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Saying Goodbye to My #Dad #grief

The tumor appeared right after Thanksgiving, a hard marble on the side of his neck.  By March, it had grown to the size of a softball, and chemo and radiation had begun.  But my father lost his battle with throat cancer last week, at the end of April, and I'm still reeling with grief, shock, and the finality of saying goodbye.  Of never hearing his voice again, never laughing with him again, never hugging him again.

Reading The Night Before Christmas, 1970

So I thought I'd dedicate my blog post today to a few of the stories about my dad that relate to my love of reading, and by extension, my desire to become an author myself.

I absolutely credit my dad with my passion for reading.  He loved to read.  So beyond just reading picture books to me as a child, my father made sure I had stacks of novels, chosen to match my interests, once I could read myself.  He would visit the library each week, and head straight to the Children's Librarian, who would help him pick out the weekly haul.  Usually, the subject matter revolved around horses and young riders (Winter Pony, Summer Pony, Misty of Chincoteague, The Blind Connemara), animals in general (Benji, The Incredible Journey, Charlotte's Web, A Cricket in Times Square), mysteries and adventures (Encyclopedia Brown, all the Choose Your Own Adventure books, Baby Island)...but sometimes other genres and subject matter made it into the pile, just by virtue of the sheer amount I could read in a week.  It was difficult to keep up with.

So when I was in second grade, a book titled Jane-Emily, by Patricia Clapp, came home from the library.  The tag line read "A ghost story...and a love story".  I.  Was.  Hooked.  I'd found my ideal mix of elements: a spooky haunting, mixed with romance (in this case, a very sweet romance, set in the early 1900s).  I read it over and over again.  I made my best friend read it.  Since then, we're both still scared of those silvery reflecting balls that sit on pedestals in yards.

Jane-Emily introduced me to paranormal romantic suspense, and this childhood favorite has made a lifetime mark, impacting what I write as an author--yep, combinations of ghost stories and love stories, although the romantic element in my novels is decidedly steamier, as my books are meant for more mature readers.  But I still go back to revisit Jane-Emily from time to time--my copy from eBay sits on the bookshelf--and I even read it to my two boys when they were little.  And I may never have discovered this book without my Dad's dedicated trips to the library to keep me reading for pleasure.

The second story is from a family vacation to Bethany Beach (where I now get to sign books on occasion) when I was around 12 years old.  We made sure I had my usual stack of books to tide me over for the week, but since it was summer and we spent the days relaxing, I read even faster than usual.  I was done in the first three days, and four more days with no new reading material just wasn't acceptable.  At that time, the main strip of Bethany consisted of just a few stores, certainly no independent book stores.  But the Five and Dime had a display of Nancy Drew Mysteries.  Some I'd read, but a few I hadn't.  My fathered purchased the ones I had not yet read.

Those lasted another 24 hours, and then we were back to square one.  At this point, he started inquiring about libraries, and we were directed to a little mobile library, literally a trailer, serving the summer residents of Bethany Beach.  They made it very clear that they didn't allow vacationers without permanent summer addresses to borrow books.  The risk of loss, keeping track, etc.  I don't remember if my father wore them down with an argument, or just left some cash as collateral, but I do remember I walked out of there with a bunch of books.

Bethany Beach, 1970...well before my
Nancy Drew Mystery days

Good memories.  Even as adults, we traded titles we enjoyed, and he would pass along all the new releases he'd picked up at the bookstore.  I know every time I find a book that pulls me in, and takes me on a fabulous journey, away from the stress of everyday life, I'll think of him, and thank him silently for fostering my love for stories.

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