After years of writing, I finally have a story to die for

If you’ve visited before, you may know that I have self-published a few books. When you self-publish enough books, you get noticed. Some authors get noticed by readers, but I find that I get noticed much more often by aggressive marketers, trying to sell me their publishing platforms. These platforms usually come at a high price for very little useful platform, so I disregard the advertisements.

When this marketing piece appeared in my mailbox, I assumed it was from a fly-by-night, vanity press that had bought my name from a mailing list in the hope I possess three important characteristics:

  1. I am ignorant of publishing scams.
  2. I harbor dreams of penning the autobiography of my quietly fascinating life.
  3. I do not know what the word fascinating means.

Before tossing the piece into the recycle bin, I turned it over to make note of the name of the publishing company trying to take advantage of my feeble-minded sense of self-importance.

That’s when it hit me. Publishing companies, even the shady ones, don’t have Memory Gardens in their names nearly so much as cemeteries do.

I am not being recruited by a shady publisher, but by a shady plot in a peaceful meadow. They’re not trying to sell me a two-bit book layout for my memoirs; they’re trying to sell me a hole to bury my carcass.

This is disturbing, because nowadays these marketers know more about you than you do. Last year, AARP was all over my 50th birthday like flies on sheet cake. What does Memory Gardens know about me that puts me on the same prospect list with Great Depression Babies? Should I take heart that it’s addressed to me OR whomever took up residence in my death trap of a home after my demise?

I guess the best thing is to find the humor in it, of which there is plenty. I do enjoy the Resolutions theme: A new year is a time for resolutions. Why don’t you resolve to die this year?

I also like the appeal to the control freak: By planning your final arrangements in advance, you can still tell everybody what to do even after you’re dead. After all, you wouldn’t want them to grieve in any way but the one that suits your departed ego.

But the best laugh is reserved for the smallest print:

“Our sincerest condolences if this was received during a time of mourning.” In other words, “We hope we’re not too late, but if the next of kin need to throw something together right away, we are such considerate people, and by the way, we still do have plots available.”

Having considered all this, I’ve decided I’m not writing my autobiography or resolving to die this year. I’m hoping to keep my story to myself for a while longer.

 

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Day 17,940

Today I outlived my father.

Before anyone sends condolences, I should clarify. My father died in 1976. Today I am one day older than my father lived to be. I am 17,940 days old, which translates into 49 years, 1 month, and a dozen days.

How do I know this? Microsoft Excel.

Why do I know this? That’s harder to say.

Probably, it is for three reasons: Big Brother, Buster, and Big Man. If not for them, and all they’ve added to my life through fatherhood, I likely would have never thought about this milestone.

The eight years I had with my father boil down to about five years of faded memories. Beyond that, he’s mostly hearsay from others and conjecture on my part.

For most of my life, I recalled my father through the eyes of a child – the last eyes that saw him in real life. My own children have allowed me to relate to him as a father.

Children are remarkable adapters. When my father died, I adapted to the way life must be without him. I lived as children live, thinking about today, leaving yesterday behind. My mother pulled double duty to provide her children good childhoods.

Like lots of kids who lost a parent, I considered my life to be normal. I never felt sorry for myself. That hasn’t changed, but something else has. Once in a while I feel sorry for my father. This empathy is a gift to me from my own children.

As a child, I coped with, and moved past, my own loss, and that was the end of it. I didn’t consider things from a parent’s point of view. I couldn’t conceive of the tragedy of being pulled away forever from a house full of young lives embodying all your hopes and dreams. I didn’t appreciate the sadness in not being there to share the joys and sorrows.

I don’t know what comes after life, or if there is a time or place for a departed soul to feel the sting of this separation, but now I feel it for him. I feel it when I realize how precious my boys’ smiles, and even sometimes their tears, are to me. I feel it when I think about how much they have to learn and how much I need to teach them. I feel it when I realize that most times I am called by name, that name is “Daddy.”

On my father’s 17,939th day, he had eight children, aged 5 to 19. The next day, we all were forced to rebuild our lives without him. Faded, with my memories of him, is the sadness of losing him. More vivid to me now, is a sadness for his losing us.

I visit this sadness now and then. It reminds me to enjoy the great gifts of fatherhood while I can.

I dont want to miss a thing.

I don’t want to miss a thing.