On September 10th, 55 years ago, at 6:30am, the phone rang.
It was Dr. Boschenstein calling to tell Mom that my sixty-one-year-old father had a stroke at 5am. My father was dead.
It was a bright, sunny Sunday morning, the first day without rain in over a week.
The funeral was Wednesday.
On Friday, the same week, my mother drove me to a boarding school in another state, 147 miles away. I had never been there before and was not allowed any contact with my remaining family members for three weeks. Official School Policy: Three weeks of Family-Free Quarantine minimized homesickness for all boarding students. No exceptions.
Unfortunately, my birthday was two weeks later. No visitors were allowed. A birthday cake was delivered to my dormitory. Atop the cake were the words, “Happy Sweet Sixteen.”
It was my fifteenth birthday.
Thus began my love affair with my journal, the only confidante I could trust.
September 10, 1967 was the biggest ending of my life, because it was the end of innocence.
When I arrived at the boarding school, I began writing to save my life. Not the usual teenage stuff I’d written earlier in my little white-leather diary, you know, things about school, and boys I had crushes on, and insecurity about being a girl.
In September 1967, writing instead became a lifeline. I had no one to talk to, no one to help me understand what had just happened, no one to grieve with me. For several months I wrote to my dad in my journal, convinced that he was still alive, and had needed to leave town quickly, secretly for some reason. I knew he could still hear me if I prayed in writing and told no one.
I lived in a dorm with thirty girls I’d never met before, and they were wrapped up in their own teenage lives. At times it felt like they steered clear of me because I was “that girl,” you know, the one whose dad had just died and her family had sent her here anyway. For fear of saying the wrong thing, most girls said nothing. Just like adults often do,
So, by necessity, I found a lover who would never, ever betray me. It was my journal, literally hidden under my pillow. I’ve been writing ever since.
I chose September 10th this year as the day to press the “publish” button for my second book, in remembrance of my dad who met my mom when they both worked at Macmillan Publishers in Boston.
Double Take is an artist’s illustrated memoir, a tiny seven-year slice of this crazy life of mine. This month I also turn seventy. I’m stunned. Seems I’m the only one having trouble believing that fact.
This memoir is now available as an eBook and paperback on Amazon at this link https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BDVKM5LV (Click on “see all formats” if you’d like to buy the eBook version for $9.99 without having to join Kindle Unlimited. FYI: that bit of Amazon unhelpfulness is just part of this circuitous publishing game…) The paperback, which is available now on Amazon, will also be available in bookstores in late September. I do hope you will read it, enjoy it, and will let me know what it inspires in you.
Now, I’m up for a bit of a rest. Publishing this book, all 230 pages, 155 illustrations, and in the end, with four different graphic designers (!) has been “character-building” (as an old friend of mine used to say). As it turned out, the writing was the easy part. If there is to be a Book #3, I may become a book-publishing graphic designer by then too.
Maybe it will be another memoir-style slice, of an earlier time in my life, when I was a child living on a six-acre farm in the suburbs, with two brothers, a flock of sheep, bantam chickens, domesticated pheasants, and a dog that chased airplanes. We shall see.
But for now, here’s me and my dad on Easter Sunday 1954. Thanks for being a writer, Dad, and thanks for unintentionally leaving me your Parker 51 fountain pen. It sketches beautifully.
P.S.- I’m stunned. Two-and-a-half days after Double Take was released, this happened on Amazon. Reviews will begin to pour in soon. I am so gratified.
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Finally, thanks so much for spending some “aloft” time with me.