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A Father's Inspiration

I'm writing this on Father's Day, a few days before my scheduled post. It's a bittersweet holiday for me. My dad died about a month ago, on his eighty sixth birthday. Oddly, I feel his presence today far more than his absence. I've come to understand, during the time since his passing, that he'll always be with me, in my memories and in my heart.

Dad lived a long, joyous and fruitful life, including more than a year that was grace, pure and simple. After a serious cardiac incident, he was sent home to hospice care, not expected to live more than a few weeks. He confounded the prognosticators by recovering significantly and thriving (relatively speaking) for another seventeen months.

I want to talk about my dad here on the TEB blog because he, more than any other individual, inspired me to read, and to write. He had the gift of words, and passed it on to his children. I recall him reading aloud to my siblings and me, folk tales, fairy stories, adventures like Treasure Island and Robinson Crusoe. He told his own stories, too, invented worlds and characters for our pleasure. There were the Gulkons, terrible demons who lived in the fire on the hearth, and Houligan, the god of snow. (I grew up in chilly, stormy New England.) I still remember sitting spellbound (nearly fifty years ago!) while he recounted the story of the hapless wizard Thomas Carl Sefney who had to touch his wand to every one of the monster's thousand tentacles before it consumed him.

Then there were the stories of his own life: playing in a jazz band when he was only eleven; teaching aircraft maintenance in French during World War II; tales of his pet monkey and pet alligator. When he was in the air force, he claimed, he made extra money by writing custom love letters on behalf of his less verbally gifted mates. I guess there's a precedent for my steamy compositions after all...

Both my parents encouraged me to write. My first poems date from about third grade. During my childhood I wrote fantasies about Martians and ghosts, and plays about the Beatles and politics. In my adolescence, too shy to speak to any of my crushes, I poured out my adoration in anguished free verse. In my twenties and thirties, I wrote science fiction and first tried my hand at romance. Finally, in my forties, I actually managed to publish something (other than in my high school newspaper). My first thought was to send a copy to my father.

My dad and I shared favorite books, characters and authors. When he and I got talking about Sherlock Holmes or Frodo Baggins, H.P. Lovecraft or Edgar Allen Poe or Anne Rice, the rest of the family would roll their eyes and leave us to our obsessions. I never had any difficulty figuring out what gift to get him for his birthday or Father's Day. There was always some book that I had seen or heard about that I knew he'd love.

I never did introduce him to my erotica, though. I was so tempted to show him the pile of paperbacks with my name on the cover, the six volumes I had penned or edited. I wanted to autograph him a copy of my first novel, telling him how much he had contributed to my literary endeavors. I wanted him to be proud. However, I didn't want to make him uncomfortable. I recalled the way he reacted when I gave him Anne Rice's BDSM classic The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty - an embarrassed grin and a non-committal "oh, that's interesting". We didn't discuss that book much. Though I would have welcomed the opportunity to open up to him about my own pursuits in the world of Dominance and submission, I sensed that he would rather not know.

I guess that there are just some things you can't share with your parents, no matter how close you are.

Now that he's gone, do I regret that he never knew about the my risque alter ego Lisabet Sarai? Not really. The only thing that I regret is that I didn't get a chance to wish him a Happy Birthday one last time. I was just about to pick up the phone when I got the call from my sister, telling me that he was gone.

I was thinking this morning, however, that I just might dedicate my next book to him. He deserves it.

1 comment:

Donna said...

A very moving piece, Lisabet. How interesting that there is a family precedent for articulating the longings of others in artful prose!