A Decade and Six Months Ago…
I was sitting on the patio of our home with my wife in Humble, Texas (near Houston). It was an evening ritual. We had our chairs and usually a glass of wine while we talked about whatever came to mind… politics… baseball… my writing…. whatever. That evening she brought up the topic when she said, “What would you do, if I was no longer here?”
My response took no thought. “I’d fall apart,” I said.
She took a breath and countered with, “Grieving is acceptable. Falling apart is not. I’d want you to write and I’d expect you to continue to live.”
I gave it little thought and we moved on to another topic.
Eleven Years Ago…
I had written a novel (Gifted Trust) and two short stories (only one published at the time) and I had just finished another short. She was my first reader. She saw everything before the rest of the world and would comment. I handed her the pages for Marquee and on the above mentioned patio she sat and read it while I paced inside waiting for her review. She finished it and said, “Love the story, but hated the ending.”
I said ok and closed the file on the story forgetting about it and moving on.
A Decade Ago (one week from today)…
Our marriage ended. It was a Sunday afternoon. She wasn’t feeling well on Saturday so she spent most of the day in bed. I brought her food/whatever she requested both days as she rested. About five in the afternoon she called me into the bedroom telling me something was wrong. She told me to call for an ambulance. I did and returned to the bedroom and told her I loved her. She said it back to me and her eyes rolled back. It was the last time we talked. The EMTs arrived and we were at the hospital quickly. She passed away in minutes.
The following week I handled the funeral details and I gave the eulogy at the service. When it was over everyone went home and I fell apart… for the next ten months I was pretty worthless and usually drunk. Halfway through this period Dave Dinsmore of Biting Dog Publications contacted me about a project that resulted in my writing both Monkey Love and House Guest.
Same Patio (Mid Grief)…
As I mentioned, I drank a lot after my wife died. I could afford it. I spent most of my time either drinking or crying. Usually both at the same time. One evening I was back on the patio doing both while I sat where we used to sit so many times before all the bad stuff happened when my mind drifted to that conversation we had about a year early and I heard her words. “Grieving is acceptable. Falling apart is not. I’d want you to write and I’d expect you to continue to live.”
A feeling of embarrassment ran through me. I thought how she would have reacted if she’d known how I turned out. The next day I drank less (I didn’t stop, but cut down a lot) and began plans for my move from Houston. In two months my rights to our home to her children and moved with my dogs and sun conure to a rental in northeastern Texas. While living there for the next year I finished and Monkey Love and House Guest and reentered the world. I attended the World Horror Convention in 2007 and met Lisa.
A Year After the Move…
I made another move – this time to Tennessee in order to be closer to Lisa. I got an apartment near where we live today and did the dating thing. During that time Dave Dinsmore (Biting Dog) suggested I get another story out. As he put it, “something different than Monkey Love and House Guest”.
While trying to come up with a story I found a file on my laptop with a story I had written a few years earlier – the one my wife said she liked, but hated the ending. I opened it, read it and made the change into something new. As she had once requested, I had “continued to live” and Marquee became my goodbye to her. I typed it up and sold it to the first publisher to read it, Insidious Publications for a limited edition release.
Nine Years Later…
I have released Marquee again both in my Pretzel Logic collection and also as a solo Kindle book. FTR: I did continue to live. I fell in love – with Lisa and we’re still together. If you have time, I hope you check out Marquee - something a little different from the norm.