I Hope My Dad Knows

Searching for inspiration to write, is something I do daily. But as most writers know, inspiration rarely shows up when we search for it, and usually comes to us in snippets or seepages or sometimes like a “bat out of the blue” from a place we least expect. I would never have imagined Father’s Day would be the thing to send me racing to the keyboard, but it has.

When our loved ones are gone, the word memories describes what we’re left with. The stuff the memories are made of, the experiences, the details, the stories, the incidents, the laughter, joy, tears—is what we keep forever. But we each have a unique essence that’s ours alone, and that’s the the thing we miss most when someone we love dies. I believe it’s the absence of that person’s essence, the thing they take with them that can never be replaced, that creates the most profound grief.

Many people grow up intimidated by their fathers. I did, too. But not in the technical sense of the word, typically defined by aggression or authority. I was intimidated by his unlimited kindness towards other people. He was the guy in the neighborhood always ready to help the family down the block  if they had an emergency. He was the guy at church who worked tirelessly on the committee to serve the needy. He was the guy who took an extra moment to let the kid way in the back flipping burgers know they were appreciated. (I just this moment recalled that for awhile he was a volunteer fireman, which terrified me and my mother, but makes perfect sense to me now.)

I was intimidated by the perfect way he folded laundry. To this day, the shirts in my drawer lack symmetry at the shoulder line where the sleeves are tucked underneath. In my attempt to pass this skill down to my kids, thank goodness they have their Grandpa Ted to thank for knowing how shirts are at least supposed to look when they’re properly folded.

I was intimidated by his inability to speak ill of others. Watching my father struggle to describe someone’s bad behavior in a nice way always made me giggle. I can only recall a couple occasions where he actually felt compelled to speak the ugly truth about someone, and even then, it was with a sense of humor.

I was intimidated by his devotion to my mother. He set an example of spousal adoration that most people could never emulate—not the showering in diamonds and luxurious gifts or lavish vacations kind of adoration—but the kind born of genuine love and respect you vow in front of a group of people to always have for that individual. And when a devastating stroke caused my mother to spend the last four years of her life bedridden in a nursing home, there were only two things that forced my dad to ever leave her side: his job and his death.

I was intimidated by his perfect handwriting, his love of order, his respect for routine (due partly, perhaps, to his career in the military). I was intimidated mostly because he approached these things with a gentleness that astounded me. He was, for the most part, a quiet and shy person who raised a child who never stopped talking and loved being the center of attention, and who, as children do, took for granted all the ways he showed his unconditional love for me.

Wherever his spirit is, I have no doubt he knows how much I miss him. My deepest hope, is that he knows how much I loved him.

~~~~~

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“My eyes popped open in the darkness.”


Excerpt 3 from THEIR SOULS MET IN WISHTON

MY EYES POPPED OPEN in the darkness.The only thing I could see were the red digits on the alarm clock, 3:06 AM. It was the third night of sleeplessness because the ideas for the book were coming fast and furious like runaway trains. The concept sounded rather ordinary at first—a romance novel about a romance that never happened. Weren’t all romance novels about romances that never happened? Unless they were non-fiction? The premise was not an unusual one, a man and woman reconnect on social media after not seeing each other for decades. As childhood friends do, they give each other a brief update of the past years—the spouses, the kids, the pets, the careers, and create a newfound friendship across the miles. That’s exactly how it all started, if you started from a month ago. That’s how Liam Kincaid drifted back into my unfulfilled, purpose pondering, self-searching, married—with two children—life. But the story of Liam and Miranda began a long time ago. And that’s where I wanted to start.

I pounced out of bed and stumbled in the dark to our cluttered home office adjacent to the bedroom. Neil and I agreed I couldn’t die first because I was the one who knew where all the important documents were. I also knew, after twenty years of marriage, that Neil could sleep through anything, so I was fairly confident I wouldn’t wake him up. The sad thing was that our entire relationship had also been asleep over the past few years and there were no encouraging signs of breathing life back into it. I groped in the dark for the desk lamp and turned on the light, sending a stack of bills and Bed, Bath and Beyond coupons cascading to the floor. I clicked onto a blank white page. My fingers raced across the keyboard to catch up with the scene that was taking place in my head…It was a winter’s day in 1973 in a small town in upstate New York. They were in high school and secretly in love with one another. Wait—I wanted to change their names. Their names should be gentle but strong, appealing but believable, just like their characters, and not stray too far from mine and Liam’s. Melinda? Monica? No. Leonard? No. Melissa and Luke? Maybe.  Shhh… Let them tell you their names, said a voice. I breathed deeply and closed my eyes.  My two young characters introduced themselves to their author. I felt my arms wrap around them and hold them close, the way I did my children. I wasn’t sure what was about to happen in their lives, but I knew I would love both of them forever.

***

Excerpt 2 from “Their Souls Met in Wishton”

Traveling Boy, Art Garfunkel, 1970

Nicole could feel the chilly fragments of snow dropping down inside her boots as she ran as fast as she could after Garrett. Her giddy squeals only made her more out of breath while he scooped up another mound of snow and sculpted it into a perfect ball. So unfair of boys, she thought. They could always outrun her. Even if she could make a snowball as perfect as Garrett could, he would be able to out-throw her, too, just like every other boy, and some of the girls, in the eleventh grade. The one thing she would never be was an athlete. Garrett drew back his arm and pitched the snowball through the air, right for the middle of Nicole’s forehead.

“Ahhh!” she roared. “No fair!”

“You’re giving up,” he said.

Nicole went silent. Garrett walked towards her with concern. This was her chance, she thought! To get a better aim, she needed him closer. To get him closer, she would fake being upset, as if something was wrong.

“Are you all right?” Garrett asked, trudging her way.

Nicole waited until there were only six feet between them, bent down and grabbed an enormous mound of snow, and charged towards him. Garrett took off running. Nicole caught up and hopped onto him piggy-back, mashing the cold white stuff into his face with one hand while she hung onto his neck with the other.

“Ouch—wait!” he cried.

Nicole slipped off his shoulders. Garrett’s palm covered his left eye.

“Oh my God, are you okay?” she asked.

“Ahhh—I don’t know. You got my eye.”

Nicole panicked.  They were miles from any kind of place that could deal with an emergency. She reached for his face. “Let me look—”

“No, don’t touch it!” Garrett shouted, and crouched down on the ground in pain.

“Oh my God, I’m sorry! I didn’t mean it.”

Nicole knelt beside him in the snow, nearly in tears. Garrett started to chuckle. The chuckle turned into a laugh. The laugh became uncontrollable. He had gotten her. Again. She punched him hard on the arm.

“You are so full of it!” she said. “Why do you always do that?”

“Why are you so gullible?” He stood up and helped her onto her feet. “C’mon, we gotta get back. I don’t want your mom pissed off at me.”

“She would never be pissed off at you. She adores you,” Nicole said.

“That’s because she doesn’t teach me. If she had me in class, I’d drive her nuts. Lucky for her I’ve got Mrs. Sherman for English instead.”

They started the short trek down the hill towards his car, the firm layer of a day’s worth of fallen snow crunching beneath their boots. Garrett grabbed the sleeve of Nicole’s parka, pulling her to a gentle halt. With his other hand he pointed to the frosty orange horizon that rested above the Finger Lakes this time of year.

“Look at the sunset… Cool, eh?”

The view made her heart skip a beat. But then, her heart rarely beat normally when Garrett was around.

“Yeah,” she whispered.

He was standing closer to her than she remembered him to be a moment ago. Still holding onto her sleeve, he trembled slightly as he leaned his face into hers, bringing them nose to nose. His nose was cold and it gave her a pleasant tingle, but when his lips parted slightly and touched hers, the heat of his breath was like intense sunshine. Her lips were soft, and the sensation shot through his veins like an injection of warm honey. A handful of snowflakes descended softly on their closed eyelids as the ground beneath them fell away, and for a few seconds they both forgot where they were. They had each dreamed about what it would be like to kiss the other, and now neither of them could believe it was happening. She would always remember the first time he kissed her, and it would join their hearts together in a way she would never be able to comprehend…

[The full version of this excerpt can be found on my “EXCERPTS” page under “FICTION”]

Happy Valentine’s Day

It being Valentine’s Day, I feel I should post something. This comes after hours of contemplating that I’d only just arrived at a point in my life where I understand there is no value in doing anything strictly out of obligation. That being said, I’ve been thinking about the significance of the major symbol of this holiday, the HEART.  Scientifically, the heart is the single, solitary thing responsible for keeping our bodies alive. The machine that pumps blood through our veins. The muscle that, when revived after it collapses, sends oxygen to our brain and shouts, “Breathe!”

In a non-physical sense, the heart is equally powerful.  “Heart language” is used throughout our culture on a daily basis. We speak of heart felt wishes, a heart warming story, bless her heart, having a broken heart, heart skipping a beat, a heart that’s filled with joy, giving your heart to something, listening to your heart, and, my personal favorite, following your heart. The list goes on. In my upcoming novel, a contemporary women’s fiction romance (more updates soon on the release date!), you’ll find many references to the heart. There are moments when the main character struggles to listen to her heart, believe in her heart, feels her lover’s heart beating when he gently takes her hand and places it against his chest, and, at another time, blames her heart for the mess she finds herself in. Continue reading