When I did my first autobiographical post in February, you can bet that I planned on doing the second one long before now. Rather than waste time trying to figure out why it has taken me so long to get back to my life story, let’s just pick it up where I left off.
My father died in 1977, when I was ten years old, and everything changed dramatically. Life wasn’t much fun anymore. My family was devastated, no one more than my mother, who lost the love of her life. I know a lot of people never had parents and families at all. I’m not whining and making excuses or comparing my losses to anyone else’s. All that aside, my father’s death crushed my family. We would do a slow unraveling that would end in many explosions over the years. I can relate everything that went wrong back to that event.
But my mother, a woman with no more than a high school diploma, somehow kept us going. I don’t know how she managed. She certainly didn’t go into debt to do it, nor did she have to work three jobs. She retired at a reasonable age, too. Mom was a hell of an amazing woman, keeping six kids clothed and fed, including one daughter in college in Brooklyn and another daughter with a severe disability. For a long time I was under the impression that she had nothing to live for after my father died. That’s the way it seemed for many years as I watched her drag herself through the long days without Daddy. I know better now, for she had her kids to live for, even if much of her died with my father. Her heart didn’t beat the same again for years. I believe that it took her a full fifteen years to be able to accept his death.
Mom missed out on retiring and growing old with her love. On happily reflecting back on their many years together. On the slow-moving RV with Dad behind the wheel and Mom the passenger and navigational assistant. Her life would eventually get better. She would find another passion, but never another man. No one could replace Daddy.
As for me, the death of my beloved Daddy, who instilled his love of the outdoors in me, taught me to ride a bike and swim, and was my first hiking partner, awakened two things that would change my life nearly as much as his death did.
As tough as it is to find anything positive in the death of a loved one, particularly an untimely demise, there’s always something you can point to, and sometimes you have to. Perhaps the two positives I’m talking about would have come out anyway, even if Daddy had been there. I’ll never know for sure. But the pall that shrouded my family definitely influenced me to seek different worlds, even if they weren’t real.
Around this time, I started to write. Maybe at first, just a few notebook pages here and there. Later, hundreds and hundreds of pages that went into binders. By the time I hit my early teens I had already written a book of over a thousand pages! Typed, it would probably only be half that, but that’s still five hundred pages. One thing was always for sure: the lives of my characters were always a hell of a lot better than mine. They had whole families, not broken ones, and they were always in love and did a lot of kissing. Well, I guess some things haven’t changed. 🙂
The other thing I began to lean on was maps. I loved maps. I still love maps. (Sorry, no GPS for me!) Mom had a set of Encyclopedia Americanas that were old even then, but I couldn’t get enough of them. The books were on a landing between the first and second floors of our family home. The landing measured about six feet by six feet. Enough room for a narrow bookcase, and plenty of room for me to sit and pull out the volumes.
My first love was a map of California, but the whole United States was all right with me. Hardly a surprise that I turned into a traveler whose first love is her own country. Another fact: I lived in California for five years. Not a big stretch of the imagination, right?
These two necessary escapes would serve me well throughout my life.
I promise not to let three months go by before I write the next installment.