When gray matter is the color of your parachute.

When I graduated from Catholic University of America in Washington D.C. in 1980 with a bachelor’s in psychology, a friend loaned me a copy of What Color is Your Parachute? the classic job-hunting aid by Richard N. Bolles.

In print since 1970, the award-winning book has sold ten million copies in twenty-eight countries, and has been translated into twenty languages. When I had time in between graduation ceremonies, parties, and packing up to move to my first apartment, I skimmed through my dog-eared copy, looking over the worksheets, but never doing the exercises. I didn’t get much out of it.

Not my son Matthew. A few years after he graduated from college with a degree in music industry, he not only read the book, he worked through the exercises, kept a binder of notes, and followed through on his process of discovery with action steps.

He was so thorough, he could have written his own book. The title would be, 

When Gray Matter is the Color of your Parachute. 

White and gray matter, as you probably know, form the convoluted folds in the brain. 

I probably learned a little about white and gray matter in high school science class. Then, in college, I studied the anatomy and physiology of the brain in more depth.

But I didn’t really think about that delicate and vital organ in our heads–about all it can do and all it can take away–until Matthew turned eleven. That’s when doctors discovered his brain tumor. 

Benign and inoperable, that pilocytic astrocytoma presented Matthew with numerous challenges over the years. Perhaps, as a result, he has become incredibly resourceful, continually finding strategies to manage and rise above the difficulties.

Recently, Matthew’s hard work and effective networking paid off. He accepted a job as a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor Assistant. Is it perfect or what?

My husband and I took him out for dinner to celebrate. I suggested to Matthew that we should wear gray for Go Gray in May, Brain Tumor Awareness Month. 

It’s not my best color, but on him, it looks damn beautiful.

Author

  • An emerging writer in upstate, NY, Karen DeBonis tells her story on her website, in publications like the NY Times, (a Tiny Love Story), in her “Become Emboldened” projects, and elsewhere. "Growth: A Mother, Her Son, and the Brain Tumor They Survived" is Karen’s transformational memoir about the clash between her naive expectations of motherhood and her son's needs, which destroys her confidence and threatened her stability (Available for representation.)

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  1. Pat rampolla on May 6, 2018 at 11:20 PM

    You both look so good in gray.

  2. Deborah Rampolla on May 7, 2018 at 2:05 PM

    You made me cry!!!!! Your writing is so touching, and Matt’s story is so inspirational. It is a story of love, perseverance and hope. Its telling will benefit so many others.

    We’re just putting ourselves back together this morning, but I will tell as many people about your site as I can.

    I am so sooo proud of Matt, and of you and Michael.

    Much love.

    Deb

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    • Karen DeBonis on May 8, 2018 at 10:36 AM

      Oh, Thanks so much, Deb! I’m glad you’re enjoying the story 🙂

  3. Janis on May 7, 2018 at 3:55 PM

    I LOVE this picture of you two and all of your stories!!

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