As an ernest freelancer, I find myself checking my e-mail a dozen times a day. I delete what I'm not interested in, keep what might be promising, and read through the responses to my "hired pen" want ad. Most of the stuff gets deleted; I'm quite lucky -- I can pick and choose. There's something marvelous about being able to say "no, I'm not going to sell my soul for that" or "You need a kidney before you'll hire me? Sure, take mine!"
I did read some interesting advice the other day, the latest Writer's Digest had an article on getting past that infamous slush pile. When you're sending clips, some editors like to see clips from the same publication, with the logic being that anyone can write for a publication once. But being hired back, to write again, well now, that's something else.
Today was a particularly quiet day professionally, nothing worth reading let alone replying to. Just as well, I had company. My biological father, his wife, and his mother all came for a visit. It was a delight, my son kept his grandparents quite busy showing them his room, his toys, and his clubhouse (a dishwasher box), leaving me to visit with my grandmother, a delightfully honest woman of 70-some years.
"I don't recall my father ever hugging or kissing me," Grandma Clare said, breaking a comfortable silence as we listened to Gavie laughing in the other room as "Dack," his grandfather, held him up to touch the ceiling. "He was German. They aren't particularly..." she paused, looking for the right word.
"Demonstrative?" I offered.
"That's it, he never really showed any of us affection, but you knew he'd do anything for you." She went on to tell me how he'd send money to a daughter whose husband left her, or how he'd help by watching Clare's sons after he retired. This great-grandfather, who died long before I was born, may not have shown much love, at least not in the form that we today look for, but he knew what it was. Had he lived today, someone would have hauled him in for counseling or dragged him to Oprah for an intervention on how he was harming his children by failing to hug them.
The truest proof of his love, however, was the house he build for his wife, my great-grandmother, also long passed. After raising ten children in a rather large farmhouse, he decided that they could stand to have a smaller place, something for just the two of them. Just as he finished, his wife went into the hospital for her high blood pressure.
"We were taking things over a little at a time, and we had them about half moved in," Clare said. "And my father said 'stop.' He wasn't going to move in until my mother was home. He said that if she didn't come home, he was going to burn that new house to the ground."
This man, who worked seven days a week and kept a small farm as well, and who raised ten children, knew about love. He loved so deeply that the idea of his wife never living in the house he built for her was too much for him to contemplate. He wasn't about to let it become a monument to the dead when it was meant as a gift to the living.
Growing up, there was many a night when my dad did not come home from work until long after my brother and I were in bed. My mother insisted that he peek in on us on those nights. "They're asleep," he'd argue at first. "They don't know."
"But you do," she'd fire back, holding her ground.
Eventually, she stopped nagging him. She didn't have to. It was a habit he'd grown into, and even at 18, I remember his shadow in the doorway those nights he worked overtime, just peeking in on his little girl whom he thought was asleep.
Incidentally, my great-grandmother lived and came home to a new house. And I now peek in on my dad who is riddled with cancer, checking on him as he sleeps in his recliner.