Derry, Northern Ireland

Derry, Northern Ireland
A book I'm working on is set in this town.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Sometimes silence is wrong...

As I was driving from Rochester to Buffalo, Public Radio was live-broadcasting a concert being given by the Minnesota Symphony in Havana, Cuba. It was all Beethoven, including a piano concerto with choral accompaniment. The piano was played by Frank Fernandez, who's considered a hero in Cuba for his ability with music and work around the world. A couple of Cuban choirs provided the voices. It was raining off and on, during the drive, but that only added to the beauty of the music...and colored my mood a bit.

Earlier in the day, I drove through Scranton and stopped to visit my aunt, in Carbondale. The night before, I'd received a call to inform me she had terminal cancer. If I wanted to phone, the next day, I should check first to see if she was up for it. Instead, I changed my route home, had lunch at a Mickey D's in Carbondale, got some flowers, and texted to say I wanted to drop by in 15 minutes. Didn't give them a chance to say no.

She's 84 or 85, and looks every day of it, but hers has been anything but an easy life. A child of divorce (and abandonment by her father, my grandfather) she converted from Presbyterian to Eastern Orthodox Catholic, had 7 children, two miscarriages, buried my grandmother, two children, her husband and a grandchild, and worked as an RN for nearly 30 years. My uncle was in the Air Force, so they lived all over. In fact, my oldest cousin was born in Japan. When I was growing up, I often wished I was part of her family, not mine, because around them I felt safe and brave.

While there, I learned about the death of her grandchild, a year ago. Second cousin to me. He was thirty-three. I hadn't seen him since he was seven and only got hints of how difficult his life was after his mother died. And the only reason I found out was, I asked how he was doing. The response? "Oh, you didn't know he passed?" When I asked what happened, all I got was, "He was in with the wrong crowd." The casual dismissal of it still leaves me breathless.

This is the side of the family that pretty much ended contact with me after they found out I was gay. I was told about a couple of deaths after the funerals, never about weddings or births or anything else. I didn't even know Carol had moved to a new house until she responded to a Christmas card I'd sent by saying it had gone to the wrong address...but fortunately, the postman knew her so brought it to the right one.

I visited for nearly two hours, until she was beginning to need some pain relief, then headed on. The next time I hear from my cousins, it will be to say they've buried her.

I've shed no tears over this. I'm hurt, sure, but I no longer feel any real connection to them. I'm more affected by what my characters go through on the page. In fact, as I drove and listened to the symphony, Jake gently touched me and asked me to finish his story. And I realized just how long I'd been writing The Vanishing of Owen Taylor and felt shame at having not completed it, yet. That is my next project.

I've finished MFD and sent it off...and it is what it is. I could easily spend the next five years finessing it, but I'm not doing that, anymore. It's ludicrous. Ben's set, and I have everything I wanted in the story. I'm happy with how it turned out. In fact, the ending wound up more gentle than I expected, so he's happy, too.

If anyone ever wants to know why I feel so much closer to the characters in my mind than real people, this whole post gives you a partial explanation.

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