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Miss Norma’s family back on the road

July 17, 2017 

Norma Bauerschmidt became a most unlikely world internet sensation after the 90-year-old Michigan widow said no to cancer treatment and yes to hitting the road in an RV with her son and his wife and their poodle.

Their 13,000-mile journey around the country, starting in 2015, came to be followed by hundreds of thousands on the "Driving Miss Norma" Facebook page started by her daughter-in-law, Ramie Liddle. They stopped near there last June and had a memorable visit in and around Pittsburgh just before Bauerschmidt’s health began to fade and she died at the end of September on San Juan Island, Wash.

Now Liddle and Tim Bauerschmidt have written "Driving Miss Norma: One Family’s Journey Saying ‘Yes’ to Living."

The book ($29.99 list price for the hardback) was published in May by HarperOne in the United States and the United Kingdom, and is set to be published in 10 other languages for fans who span the globe. The couple’s Facebook page still has more than a half million followers, hundreds of whom have been coming to bookstores and restaurants and libraries to literally connect with them in person. They’re on a more-than-first-name basis with this couple who shared so much of themselves, and many of them continue to share it back.

"So many hugs and tears and cries and personal stories," said Tim in a phone chat while sitting with Ramie and Ringo recently inside their 36-foot-long RV during a stop in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

After wintering in Mexico and writing the book (they take turns on chapters), the trio headed back out this spring on a tour across the South and up through the Northeast, doing about a dozen appearances. Pittsburgh is the next one, and after that, they don’t know what they are going to do, except for going to Michigan to conclude the sale of Miss Norma’s house.

Tim still feels uncomfortable with all the attention, but says he feels called to continue this conversation they started. "For some reason we were tapped to show this and put it out there."

The "say yes to living" theme that touched so many people while his mom was alive is more deeply amplified in the book, which includes revelations such as how Tim and his sister, Stacy, were adopted, and previously unshared details such as how the family sought and found solace at a legal medical marijuana shop in Colorado.

In fact, cannabis was the subject of the first question at their first four tour stops, says Ramie, who was surprised at "the readiness of people to really talk about it and want to understand it."

The book continues to be a starter of powerful conversations among other family members dealing with their own end-of-life and family issues. The realization that they’re helping other people is what makes them continue to talk about it, as well.

"I can’t imagine that we couldn’t have done anything better for the three of us," says Ramie about their decision — not an easy one — to take the old and ailing Norma on the road. While they have heard from more than one family that have also taken things on the road, that was never their point. Their point, which their followers helped them find on their journey, was for people to talk and to be open to living life fully in whatever ways work for them.

They both say they’re looking forward to coming back to Western Pennsylvania, which shows up in the book, including in several of Ramie’s photos of a beaming Norma. In one, she’s holding a Primanti’s sandwich and a bottle of Yuengling. Some readers who prefer to remember her that way have told the couple they decided to not read the last chapters of the book, knowing how they turn out.

The couple do tell more of the darker details, including Ramie’s honest (and tired) reaction to her mother-in-law needing to go to the hospital here on the day she was to officiate her friends’ wedding: "You have got to be kidding me!"

But as Tim says, "A lot of people thanked us for showing the whole story."

What’s next for them? "We’re trying to figure that out," says Ramie, who might want to write a children’s book, or books, on this theme. Tim thinks there might be more to write about the people touched by his mom’s story and dealing with their own struggles.

Meanwhile, "Driving Miss Norma" could at some point be a movie, as the couple sold those rights. They’ve heard that Fox Searchlight Pictures is moving forward with it.

Tim is pretty sure that they’ll head back out West after closing on Norma’s house. He’s not planning on taking much from there in a physical sense, but this journey also has helped him realize how much he’s gotten from there otherwise.

"Really, the biggest legacy I have is the book I wrote that honors my Mom and Dad and sister."

 

 





 


McClatchy-Tribune Information Services