I love this picture of my father.
It sits on my desk, right next to my computer. I probably glance at it at least a hundred times a day. He looks so cool and confident. He’s a handsome young man ready to conquer the world. I never knew this version of my father. Once in a blue moon, maybe I’d see a tiny glimpse of it, after he closed a sale or won at the track and had a few drinks in him, just enough to mellow him out but not too drunk to unleash the beast. He could tell a story. He could hold a room. I loved listening to his stories. At my bequest, he’d tell me the same stories over and over again.
By the time I met my father, that young man had been beaten and broken, life had twisted him into just a shell of a man. Setback after setback, even though he tried valiantly to get back up, he was never able to do it. There was the ill-conceived sales training book he tried to write. At some point, on some level, he may have realized that people weren’t looking for sales advice from a washed up salesman, even if he was a top seller a decade ago.
When the depression came, it never left and at times it would leave him completely incapacitated. He spent days on the couch reading books.
Books were his only solace.
He loved to read. His one and only wish for me was to be a writer. He also wanted to be a writer. But he lacked the one thing needed to be a successful writer…drum roll … discipline. Discipline, which any writer worth her salt can tell you is just the not-so-simple act of sitting down and putting words on a blank piece of paper. One word after the other until a sentence is formed; you build it brick by brick, word by word, until you have a story. He had story ideas. One after the other they’d tumble out of him. I think he viewed me as his last great hope. If he could turn me into something, maybe his life wasn’t a complete loss. He gave me books to read. Writers were godlike in his eyes. The ability to put pen to paper was as noble as a soldier raising her shield and sword in battle. My young heart soaked up his words. When we talked about books, about writing, those are some of the best memories I have from what you would call a tragic Dickensian childhood littered with homelessness, alcoholism, and abuse. I didn’t really stand a chance, now did I? I hit the writer’s messed up childhood trifecta. I’m just the right amount of broken, not so broken that I can’t be a contributing member of society, yet still shattered enough to try and make a go of it as a writer.
Writing is not for the fainthearted. Anything worth anything is not for the fainthearted. Right?
On the days, when the muse and I are on a first name basis, when I am swimming in my creative zone and all is right with the world, I look over at him and thank him, thank him for prodding me into this life. I do love it. And moreover, I know how extremely fortunate I am to do what I love. Not many people can say that. Can they? Yet, on the days when the muse has left me stranded, when I can find the right words to draft an email let alone finish the play, novel, script I am working on, I curse him for pushing me into this life. On those days, when the risks have far outweighed the rewards and the dreams of vacations, a new dishwasher that actually cleans the dirty dishes (so novel), a swollen savings account and a steady paycheck start swimming through my head.
Then, I wonder who I am really doing this for? Him or me? I don’t really know. The lines have blurred. I can’t say for certain.
It’s those days, when the depression comes, my mind spins out into a million different directions with the ugly thoughts I just can’t keep at bay. It’s on those days, that I am reminded that no matter what, for the good and for the bad, I am my father’s daughter.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
The film she co-wrote OTHER PLANS is on sale now at http://www.otherplansmovie.com/.
She was also the writer, producer, and director of the documentary LOVE UNDER FIRE: THE STORY OF BERTHA AND POTTER PALMER.
Currently, she is working on the film ORIOLE PARK, which is in pre-production and editing her novel DELILAH.
For more info, check out her production company at http://www.cornbredfilms.com/.