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‘Leg’ illustrates power of family, humor

Author Greg Marshall will be in Durango next week to talk about his new memoir, “Leg.” (Courtesy)
Author Greg Marshall will be in Durango next week

“Leg: The Story of a Limb and the Boy Who Grew From It,” a memoir by Greg Marshall, shares intimate details about his tightly knit, unique family and his life as the middle child of five.

Marshall was born early with all sorts of problems and dire predictions made by doctors, but his mother, Debi, wasn’t having it. She hates labels.

Greg was born in Illinois in 1984, and was raised in Utah. The Catholic family of seven lived in Salt Lake City, deep in the heart of Mormon country. Bob, Greg’s father, owned several small community newspapers and his mother wrote a column called Silver Linings. She shared a lot of information about the family – especially about Greg and his “tight tendons.”

If you go

WHAT: Author event and book-signing: Greg Marshall, “Leg: The Story of a Limb and the Boy Who Grew From It.”

WHEN: 6 p.m. Thursday.

WHERE: Rochester Hotel Garden, 726 East Second Ave.

MORE INFORMATION: Visit https://tinyurl.com/y47vvyuc.

Debi wrote about her own battles as well. She was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma when Greg was in second grade. Her column was a chance for her to vent about fighting cancer, chemo, raising five children (Tiffany; Danny; Greg; Michelle, who is half Kiowa and Navajo; and Moe, also born early). The family was barely controlled chaos with lots of humor and love. Debi’s mantra was “never, never, never give up,” and her adherence to this motto is probably the reason she is still alive and kicking after all the curveballs life has lobbed at her and the family.

As a young teen, Greg begins to suspect that not only does he have a limp and a body that doesn’t always obey his commands, but surrounded by hetero couples, he realizes that he must be gay. He loves girls as friends but doesn’t lust after them. Not a great place to try to figure something of that import with no clue who he can talk to about his feelings.

When he goes off to college at Northwestern, he finally is able to come out as gay. As Greg begins to explore this new world, he becomes involved in learning about all aspects of his new identity. He studies history and literature that revolve around the gay culture. He dates, has love affairs and volunteers to help the LBGTQ+ cause. He also discovers that his body has other issues during this time. Greg actually comes out of the closet twice. Once as gay, then at 30 as he discovered he actually was born with cerebral palsy and not with “tight tendons” as his parents told him – they didn’t want him to live with a disability label. But this other revelation explains a lot about why his body is as it is.

After Greg graduates, the Marshall family is hit with a heavy duty diagnosis. Bob, his lovable, larger than life father, is diagnosed with ALS. Thus begins a two-year battle the family wages to care for his father, while Debi still fights cancer. Greg’s sharing of the day-to-day care of his father, all the Marshalls doing everything they can to make Bob’s waning life comfortable as possible, is equal parts heartwarming and heartbreaking.

“Leg” is a deeply personal story that Greg shares with little inhibitions, intimate details and lots of humor. It is clear that he comes with an atypical, rowdy, ribald family that supports each other no matter what. It’s is also a coming-of-age story that illustrates that having secrets, even with the best of intentions, is not usually the best option. But knowing the truth can truly set one free to be their best self.

This book is for readers who love memoirs, especially ones that feature self-effacing, humorous writers.

Leslie Doran is a retired teacher and freelance writer.