The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving


The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison, a book that appeared when I needed it and I knew it from the time I saw this quote:

“Listen to me: everything you think you know, every relationship you’ve ever taken for granted, every plan or possibility you’ve ever hatched, every conceit or endeavor you’ve ever concocted, can be stripped from you in an instant. Sooner or later, it will happen. So prepare yourself. Be ready not to be ready. Be ready to be brought to your knees and beaten to dust. Because no stable foundation, no act of will, no force of cautious habit will save you from this fact: Nothing is Indestructible.”

My Mother left us instantly when she was accidentally struck by a tractor that my dad was driving.

No, that’s not right, that only happens to other people.

My Mother left us instantly on a bright spring afternoon from the same farmland that she was born. In the solid sun-flecked shadow of my Grandpa’s Mountain. The land eager to hold Her and comfort Her just as it had with Her first steps. A full circle.

My Mother left us instantly.

And in that instant, that minuscule moment, where the atoms and actions of physics and prayer, simply forgot to align, she slipped through without us, our family blew apart.

After the blow, we individually held on to whatever scrap of life-raft we could muster. Lone survival. You might imagine that we would come together and our shared faith and lessons from our mother would buoy us. It did at times, but we had never sat for this test and like the quote said, we never saw it coming. Triage hierarchy was simple… take care of my heartbroken and shattered father. Family and friends and professionals stepped up to support, to love, to work, to listen. I don’t even know after all this time how to rightly express gratitude in this story. Because of them he makes it through, day by day. He is strong.

For her three daughters it was different. Our Mother left us instantly. The life-rafts we desperately were clinging to, drifted together and further apart. Some of us thrashed and kicked. Some remained calm. Some of us cursed and some called on a higher power. There was never any right or wrong. There was a lot of not knowing. Self preservation. For my part, I wanted the current to pull me away. To be gone. I ignored my children at their most vulnerable time of growing up. My husband and I had some of the worst fights of our long marriage. I went on a three-week long road trip with one son, hoping to stay one mile ahead of the anxiety at all times. I read books and blogs and reached out to people on the internet who had suffered anything, even remotely similar.

Then one day I was at The King’s English in Salt Lake City. An independent bookstore where I enjoy getting lost in the aisles. I saw the book cover to “The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving.” It was graphic and bright, with cool lettering and the title intrigued me. A staff member at the bookstore highly recommended it. I picked it up and read the quote I started this epistle with. It socked me in the gut with a belt of truth.

I bought the book. It felt familiar reading it, although I never recognized any commonality with the characters or author. Except perhaps that I live by the “world’s largest hole” Kennecott Copper mine which is featured in the book, and every time I fly over it I take a picture and think of how far I have come since those days of  being tossed and turned in the drift. I searched for more information about Mr. Evison. I read his essay, “Filling Holes” describing how the tale came about… “The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving” is a story of total collapse, and ultimately, reconstruction.” In my own way I was living the story.

I heard the news that the book was being made into a movie. Watched the updates on the casting and filming. In the meantime I read Jonathan’s new book “This is Your Life Harriet Chance” another engaging story, and soon after there was to be an author’s reading at The Kings English. I attended. I was mesmerized by Jonathan’s energy. Almost manic, about doing “the work” of writing, he had an irreverence that was softened with an edge of humor and humility and respect for the characters in his stories and the characters in his real life.

He told the audience that the film would premiere at Sundance. That was in September.

Fast forward to January 2016. I had secured tickets for the film that had been renamed the “Fundamentals of Caring” but they were not for the premiere, which was sold out, but for two days after and I was scheduled to work. My husband wanted to go skiing on what was a perfect snow day that also happened to be the day of the premiere. I considered it for about a minute and then asked him to change his plans and drive two hours to Park City with me on the off chance we could obtain entry from the waitlist. He agreed and off we went. We pulled over in Coalville and readied ourselves to join the online waitlist the second it opened. We did. I was number 381 and my husband didn’t even get a number. There was “not a chance.” We kept going thinking we could soak up the Sundance atmosphere. After arriving and securing our place in the long line we went upstairs to grab a bite to eat. The stop and repeat, and red carpet were being prepared for the stars to arrive. Paul Rudd and Selena Gomez the highlighters. Cameras clicking all around. The buzz was electric. I startled my husband by yelling out, “Jonathan,” and the author and brains behind this story that was so important to me in grieving my mother turns around. I start talking rapidly in one glorious run-on sentence, “Hi, congratulations, I met you at The King’s English, I’m the flight attendant that always posts pictures of the mine, this is my husband, Darren, this is the author of the book I’ve been talking about for years.” He replied, “Yeah, we’re friends on Facebook” and then asks what we are doing and I relayed a shortened version of our journey, but how we are just glad to be part of the excitement. Thirty minutes later, we are back in the “not a chance” line and Jonathan comes through the door walks straight toward us and gives us two tickets. I couldn’t even speak. Darren just kept repeating thank you and even after Jonathan left kept expressing his surprise that someone could be so generous on their “big” day by remembering a silly fan and her come along for the ride husband. He also could not quit laughing at my exuberance at spotting obscure celebrities. No one else rushed the author. They were all waiting for the actors.

We watched the movie. It was high-energy. We laughed and cried and cheered through the entire film along with the rest of the audience. It was perfect. There is no other objective review I can give besides perfect. How else do you describe the series of events that randomly occurred on this night? The actors and director spoke and answered questions. They introduced Jonathan. I gave him a hearty “woot, woot.”

And so my Mother left me instantly, but I found the universe, or perhaps it is Her, leaves love notes and guide maps and obstacles to run into that are assisting my life-raft in drifting back closer to the ones she loved.

Thank you Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving and Jonathan Evison.

4 thoughts on “The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving”

  1. I love to read your thoughts! I read this to my husband over a Mexican dinner tonight. He said, “She needs to write a book!” I agree!

  2. I’m fortunate to have such a fun, articulate, and adventuresome wife, partner and scuba buddy to grow up and grow old with. Saundra (DeAnn’s mom) had a major role in bringing us together, and was an engaged loving grandparent in the lives of our two boys The sting of her death continues to paralyze all of us from time to time, especially during the warm spring days of early May.

    Saundra knew how to weave different types of people into her big family quilt, highlighting everyone’s best characteristics. DeAnn’s mom took me under her wing from day one, and treated me like I was the most important person in the world. I also know she made my two children feel the same and the sting of her death is particularly hard on them.

    Many aspects of our family did blow apart May 8, 2008. Being lost at sea in this experience has changed my understanding of faith, hope and the importance of relationships during our short lIves on earth. I think I’m more realistic in what I expext out of life now, placing more emphasis on what is real, and taking advantage of the here and now. This I learned during a scuba trip in Mexico.

    DeAnn, although I don’t think she realizes it, carries on just like Saundra. Her role of bringing people together and making each person in her life feel like they are the most important person in the world reminds me of how her Mom treated others. How cool is that!

  3. Dear DeAnn, My name is Scott Vincent, I’m from Provo and am trying to locate Melanie Olsen from Grandview Hill, Provo, Utah. I see that you are married to Darren Olsen, her brother I presume. I too am learning how to fill holes and am sorry to read about your mom. Can you kindly reply to me if you know Melanie and her contact informationor someone who does. Thanks, Scott Vincent, class of 84 Provo, 801-703-4346,

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