October 12, 2015:
A black day I’ll never forget.
Uncle, your death can’t be two years ago already?
Knowing you had been released from the hospital earlier in the day, I was sitting at Mom’s Pennsylvania kitchen table with your niece-in-law. We decided to phone you in Rhode Island to see how you were and to update you on Mom’s cancer. But “Maria” answered, crying that you had died at home suddenly just an hour earlier after collapsing in her arms. My cousin was beside herself, saying you had refused to listen to her and go back to the hospital…
We didn’t tell Mom for two days. She was in the midst of some procedure. When I finally broke the news, the look on her face was like none I had ever seen before. Distrusting doctors to her very end, seconds later from her hospital bed she angrily questioned me, “What did they [the doctors] do to my brother?!”
Mom would die two weeks to the day after you did. In the last phone call between you from your respective hospital beds, you and she were debating who was sicker. If there is an afterlife, I bet you are both probably still arguing about that.
I miss you. I just thought I would update you here on the writing front. I had mostly finished Distances before you died, and that volume appeared in the December. I dedicated it to Mom and you (and to my dad).
I didn’t stop there. More than once in the year before you died you suggested I write a “cozy” crime novel – set in some “quaint” European village. But you knew I thought that route was not me. Lots of people out there write that sort of thing and there was no way I felt I could do anything in that genre that would be anything other than ordinary at best.
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However, you had also remarked that I could try to write history as adventure – all that education I had, you’d laughed. Well, I did exactly that during 2016-2017! When I pick up that novel, open it and just read some from wherever the pages part, I have to admit that sometimes I shudder that I had LOST. MY. MIND!!!!
…And I’m also beyond PROUD of it.
A “cozy” in a “quaint” European village it is definitely not. I soooooooo wish I could show you Conventions: The Garden At Paris. I’m sure you would be impressed…
Last weekend in Dublin, I joked with a good friend – you knew about her, but never met her – that having written that novel, in a sense I feel I can die now myself.
You liked shorts too. I’m hoping next to write a short story, perhaps to be out in time for Christmas, but it’s giving me a torrid time. Maybe I’m just a bit worn out still after Conventions?
You had told me you wrote police-based stories because you had been a cop. You also urged me that, whatever more I wanted to write, to try to write based on what I knew too – the personal is always the best place to begin. You were emphatic the creativity that ends up on the pages starts inside each of us in ways that are uniquely our own…
I will always be pleased you read Passports and Frontiers and that you liked them. Had you even hinted that perhaps I should not continue writing, I would have given up. But that YOU had urged me to keep going – that I wrote well – provided me the “slap on the back” approval I needed to encourage me to stay at it.
Of course I can’t ask you for any further advice: that time is over. Eventually we all have to go our own way. I think I have now begun to do so.
Two of your birthdays have also passed since you left us. Those numbers will now only but grow. That Spanish lady friend of yours from way back has written something sweet on your Facebook page on both of those days so far. 🙂