Almost 4 years ago, I pulled some of my old journals from a huge metal file cabinet that was used in a Walmart store to hold sewing patterns. I have been journaling for over fifty years, and that is a crazy long time. For the most part, I began journaling because my Grandmother Doris kept journals and scrap books. (Back before it was considered cool. Now, there are thousands upon thousands of stickers, and beautifully decorated pages, fancy clear sleeves to slide your projects into). She would cut flowers, and photos out of magazines and newspaper to decorate her plain scrap books or glue things into her journals.
By the Grace of my Uncle Fred, I have several of her journals and they are a pure delight to read. I do wish, she had talked more about real life, and how she was feeling about the big sets backs she endured, but it wasn’t her style. She would talk about the weather, sewing dresses or aprons, tending to the garden and she would record who stopped by for a visit. Nice reading, just very platonic. Nothing too personal.
I began writing as a child I guess, to have someone to talk to. Our mother wasn’t a talker, I didn’t have a sister or any cousins my age, so I began to “talk -write in my journal like I was talking to a friend. As I became a teen of 17, I began addressing the entries in my journals to God. Today, I am 59 years stronger, steadier and hopefully wiser. Writing isn’t something that I chose to polish and make my hobby. IT FOUND ME!! It has always been my open window to this magnificent, chaotic, dysfunctional, beautiful life of mine
When I pulled out some of my old journals, I stumbled across the one where I had taken care of my very best friend while he was preparing for his departure from this world. I remember the day, his 2nd wife told me, that she was not going to grant Burts wish and bring him home to pass. She had done that for her first husband and she wasn’t going to do it again. I made a deal with her that day. I would move into their home in South Bend IN, and I would stay there and be Burts sole caregiver until he was gone. I would change him, his sheets, take care of his medical needs, pain meds, anything that was needed I would do.
The medical team delivered Burt home on Friday evening in the back of an ambulance. He was beaming, so happy to be home. It was what he wanted. I need to interject here, that had I not taken care of my Uncle Fred, while he was dying with cancer, I would not have known how to take care of my beloved Burt. Though the ordeal with Uncle Fred was difficult, it also lasted about 3 weeks and I lost a size or 2 during that ordeal. Still, I was grateful for that opportunity to be with my uncle, as it allowed me to “SIGN UP” to be Burts Caregiver.
Burt was a man I have known since I was a toddler, but in 1983 , I delivered our first baby, a girl. She was born on Easter Morning. A week later, I was driving past Burts home, and he was walking on the road due to his heart condition. I pulled over and said “Burt look what the Easter Bunny brought me”. I still remember him reaching his large knuckled hands over the car seat and holding our daughters little hand with one of his fingers”. We chatted for a moment and I told him he should come up for coffee sometime.
For the next 32 years I shared more cups of coffee with Burt than I could possibly count. He came at least once a week to my old drafty mobile home and we became the best of friends. IF the weather was nasty, rain, snow, or sleet that meant that he would be stopping by more often. Our home was humble, to say the least. None of the windows opened or shut, I would have to put sticks in them to keep them open for air, and if it rained, I rain the full length of that home knocking out sticks and slamming the windows closed. Winter frost would come up on the inside walls about 3 feet, and I used to show our little girl how she could draw on the frost.
The floors had holes in them, and one night when I notice that a mouse had chewed on my 6th month old Sons bottle while he slept in his crib, I about lost my mind. Every light in the house came on, and the children’s Dad was alerted by one angry, horrified wife. Haha.
Through the years, I would deliver three more babies, lose one of my twins, and in 1988, we scrapped and fought and was able to buy a brand new single wide mobile home with 2 X 6 walls. What a luxury. Through it all, Burt was there. He loved me so fully and completely and honorably. There was nothing I couldn’t say or talk about that he didn’t want to hear. I would write him cards and letters and he would tell me how beautiful they were and that I should be a writer. As the years went along, my children grew, our lives took on many changes, and still we remained each others best friend and confidantes.
In 1994, Burt decided to remarry after losing his first wife, to his college sweetheart. HE came to my home, said he was going to marry again, and wanted to sell me his farm. I was shocked, and happy. THough I had no money, he said we could work something out, but the most important thing to him was that he wanted the farm to go to someone who would “LOVE IT THE WAY HE DOES”. Becasue of his huge heart, my children got to be raised on a beautiful 189 acre farm. They learned skills farming the old fashioned way that have taught them things that no text book ever could.
We now have added “Three In-Loves”, to our family and 12 beautiful grandchildren. This farm has become our family compound with every one being here sunday mornings for breakfast and during the week, someone is usually popping in and out for a visit. The Grandchildren drive over in their ATVs . Its a wonderful life, and I owe it all to the man that LOVED people and a piece of ground MORE than he did money.
SOOOOO, on this one afternoon, as I read through one of my journals, it just dawned on me that I should write down the story of Burts life. I hated to take his stories with me when I leave. So I began to write. Not one time, did I struggle with what to write. I did struggle to have the TIME to write, but the story itself seem to just flow out of me.
It wasnt’ until I was finished with the book, that it hit me. I had INADVERTENTLY wrote about Burts real life, but somewhere in the midst of it all, I turned it, tweaked it, and spun it around and given his life a happier ending. I could not count all the beautiful letters that man wrote to me over the years. They were always very kind, and loving, never crossing a line. His love I compare to how they say Jesus loves us. Its real and genuine with no alterior motives, no physical needs. All just a deeply ingrained heart connnection.
MY SINGLE BEST MOMENT of the book, was not the writing of it, or TRYING to do my own editing, but rather when the brown USP truck stopped here, and walked up to my door with a manilla envelope and a large box. The book was published, and as I opened the box, I was in awe. I was holding my book in my hands.
I loved the weight of it, the feel of it in my hands, the crisp spline, the glossy jacket with the cover that the art department and I had created together. I read the back cover, over and over that described what the book was about. I read the inside back cover, about the Author, and inside the front page I read and re read the dedications I wrote. MY ONLY REGRET SO FAR, is that I couldn’t afford an editor to proof read it for me. it was like 3,000. 00
Its is crazy hilarious to me, how many people came out of the woodwork after reading my book and said “Oh I would have loved to proof your book for you”……….and I have taken their names for any sequel I may attempt to write.
I chose to write under a pseudonym, as I wasn’t sure I wanted my name out there for people to google and find me, and there are a few people in my world, that I feel would have a red-letter-field day tearing it all apart. Truth is: eventually its going to get out that I am the author, and by that time, I hope that I am able to withstand any of the negative feedback and not allow it to over shadow the accomplishment here.
Once the book was released on kindle and paper back (Sept 11 2021) it felt like I was helplessly watching from the side line while one of my children or grandchildren mounted a raging bull with huge horns for a quick 8 second ride. I’m nervous, I’m scared, sick to my stomach because I am not in control. I don’t know if the book will take off and soar, or if it will die on the shelf, and there isn’t much I can do to change it either way. The dye is cast.
My Great Great Grandfather sat under some of the worst conditions during the Great Civil War, and wrote down everything that was happening in his world from 1863 to 1865. He didn’t have Carhartt bibs, thinsulate glooves, muck boots to stay warm. He didn’t have three warm square meals a day. He lived on hardtack and water, and an occasional decent meal. He walked for miles, he fought and survived many battles, watched many a good comrade die, and survived getting shot himself. He named places, generals, described battles. They have reprinted his civil war diary in libraries and colleges, all across the United States for educational purposes and printed the diary several times, in the local papers.
In 1909, When He was 67 years old, a man from Chicago came to our small town and He and my Great Great Granfather wrote an entire book together that was first published in 1911, and is still being reprinted today. He wrote during the civil war, and helped write a book about himself. He was a writer. His grandaughter was a writer and now, her grandaughter is a writer….. I like being a part of something like that.
I don’t deserve to be well known or well published. I sure didn’t earn it, but I did BIRTH this book, and it is my humble hope that it will find wings to fly and that Burts Story, perhaps the life he once wanted and talked about so much during our thousands of conversations will reach him, and he will nod his head and say
“Yep Sher, there it is, you did it, You wrote the life I always wanted to have”.