Sunday, February 28, 2010

Striking a chord

You never know when you might strike a chord that reverberates with many others. Its something many writers hope to achieve, but then we never really know because there's little feedback. Some of us might get an occasional email saying I read your piece and I liked it. That's always encouraging, even if there's only one. Or then we may bump into a friend in the grocery checkout and she'll say hey I read your book. I never knew you were so talented. And we mutter Thanks. Glad you enjoyed it. So bit by bit, with drips and drabs we suck up little hints that insinuate what we have written is not trash and that once in a while someone really enjoys our stuff. For amateurs like myself we live for these little morsels of encouragement and praise. But I was not expecting the wave of feedback I got from a little piece I wrote about my dad. Dad is now living at the Maine Veterans' Home where he is getting the care that he needs, but at the time I wrote the essay Dad has just lost his driver's license. He had been flirting with loosing the license for a couple of years. Dad's dementia had progressed to a point where the neurologist reported him to the state as a driving risk. Dad received notice he was to appear for a road test and don't you know, the wily old fox charmed the examiner and passed. As the months went by though he did drive less and less and we did not encourage it. Then he passed out in his home and we called the ambulance and he went to the hospital. His license was automatically suspended. I remember the day I slipped the dirty plastic license out from the pocket of his wallet and put it in an envelope and sent it back to the state. I knew that was the end of driving for Dad and that's what prompted me to write the essay. I called it "A Man Without His Horse" and it appeared soon after in the Wolf Moon Journal. Here's the link: Writing the piece had been helpful for me in that it let me get out some of the angst and pent up emotion I felt at having to be a party to my Dad's driving suspension. Little did I realize how many other folks would read the essay and be affected by it. I did after all strike a chord. People sent me notes and caught me on the street and either told me similar stories about their parents, or about how they themselves feared facing this reality when they became elderly. The idea of loosing your drivers license seemed to strike at the very heart of people's self image and brought to light many other issues related to aging and independence. I even had one request to re-print the article for a local 55 Plus newsletter. You can read the essay yourself and see what ideas or feelings it might engender. What pleases me the most though is how it has sparked stories and thoughts from so many others. I suppose its not unlike a minister who delivers an exceptionally insightful sermon and hears about it as parishioners file out of the sanctuary. I didn't intend it that way, but it is gratifying when you write something and every once in a while strike that chord that reverberates with readers and gives them pause and causes them the think and to reflect. In many ways I think that's part of what being a good story teller is all about.

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