“A Kiss Before You Go” by Danny Gregory

Salt and pepper.

Bogie and Bacall. Bonnie & Clyde, Ozzie & Harriet, Mickey and Minnie. You can barely mention one without the other coming to mind. They’re yin and yang, two halves of a whole, a definite pair. A match.

And that’s what you figure you’ll be when you marry your beloved: a couple, forever. But as you’ll see in the memoir, “A Kiss Before You Go” by Danny Gregory, life isn’t like that and forever isn’t nearly long enough.

When Danny Gregory met Patti, she told him firmly that they would never see one another again. But he made her laugh and she called him, they fell in love, got married, and became a team.

Ten months after their son, Jack, was born, and a week before their ninth anniversary together, the team took a hit when Patti slipped, fell, and was run over thrice on a Manhattan street. In the hospital, she and Gregory comforted one another but her spine was broken and Patti was a paraplegic.

They were determined to be unstopped.

The family travelled the world. Patti “refused… to think like a cripple” and the wheelchair became another member of their team. “It was just a part of our reality,” Gregory says.

It was also her undoing.

Fifteen years after her accident, Patti was watering plants on their terrace and she lost her balance. Her lower body couldn’t keep her in her scooter and she fell out the window, eight stories to the ground.

After the funeral, there was a Patti Party and everyone wore pink. Gregory was amazed at how many lives his wife had touched, from famous musicians to the fruit vendor down the street.

But the new reality was life with a teenager and without Patti. Gregory had to learn to live without the “thousand ways” he leaned on Patti. Not used to crying, he cried until his cheekbones ached. He became depression and lost weight.

“Grief is a messy business,” he says. “My life was like the second twin tower. It collapsed right after the first one fell.”

“A Kiss Before You Go” is a very different kind of book. It’s filled throughout with colorful watercolor illustrations by author Danny Gregory. It’s also filled with raw, howling, crumple-to-the-floor grief from a man’s point of view.

That’s rare, and since Gregory holds nothing back, it’s brutally honest. You’ll want to look away in respect, but you’ll also be totally compelled to keep reading – though you may have a hard time doing it: the complete text of this book is hand-written, and not always completely legibly.

I was fascinated to see the text change with Gregory’s emotion – spritely in the happy times, messy in the worst times – but there were many pages where a regular font would’ve gone far.

And yet, I think this book is a must-read because it’s as much a love story as a grief story, for women as much as for men. Once you start “A Kiss Before You Go,” you can kiss the time goodbye.