I Found Love, Steve Salmon
Biography/Memoir, 204 pp
December 2020, CK Books
Reviewed by Lisa Lickel
Nonfiction writer and novelist Steve Salmon’s frank memoir about figuring out independent life is often humorous, filled with angst and frustration, and yet hopeful. Steve could be anyman, but he happens to have severe cerebral palsy. “My mother’s death in 2015 forced me to leave my home,” Steve writes candidly. “In one day, due to her death, I was thrust into the company of strangers. I…cannot live alone due to my disability.”
After being in the care of a loving, if cautious, parent, all of his life, Steve learns that independence has both up and downsides. “Going out by myself to the bar, the strip club, or anywhere when I lived with Mom was not possible”: but “I don’t miss not being able to do these tasks on my own since I never had the ability.” What bugs him, Steve writes, is not necessarily being dependent, but how the paid staff at his group home make him feel “like I’m a burden. My mother never did that.”
Steve is a college graduate, and a working author. He dreams of finding a life partner who sees him “for who I am and not the body I present.” He knows people with cerebral palsy who have married and have a family, so he knows it’s not beyond his reach. Limitations in being able to get out and look for a special love make finding one all the more of a struggle. Steve enjoys going out to be with people, but shares his frustrations in communication and the misunderstanding others often have in thinking he’s cognitively impaired when he most certainly is not. Still, “Being independent sometimes require my determination and the help of kind strangers.”
He is successful enough in his authorial career to have acquired an agent, and has published his work. Writing, however, takes more dedication than the average writer, since he must use special, expensive equipment, and often needs the help of staff. He’s thankful for the encouragement of his friends and writing partners, and his agent. He also recognizes that sometimes his love of the Packers football games is more of a priority than “finding a girlfriend.”
Steve holds no punches when sharing about his life and his challenges. Although the government seems to take two or ten steps backward for every positive thing that happens (taking away subsidized public door-to-door transport for the differently abled in Madison and then charging a healthy rate many cannot afford, and we won’t even get onto the black hole that is Medicaid), he says, “Laughter helps me to forget the pain of waiting.” Steve didn’t take the transportation fiasco lying down, either. He made appeals in Madison’s media, unfortunately to no avail.
It’s not easy being independent. Steve admits to bouts of despair. “I planned my own funeral,” he shares. “ I chose my urn, wrote my obituary, named my agents of my last rites, picked out songs, planned the menu, and paid for the memorial service. My tombstone will say: ‘Steven Salmon author, Packer fan.’ My trust fund paid for the eight-thousand-dollar funeral. It costs a lot of money to die.”
Steve continues to figure out life and love. He’s working steadily to meet his life goals, one of which is to be a “New York author!” I’m excited to see how far his journey goes. Due to adult content, this story is not recommended for younger readers, but he has other current and future books that discuss what it’s like living with cerebral palsy.