Two and a half months ago we moved my seventy-nine year old father, Bob, in with us. It has been exhausting and stressful. He was starving in so many ways. Neglecting to eat, barely drinking water, not showering (which is still a habit we have not broken, to my olfactory distress) and lacking in human companionship. We have been trying to fill up his tank and untangle his massive mess. It has definitely put a dent in my ability to be creative and work in my studio.
However, it being summer, I put my energy into harvesting, canning, preserving, storing up.
I cured over 300 bulbs of garlic that we grew.
I put up 40 pints of blackberry jam and baked many blackberry pies. (Gluten-free of course.)
And I decanted last year's batch of our "PLummi Gin" made with wild island Damson plums, then started the new brew infusing in the crawlspace, to be reaped one year from now.
Sometimes you go through phases of sowing. Sometimes you are just fertilizing, and sometimes you get to harvest the rewards. It's the same with writing and books.
There have been some very productive years in my now seventeen years of being published. I did a lot of sowing and harvesting and produced seventeen books. They did not come one per year, though. Five of them came out in 2000. Some years the fields had to lay fallow and recover. There has been a lot of that lately.
As I watch my father, I am struck by his extreme pattern of being productive, and not only laying fallow, but going completely to seed. This, sadly is a direct result of his untreated bipolar disorder. He is now reduced to being planted on my sofa day after day- a weed of sorts, yet he is being nourished by yours truly.
I feed him daily. I feed him healthy, good food. He has gained over twenty pounds since we took him in. He is six feet tall in his bare, ghostly feet, (a result of poor circulation and no exercise for a decade or more) and he weighed maybe 120 lbs when he came here. Now his face has filled out, and he is 140 lbs and gaining.
I also have fed him books. He loves to read. He always has. Both of my parents, when they were married to each other, hoarded books. Books were always sacred in our home. When my father left my mother, one of the biggest battles was over who would get which books. Now in some strange ironic set of circumstances, my father has not only moved in with me, but he has rejoined his previous collection of books that I have owned since my mother died twenty-five-plus years ago.
My father sits on that sofa and I see him like a mosquito. He sucks in books, text, sentences, paragraphs, voice, story, set-up, conflict, resolution like the very life-blood that keeps him going. He is engorged with fiction and non-fiction. He is living in a writer's mind. At first I was angry that he just sat there and read and did nothing. He doesn't even offer to help with the simplest things we have to do for him. He reads and reads. But then I realized that I may be jealous that he just gets to sit there and soak up all that literature. Wouldn't that be nice to have that luxury of time, space, meals prepared, house cleaned, cat vying to warm your lap?
So I go about my business of keeping things together and dreaming of what my next novel will be. I have a few picture books in the works and I'm aching to get into my studio to do sketches- to see if that field is ready for planting again. My first novel is heading out to adult publishers soon and I am very eager to see if it will take root. I have already let my father read it, and he was riveted- and not just to the sofa.
Here's to books. Without them, I'm not sure how my father or I would survive. It's a better world because of them. May books bring you happiness in all ways, shapes and forms.