Friday, September 11, 2020

On Words and Dreams

Finishing a project.

Why does it seem that when we set out to do something, the actuality of it seems forever away, and when we're finished, we look back wondering how we did it at all.

Everything we touch, hold, use, or love---was once just an idea. Had the person who first envisioned that thing thought too keenly as to his or her chance of success, it may have never happened at all.

My writing started with social media, some short stories for friends, It was a way to unwind, a way to work through things that were painful, it was a way to view my life and actions as a third party, which sometimes is painful in its revealing of the past and past actions that weren't good choices.

People said "you need to write a book" and I put it off with the inevitable excuse of "after retirement". Part of it was (insert Dr. McCoy voice here "Jim - I'm a doctor, not a writer!") But honestly, the thought of actually writing an entire book was beyond daunting; it was flat out frightening.  Not just that people wouldn't like it, but whether I could actually DO it.
I pictured it in one of those $5 bins at the book store, spent brass of the heart that no one wants to pick up. I pictured the sound of the critic's crickets, or worse---their scorn. The Book of Barkley did very well, #1 for a long time, winning multiple awards, but everyone likes dogs - right?  The second book was harder to write and being such a deeply personal story, to weather the failure of.

But I sat down and wrote Saving Grace.  Not because "all the cool kids are doing it" but because it was in me, and if I didn't let it out, it would wither and die, as would some of the memories it bore. As well, telling my story as an unwed teen birth mother, if there was just ONE young woman who made the decision to give her baby up for adoption in lieu of abortion, by reading my words, I knew it was worth every bit of work and worry.

That it touched so many close to me, especially my recently widowed Dad, who sat holding my hand during 34 hours of hard labor, made the risk work it. And when it too, went number one I made the decision to donate THOSE sales to animal rescue, a choice I've never regretted.  Since then, there have been 3 more books, all best sellers, all the proceeds still going to animal rescue both hear and in the UK.
But this post isn't about the books, specifically,  it's about dreams.

My parents fell in love as teenagers. World War II interrupted their wedding plans but they wed on his return from England, so many years later. A lot of the airmen overseas and the women left behind, took up with others, the relationship not withstanding the time and distance.  Dad certainly had a score of beautiful women present opportunities to him, from what my uncles who served with him said. But he came home and immediately married my Mom, after years apart.

He himself, tells few stories of those times. All I have of those lost years is a stack of letters, carefully held together with a ribbon.

I wrote of that in Book Two:  Saving Grace

" There underneath the photos lies a stack of letters. Mom and Dad wrote to one another for four years while he was overseas, not returning Stateside once during that entire time. Reading them feels a little like eavesdropping, as you can almost hear the words as they formed---heartfelt, intimate. I opened one; it was just one single page, and I thought of the way their day stopped at the brink of it. In these letters bridging the time and distance they had to be apart, there was talk of how much they missed one another; of how their families were faring; of good coffee and how Dad missed vegetables from the farm; of burning heat and a cold on the field that would murmur to your very bones. There was playful affection, there was unstated passion and stated promise. Some was in Mom's flowery script, the rest in Dad's meticulous, indomitable hand. "Is everyone there well?" Mom would ask, and Dad would reply that they were, though some were now only well beyond Lamentations."
Barkley waiting for his dad to come home

Dad never imagined that he would not come back, he never told himself that they would not be married, would not have children, would not make a life.  Even in times of great battle, he held the final prize in his hand, never doubting that it would come to be.

He watched over that dream as our Father in heaven watches over us, his creation shaped out of the primal absolute that contained nothing and all, knowing we are equally as capable of being ruined and being saved, but believing we will be saved, as to believe anything else is to perish.

We all have our dreams, just as we all have our fears.  My husband was, and is, a gifted musician, a prodigy as a youngster. He performed with a symphony orchestra in Austria before he was 18, offered a scholarship to study music.

He wanted to be an engineer.

He still plays, well enough to make me cry.  But his passion is creating---inventing things out of form and void, and steel and noise, things that touch his brain and his heart---for what the heart holds becomes our only truth.
I talk to my father every night, there in his dwindling days.  He has done a lot to be proud of: Golden Glove Boxer, retired Air Force Lt.  Colonel, a manager in a large industrial company, past Secretary and President of the Lion's Club,  a Freemason and father.  I asked him if he had any regrets, things he wished he had done.  I asked, not to remind him of regrets, but to see what in his mind's eye is important, looking back almost 100 years.

What he said was his regret was.  "that time in my 20's I spent $5 on hair tonic to grow hair from the bald barber", and he chuckled.

What he said he was most happy for surprised me, until I understood what it means.

Dad had a wonderful marriage with my step-mom in his later years.  We all thought the world of her, and he genuinely loved her. But as he nears his end days, it's the photos of my Mom that have come out of drawers and sit on the table by his bed. So I was at first taken aback when he said "I'm glad I loved and lost Gracie" (my mom)

But it was not because he was the one that physically remained after she died, but because he was glad that he had followed his heart, not his good sense. Because if he had not, she would not have become the one he had to grieve over, because he chose to abandon the idea of them.
Abby, our senior rescue with her new Dad


Those of us who have lost our precious furry family members understand.  Though we hate that deep hurt of loss when it is their time to leave us, we have no regrets about the months or years with that soul, if offered a choice now to change the experience.  So many precious memories, so much love, we would not have experienced if we'd not dare to dream that dream, of making them part of our lives.

So as you look around your life this day- think to things you'd like to hold onto, picture flesh and blood, wood or glass, cat or dog, paper or plastic.  Do not think about all you will risk to get it. Do not think about how long it might take, or even if it will be what you expected.  Do not think about what happens if you get it and lose it one day. Do not ask if others will like it--- but only that you will like it.

I look at a photo of my parents on their wedding day.  Dad in uniform, my Mom wearing a beautiful dark suit.  They look both innocent and immortal, even if slightly amazed to be saying those vows. Best friends since sixth grade, they were in their mid-twenties before fate was such that they could be joined.
On my table is a violin, worth ten's of thousands of dollars.  I carefully put it away, for in a couple of hours my husband will be home and that table will be littered with all manner of tooling bits and mechanical drawings and plans. They will lie next to a small pile of books to be autographed and mailed for a dog auction and a little journal where I jot down bits for further writing.    All of those things are objects that print the often silent mold of our dreams and desires, as easy to be ignored as small fairy feet, when they are magic indeed.

Close your eyes and dream your dream---then make it real.


1 comment:

Welcome to The Book of Barkley and the Blogville dog blogging community. This blog was created for more memories of Barkley as well as updates on Abby the Senior rescue Lab, who we adopted in 2014.

Stop in and say hello. However, comments from strangers offering business links will NOT be posted. I