Dr. Hilda Villaverde is a jack of all trades.
She’s an ordained minister, a published author, a speaker, and a professional hair stylist who has worked in the Scottsdale beauty industry for 50 years – more than half of that at her boutique hair salon.
But when the pandemic temporarily shuttered the salon, Pluma Designs at Shea Boulevard and Scottsdale Road, Villaverde found herself quarantined at home without a project.
Then, her son Ron Fusselman suggested they write a book together.
“In the beginning, I thought it’d be fun for my mom and I to write a children’s book because I was reading all these children’s books to my kids,” said Fusselman, a San Diego resident, as he bounced his newborn daughter on his lap.
“Then, it progressed into something that was a bit more, I guess, ‘adult,’” the 49-year-old continued. “The more we wrote, the more it became more of an autobiographical thing.”
Fusselman and Villaverde ended up publishing two books: “Dear Son, Dear Mom: Thoughts I Wanted You to Feel,” which details their moving and dramatic story; and “Dear Son, Dear Mom: Lessons I Learned from Somebody: Uncomfortable Tales from a Son and a Mother Raising Each Other.”
The project brought the already-close mother and son team even closer.
“My mom and I are very close, and we’re very lucky that I came out of hardship, and we were able to get even closer,” Fusellman said.
The books deal with their heart-wrenching. Villaverde discusses things like a cancer diagnosis at 19 and being told by her doctor that she would need an abortion.
“The truth is, I wanted this child. I had this feeling that I need to have this baby,” Villaverde said. “Now, look at Ron here. Now I have these precious grandchildren, and I really thought that somebody, I thought we needed to share that story.”
It was an emotional journey for Villaverde to not only put pen to paper and share her most personal stories but to also share that experience with her son.
“Our lives have transformed from uncomfortable secrets into a loving and cherished mother-son relationship – a blessing we could not have imagined,” Villaverde said.
“I knew she was strong, but I appreciated her even more — and especially being a parent now,” Fusselman added. “And just knowing what my mom was doing and going through and how she protected me and how she basically formed the parent I am today, I’m really appreciative of that.”
Fusselman and Villaverde began writing the book, her 10th, in April.
“People keep saying, ‘Write your life story, write your life story,’” Villaverde said.
She split her story into two tiny books.
“We knew it was going to be a tiny book, but a tiny book with a big message,” she said.
Fusselman suggested to his mother that they write the book together as a way to help keep Villaverde, who was 365 miles away, busy.
“And I thought writing something together would keep her mind busy, that’s like a therapy, through this whole thing,” Fusselman said.
“It was very cathartic for both of us,” Villaverde added. “I cried a lot.”
The books have received nothing but positive reviews on Amazon.
Reviewers describe the book as a “touching tribute to moms and sons everywhere.”
One reviewer wrote the “pain and anguish jumped off the page.”
“My heart was breaking for both of them,” the review continues. “The gift in this book is that I learned that love is stronger than fear. I have respect for anyone that can look fear in the face and listen to their heart.”
“Women have emailed me and said, ‘I wrote my son a letter and asked him to forgive me,’ or, ‘I want to reconnect with my son,’” Villaverde said.
In addition to Amazon, the books are available to purchase at Villaverde’s Scottsdale hair salon, where her clients have also raved about the books.
One client was so moved she bought an additional 10 copies to share with her friends.
“We really want our story to motivate many other families out there,” Villaverde said. “I would love every mother to feel the way I feel about my son — that sense of pride that I have in him.”