Buddy’s Story by Ellen Akerman
By Elizabeth M. Marshall
Buddy’s Story is a heartbreakingly victorious book about Bernard Akerman, who was born a normal, healthy, vibrant child and contracted debilitating cerebral palsy after a bout of whooping cough at the age of eight months. Writing the story as a fictional memoir, his niece Ellen Akerman pays tribute to her uncle’s life and valiant spirit.
After his illness, Buddy lived for an additional 79 years, with slow and uncontrollable writhing movements of his hands and feet, an inability to feed himself, speak, walk, or make his thoughts known to others. However, Buddy had a razor sharp intellect trapped in a body that would not let him express himself.
Written beautifully with a soft, deft touch, Ellen Akerman has succeeded in finally giving Buddy a voice. The book alternates between Ellen’s experiences of Buddy, the story of what happened to him, poems written in Buddy’s voice, and his love of baseball.
When he was eleven, Buddy’s parents were no longer able to care for him. The only solution available to them at that time was to commit Buddy to the Belchertown School for the Feeble Minded. Buddy was mistreated at this institution while communications and gifts from his family were never delivered to him and were stolen by the staff.
Belchertown was later discovered to be notorious for abuse of the patients supposedly in its care. Buddy received no education, no rehabilitation, and no nurturing from staff while there in the “dark place.” During these years, the saving grace for this man was that he went home every year for the month of July. Eventually, the family was able to move Buddy to the far superior and kinder Jewish Nursing Home, where he lived for the remainder of his life.
To say more about this touching, wonderful book would take away the voice given to Buddy by his niece Ellen.
As of this writing, there is still no cure for cerebral palsy.
Buddy’s Story is available for purchase here in San Miguel de Allende from Ellen Akerman or from Amazon.com. It is also available for loan from La Biblioteca.