Monday, September 6, 2010

Gradual Return to Normalcy

The woman who was my husband's mother died peacefully, last Monday night at home. Her name was Barb. She touched many lives. She was the kindest woman I've ever met. I loved her deeply, like my own mother. She thought of me as her daughter and welcomed me into the family with open heart.

You see, we were alike in many ways. For one thing--but not the only thing--we were both writers of poetry, fiction and prose. I know that if she had been allowed to pursue her dreams she could have been a published author a few times over. She had met with a New York publisher back in the day when you could. She told me she knew someone who knew someone, and that was how it happened.

When she went to meet with this publisher, he had said he liked her writing, however what she had written was not a subject he felt she had a good grasp on. He told her to send him something else. I gather she didn't have anything at that time, but maybe went to work on the next thing that interested her. This was a story about the historical south, and that was right about the time that a very well-known book similar to hers hit the bookshelves and then was made into a movie ("Roots"). Thus, I think she lost interest in that piece, feeling that another similar book would not do so good.

Barb later wrote a story about Crazy Horse, the Lakota spiritual leader. She took the stories that she found about him, and wrote a fiction version of it. During the years she and her husband lived in the west and Arizona especially, teachers, and at least one Native American, read it and urged her to get it published.

Now, you all know how hard it is to get even an agent to accept your work. Having possibly 30 years pass since that meeting with the New York publisher, I knew that Mom wasn't quite up to par on how to approach the publishing world in today's dog-eat-dog market. She didn't own a computer. There would be no way she would be able to approach the market without one. I could have done some of the leg work for her, but I was never asked, and she didn't seem to want to do it.

In 2001, Barb suffered a stroke in. It took a while for her to recover from that, but she did. After that, her desire to write sort of faded. Which is a shame.

Also, what was a shame was that--and I can say I know with absolute certainty--she wasn't encouraged to work on her writings to the degree, and/or given the time of quiet solitude she would have needed to do so. It was said in my presence, "What am I supposed to do (while she writes)?" by her husband. Every writer knows that if you have a spouse, and you wish to pursue a writing career, you need the hours alone, uninterrupted, to work on whatever you are working on. You need them to be supportive, and allow you that quiet time, even if it means you leave the house and go somewhere to get that uninterrupted time. It's understood, this is like any job you go to. It must be respected, and understood by all family members that you are working, and unless the house is on fire, you can't be bothered.

In retirement, Barb and Jim were nearly inseparable. They left the aria when they were about my husband's and my age (early 50's). They worked/managed camp grounds in Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. I know that Mom worked on the writing when she could. She wrote while riding along side in the truck, much like I do. Which is fine when you are writing short pieces such as poems, prose, or--in my case--a journal. But a novel needs hours of thinking time without interruptions, and she never got this. So, I'm very sad about this. I'm anticipating that I may be the one approached about getting her novel, Lord of the Plains into a POD publisher. But we'll see.

Other things of more importance take precedence, of course, and I'm sure that the typed manuscript is all the way in Arizona in a box. But it was mentioned that they were going to get it published the last time I spoke to both Mom and Dad. He wanted to see her see it published. Dad has no idea what it is like to approach the market now, or even back then. It's hard to explain to someone who hasn't a clue that you don't just show someone your book manuscript and it magically gets published. Or that anyone can do this. Or that any manuscript would be accepted.

Well, I needed to tell you all about Mom. She was a delightful woman who will be so deeply missed. My husband was the baby, and I know that his time with his mom when he was young are tender memories that he will cherish. I know that we all wish that they would have moved back here for the last few years. But that's another story which I won't go into.

What is a balm to my hurting soul is that she's no longer in pain, and she's with God, and I think it won't be long, she'll get her wings and fly down here and watch over us all (much like my own mother has been watching over me all my life). I keep her warm smile in my mind's eye, knowing she's already right here, watching. Still encouraging me, like always: "Never give up. Never stop writing."

Thanks Mom.


  1. Thanks for sharing. I spent quite a little while contemplating over her smile in the photo. I wanted to feel a bit of what you felt in her presence, rather than simply passing over someone I will never meet, this side of heaven. She looked like someone who brightened a room, merely by her presence.
    May you recall the good times with that special lady until you see her again...

  2. Thank you, James.

    I think you somehow saw/perceived her very adequately.

  3. She sounds like she was a lovely woman. She had a great family that cared about her and her memory will live on, even if not with her book.

  4. Ah. Thanks for sharing. And, who knows? Maybe she'll get those wings, come down here, and help you on your writing path!

    :) Margo

  5. Thanks, you guys.

    I've a feeling she got her wings as soon as she checked in. She wasn't one to waste time. I hope she's making her famous Swedish rolls too!

  6. Barb was my grandmother. She was an amazing grandmother who made a point of having a special relationship with each of her grandchildren and great grandchildren. Grandma and I always had a connection that I will cherish forever. As I grew up, I became involved in writing, music, and art. She always encouraged me to continue what I was doing. She was the only one that encouraged me to do what I enjoyed to do. I wish I had continued to play my violin. She always loved to hear me play, even though I was usually too shy to give her a performance. Now, it is possible that my nephew may start playing the violin. I will look forward to helping him and playing with him in the hopes that grandma will be looking down on us. I have a huge desire to write but never give myself the time I should. I recently finished a scrapbook requested by grandma many years ago. As a child she collected clippings and photographs of Shirley Temple. Some were very rare photos. She asked if I could re-scrapbook them to preserve them better than the scrapbooks and cement paste of yesteryear would. Time went on and the photos got packed away. We moved and it was more hidden. When her health problems got worse, I remembered the scrapbook. I searched hard for them and finally found them. Right away, I began working on it. Fortunately, I was able to come home a couple weeks ago and was able to give her the finished scrapbook. I will always remember the touched happiness and joy I saw in her tired face when she saw it. I only wish she was able to enjoy it more. But things don't always work out the way you want. I am thankful that I was able to grant her request after all these years.

    My grandmother was a strong, tenderhearted, talented woman who passed on many of her characteristics to her children and grandchildren alike. She had a profound effect on my life and every life she touched. I can't imagine a world without her or my grandpa without the love of his life. But I know that she is looking after us from heaven. That's where she wanted to be.

    Love you grandma!

  7. Excellent, Jennifer.

    Dennis has found solice to night, finally. He heard the bells ringing at noon at NIU, and so he knows she's watching over each and everyone of us.

    If you take up wriing again, let me know. I've got 30+ years of experience to help you out, and a lot of sites within reach to help you even further. Even if it's something to tinker with.

    Thanks for the comment, it was great!


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