I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to write my blog post this week.
It’s the first time I’ve put words on the screen since my beloved father died shockingly and unexpectedly a little over two weeks ago.
No one in the family who loved him so much knew that he was sick with coronary artery disease. My father didn’t know either. He went into the ER with slight pressure in his chest, and by nighttime he was gone. My mother—his wife of fifty-nine years—his children and their spouses, and his grandchildren were all outside the room in the hospital. (Thank you, frontline workers for your expertise and kindness).
The shock was immeasurable. When we saw my father after his death, he did not look as if he had been in any pain or suffered any. More like something huge knocked him down suddenly.
I suppose that’s what death is, whatever form it ultimately takes. That final moment, the crossing, is always a shock from the shadows, whether you’re prepared for it or not.
In my dad’s case, he never had to be sick or live as a patient a day in his life, and given who my father was, that is a great gift. Even though everyone left behind is reeling.
I am writing this to extend a hand to anyone who has had to grieve in this way, or in any way.
I am writing this because I am proud to be one of the Rogue Women Writers and that is what Rogues do—connect through words on the deepest of levels about the most profound parts of human life: our ties and connections and stories.
And I am writing this because my father helped make me a writer.
What kind of dad nurtures and creates a future writer? Probably all kinds, but here are some descriptions of mine.
From the time I was a child, my father gave me books to read that were far beyond my age or understanding. Charlotte Brontë, André Gide, Marcel Proust. I lapped at these books like a lake does a child’s toes. What sense could I make of new words, which pieces would soak in even if I didn’t comprehend vast parts? Where was it warm enough to swim?
I’ve thought about what it meant that my dad did this, how much he must’ve respected my intelligence and capabilities. When times got hard–when school was so difficult that I felt like I was failing every single day–this message of respect buoyed me up far more than I realized.
I began writing stories when I was very young, and my dad would listen as I read them aloud. They were full of childish turns, the world seen through a lens not yet old enough to comprehend it. (Am I old enough even now to comprehend the world? Is any of us?)
I remember in particular describing an airplane ride, which I had no experience of, and making the pilot’s line of dialogue read: “Europe! All aboard for Europe!” like a conductor on a train. Yet my dad never laughed or corrected me. He allowed me my meanderings and wanderings until one day a whole novel bloomed, resulting many years later in the career I have now.
When I was granted an interview in high school to a select writing program, my dad drove me there, three long hours after his workday ended. He was so exhausted that he then let me, a newly permitted driver, finish the trip home while he fell asleep. What faith he must’ve had in me to let me take the wheel. He made me confident when I was not.
On my road to becoming a published author, my dad never failed to tell me that he knew this would happen. And once it did, he engaged with so many parts of this wild industry—coming to my launches, making his “famous” ribs for attendees, reading multiple drafts of every book I wrote.
When career curveballs were thrown at me—my first editor being let go, for instance, and later, choosing to seek a new agent—my dad listened as I figured out what to do, contributing relevant perspectives, and that same ageless and eternal message of faith in the fact that I would persevere and one day triumph.
He always expressed admiration that I did persevere through eleven years of rejection, and enough twists and turns for a RWW thriller. My dad often voiced the feeling that he himself wouldn’t have been able to keep going in that way, opening himself up to so much discouragement. And how proud he was that I did.
But I saw my father show his own brand of astounding strength in my life, facing up to emotional issues and a childhood filled with loss so that he could be the kind of loving father I am missing now so much.
My dad, I would say, had the heart of a rogue, even if it finally gave out on him.