February is a very tough month for my family. That’s because ten years ago on Feb 10, we lost my mother to brain cancer. Two years and two days later we lost my dad to a broken heart. It’s hard to predict when the tsunami of feelings are going to hit each year. Sometimes it’s on the anniversary. Sometimes it’s on their birthdays. Sometimes it’s during Mother’s or Father’s Day, sometimes it’s all of those days. Losing someone you love is never easy and ten years later I still miss Mom every single day.
And maybe this year is harder because it’s a big anniversary. Ten years. Without Mom.
Also, there’s this big thing about my books. Neither of my parents were alive when my books launched. They didn’t even know that I’d sold books. Or that I had this agent. Agency. I have this agency. (more on that in a future blog). I know they are looking down on me. I know they are proud. But it’s not the same as being able to speak to them about any of this.
In some ways it makes each book launch a little sadder than the last, because I know they would have loved all of this. They always made my brother and sister and I feel like we were the center of THEIR universe while teaching us that we were not the center of THE universe. They would have rejoiced in each sale, each launch, each good review. They would have told me to keep going when it got hard (and for me writing is VERY hard). They would have attended my parties and told their friends. But mostly, privately, they would have beamed.
Good work is worth doing. That’s one of the things they taught me. I was not the kind of person who knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. I had interests, sure, but none of them seemed like the kind of thing I could do professionally. I was always a good reader. I taught myself to read at a very young age-three years old by my mother’s recollection. Which was weird because I am also super dyslexic. But stories drove me. I heard them read to me by Mom, a chapter every night. I listened to story time at preschool like a fervent believer. I inhaled stories. I still do.
When I was in middle school one of the librarians in my weird little village-Crofton, Maryland, called Mom to tell her that I was checking out inappropriate material. I read widely, so in addition to John Steinbeck, Stephen King was my jam. Oh well. (Although in retrospect, warning her about East of Eden would have made more sense based on some of the material in that particular book!). I only heard Mom’s side of the conversation and I can still see the scene so perfectly. She listened to the librarian, and when she was done, Mom thanked her but told her that I was free to read whatever I liked. When she hung up, she turned to me and told me these words, so perfect, like she was. So empowering. She said, “don’t ever let people tell you what to think or what to read.” She was my hero. Then she told me to set the table and start dinner, because she also felt that we each needed to do our part.
My stories come from a place of love and home and feelings of how important words were.
My father was not a man of many words, but he made all of them count. He was quiet, but funny. I loved going on errands with him. We’d be gone all day, driving around to find the most obscure thing he wanted to check out. He would let me choose the radio station sometimes and that felt like a win. We didn’t always talk on these outings but it didn’t matter. He taught me to be cool with silence. Dad read the newspaper every single day and he shared the comics with me and my brother and sister. Later on in life we would do the crossword puzzles together while my children watched a movie at my brother’s house on Cape Cod.
You see, even though are missing, they are still in everything. And they left behind my brother and sister who keep me tethered to this world.
All of my author life stems from my family. My world. Perfect as it was. Perfect as it continues. Even though I miss them so much, I know how lucky I am to carry on their legacy of love of family and love of words.
Thanks for listening.