In April 2021, Ian's mental health biography of Joey Tomaselli was published by Archway / Simon & Schuster.
Push Forward is the real-life story of Joey Tomaselli, a child football prodigy, struck down by OCD, addiction, anxiety, depression and phobias. When Joey’s life implodes, he searches for the answer to his illnesses. He wades through a conveyor belt of quacks and charlatans, and is blessed by others of true wisdom and benevolence. His race to find the source of his anguish and torture is one he has to win or his young life will be snuffed out.
He could hear the old guy working out in the garden. The astonishing smell of cut grass passed him on small rafts, intruders through the open doors and windows. The remarkable tang from the lawn was sweeter than ever before; a concentrated beauty like the sheer whiteness of blossom described by palliative cancer patients fading in the spring. There was a good reason his senses were on alert, and this shall soon be explained. The gardener had liberated this aroma as he struck down thousands of blades of young grass. In their prime. He grafted out there in his spare time, powered by a source of energy that compelled him to work, made him happiest when he was working, and pushed on by a desire to keep working so he was able to make things as beautiful for his family as he possibly could.
“I could never work as hard as my father did for us but if only, IF ONLY, he knew how hard I had worked not to give up. To not end it all. To not kill myself,” Joey thought.
People like to say there is nothing like a funeral to concentrate the mind. Even more so, if it is your own funeral and you know there are just minutes, perhaps an hour or two, left. Once the decision is made, there is apparently sometimes a strange freedom from the agony. But not with Joey. Joey Tomaselli - kind, handsome, funny, and tender Joey Tomaselli - hurt more than ever.
Bleach. Poison. Rope. He did not fancy cutting himself.
He was like a wounded animal, curled up at the end of the sofa on that broiling August Saturday. Like some poor critter one might see on a National Geographic documentary, already in the boa constrictor’s grip. Done deal. Just a startled but doped look in the eye.
He had just had his third shower of the day, and he was more worried about contaminating the material on the couch than any human should have been.
The hedge trimmer started, and more of nature’s finery was about to perish at the generous gardener’s hand. It didn’t need to die. What a waste. The strewn lawn trimmings were already browning in the heat. A single maple leaf was caught in a rare breeze and decided unilaterally to join the grave of clippings below. Three more followed in sympathy within a minute.
The young man’s friends were all away, at cottages, out of the city, with girls, drinking, laughing, swimming and making love. Then laughing and making love some more. He could only guess. His island of solitude was his alone. It had been this way for a while.
He could hear his mother in the kitchen. His loneliness was all-encompassing and not because of the lack of love of this woman and the fine, proud man currently taming nature on his property. His lonesomeness was there in spite of their adoration and loyalty and utter worship for their own flesh and blood. Her red hair, white skin and emerald eyes were the proud Italian tricolore that flew over that corner of Canada. The independent state of Silvio and Mary sat on that rich and fertile quadrant of Ontario. The children had wanted for nothing there. It was their land. They had made it their own, and they were benevolent rulers. And now the old man tended his patch of turf as his forefathers had the pastures of that Italian hillock, proud and meticulous. He knew how he wanted it and how it should look, just as the car engines he fine-tuned and fixed over the years, in melting summers and unreasonably vicious winters. All for the citizens of that single address in Brampton. His Mary, the two girls and Joey.
But no one is perfect. And for every engine he sorted out and every buttercup or tulip that thrived and wilted within his boundaries, it was perhaps just a moment that he did not therefore have on his hands to tell his son that he loved him. But Joey knew this, for he had also seen his own personal National Geographic documentary on that fine species, the Italian male.
So, this was all the more astonishing when Silvio marched in that day, sweat on his brow, and came to his only son, lowered himself to his haunches and to eye level with his boy. He fixed his gaze upon him as if he sensed to perfection what was required.
His hand touched Joey, and he spoke.
“Come on, buddy.”
And in the remaining few seconds before the magic wore off, the old mechanic fixed everything in the world of his only boy. The boy then knew his suicidal actions would only hurt beyond comprehension this small nation state of Silvio and Mary the most. And the Italians are nothing if not patriotic.
“I don’t like seeing you like this,” he said.
And he paused, stood, and went back to tending his western border. It was the act of a true leader.