Biographies & Memoirs

Searching for Spenser


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When her son Spenser was diagnosed with a disability, Kramar embarked on a transformative journey which emboldened her to question what defines success, how we perceive others and whether she could have been a better mother. She realizes that living through loneliness, rejection and divorce had enabled her to become a stronger advocate for her child. After Spenser dies and she searches for him in the memories of relatives, teachers and friends, she finds a love that shatters any barriers that divide us.

The Memory Bank

There’s nothing suspenseful about this story. I’m telling you right

up front that he died when he was ten. I’ve learned some things

since giving birth to Spenser, a child with a developmental disability.

Quite a few, actually.

Voices. Words. Sometimes in the pauses of long distance telephone

conversations, words of other speakers, distant and disembodied,

seep through. Words not intended for me. Words bridging

time zones, geographic regions, territories of the heart. Likewise in

subways, department stores or theatres as the lights dim, more words.

We are always blanketed by the soft, reassuring drone of words, too

muffled to be understood, that tell us we are not alone. It is the chorus,

the low constant buzzing, that connects us.

I bring to mind Spenser’s words, the sound of his voice, but can

only hear a few conversations distinctly. The soprano of his voice

is becoming garbled, far off. He did make cooing sounds as a baby.

Sometimes he yelled “No” when forced to do his spelling words. His

constant congestion caused his vocal tone to be nasal and mangled

his words. In his usual school outfit of a turtle-neck pullover and blue

jeans, he would make emphatic declarations, but I don’t remember

what they were, because I was too busy, grabbing for the phone or the


I sift through my memory bank for visual images of Spenser,

framed with longing, as I slide my thumb over his photograph, my

face reflected in the glass. My baby. My boy. His blonde hair is as fine

as corn silk. His almond eyes are set slightly apart, on either side of

the flat bridge of his tiny nose, diagnostic characteristics of Sotos syndrome,

his disability.

Spenser, where have you gone? He doesn’t answer, but his smiling

expression in his portrait on the desk never changes, whether the

glass reflects the east light of dawn or the long afternoon rays of the

sun, which extend and then recede like the tide through the seasons. I

pretend that the elementary school photo was taken only months ago,

that I can hear him playing downstairs, that he never died.

But he is suspended in mid-sentence, says nothing. I study the details

of his face, his eyebrows darker than I remembered, a small crater

of dimple that indents his cheek, which he inherited from me.

In a newsletter, a bereaved mother suggested cataloguing memories

on notecards, four by six inches, which she stored neatly in a

compact box. I don’t want to write on notecards because my recipe

boxes are a disaster, overflowing with partially alphabetized clippings.

This manuscript is my memory box. In it I reconstruct Spenser from

the memories of family, teachers and friends. I record his whispers,

carried by the wind. I might glimpse him, darting past the twining

clematis in a brightly-colored cap on a summer afternoon. He can’t

have gone that far.

About the author

Margaret Kramar is an educator who taught English at the University of Kansas where she recently completed her PhD. Her work has appeared in numerous newspapers, magazines and anthologies. She and her family live on a farm in NE Kansas where they produce organically grown fruits and vegetables. view profile

Published on November 10, 2018

Published by Anamcara Press

80000 words

Genre: Biographies & Memoirs

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