did what mattered to me. I was a mother.”
I truly believe that mothers will do anything for their children. This line is from the scene wherein Chick discovered that his mother had to do many hard things in order to get them their best future possible. My mother was a college graduate. She was smart, pretty, and good. Things were already hard when she and my father started their family life. The family did not have much then. My parents tried all that they could to provide for us. My mom aimed to go overseas and make a living there so that life will be good for all of us. But then, my elder sister was born. She was a special one as she has mild autism. My parents had to send her to therapy at the general hospital as she could even walk on her own. They had to look after her 24/7. Those dreams of a better life abroad were gone. Now, our existence focused on my sister. Everything that we do, we had her in mind. We had to give up a lot of things. My parents most of all. They gave up so much. It was an unpayable debt.
As I continued to read the book, the chances of me crying a river were getting stronger. I was already cursing Mitch Albom for writing such a piece. I was cursing my mother for being so damn relative. I was cursing my grandfather for being so participative in my thoughts while I read. I was cursing my family for being there so that I would have no need to hold back my tears and start the argument of the century once they notice the tears. I was cursing myself for being so guilty.
“Your mom… she died.”
Chick was not there when his mother died. He chose to be somewhere else. He chose to be in a place where he should not be. He regretted it ever since.
I just came home from my first London layover. I arrived home and was ecstatic to tell my folks all about my experience. I was animate and I was happy. They were happy that I was happy. Then, after more than an hour of storytelling, they shared with me what they did during the week that I was gone. They visited my grandfather. They told me he was weak. He was not living with us for more than a month already. He needed hospitalization so we decided to let him live with my uncle who lives near a hospital until he gets better enough for us to take him home.
I told my parents that if that is the case then I wanted to visit my grandfather the morning after. I was even about to show them the packs of cookies and biscuits that I bought from Asda. Our family loves biscuits and my grandfather is fond of them too so I was planning on bringing him a month’s supply. I went tyo unpack the goods while my mother opened her phone’s inbox as it was buzzing irritatingly at that moment. She read a text then she laughed for a split second before she shut up as the message sunk in.
The message read…
“Masakit man sa loob ko at di ko alam kung pano ko sasabihin sa inyo. Pumanaw na ang Papa.”
It was a text from my uncle. I approached my mother and read the text. I was indifferent. I was like “Oh okay”. I left her side to open up my suitcase. My suitcase suddenly weighed a thousand tons. I could not lay it down. I could not move. I sat on my suitcase and I let my world shatter. The next day, my mother told me that the neighbors heard my lamentation as if I was sitting beside them. It went on for more than it should according to them.
In English, the text read…
“It is hard for me as I do not know how to tell you. Papa (The clan’s endearment for my grandfather) is dead.”
I recalled that before we sent him away. my grandfather spoke to me. He told me that he wanted to die in our house, with the people that he loved and that loved him back. He was on the brink of tears. It was my first time to see my grandfather cry. He died in a hospital bed far from us. None of use were there. I still regret that I did not fulfill his wish.
That was already the time when I went up to my room and laid on my bed so that I could cry in peace. The book ended with a recollection of Chick’s earliest memory. It was a simple moment with his mother. My earliest memory was that I was sitting across my mother on the dining table as she prepared to make fruit salad. I was there helping her by skinning the grapes.
I liked that part. The book is a recollection of Chick’s memories with his mother as he grew up in age. In the end, he returned to the beginning. The beginning is the purest as there is still no doubt, regret, disappointment, and hurt. In the beginning, Chick and his mother were just that. Mother and son. In the end, despite all, they were just that. Mother and son.
Three more hours and a whole book later…
The book laid beside me on the bed as I continued to cry silent tears. Eventually, the book ended with Chick finding retribution as he has forgiven himself.
As I lay there, my mind whirls. This book was not the first of it’s kind that I have read. I have read a handful and, up to now, I still wonder.
How do they forgive themselves? Do they just utter the words then poof and everything is okay? I have done that and it did not work. If there was a book on how to do that then I would be one of the first to buy. All of my mistakes are crashing down on me. All of the disappointment suddenly weighed me down. I am barely a quarter century old yet I could not get over myself. How much more the following years? What can I do? How do they do it? How do I forgive myself?
First of all, I apologize if this post is too heavy to your spirit.
Second, forgive me if this is not the kind of book review that you are looking for. I I do not have an English major. I actually majored in marketing management. I can I tell how Mr. Albom’s writing style is different from Mr. Hemingway’s. I cannot tell the details of the progression of the story towards its climax. I cannot say how Mr. Albom was able to define his own technique in his writing.
What I can tell is how his writing has affected me as a reader. What I can tell is how I was moved by every action that is protagonist made. What I can say is how his creativity has pushed its way out of the page and into my mind and heart speaking to me his purpose and ideals for writing that book.
If you wish to be shaken…
If you wish to be grounded…
If you wish to doubt everything that you know about…
…being a parent
…being a son or daughter
If you wish to be reminded about what love truly is…
Then go grab a copy of this book.
PS. I dedicate this book review to my grandfather. He has been gone for a year today.
What is your earliest memory?