This blog post is in memory of my Dad.
I miss you every day.
Hello Precious Readers!
Long time, no write, I know. In fact, that statement is far more loaded than it appears.
I released my third book, Missing You (a Roxy Summers Mystery) last month. (Have you read it? I happen to know that it’s fantastic. You should check it out, and leave a review!) I am already receiving questions: When is the next book coming out?
As I’ve learned from other author friends and mentors, this is a common question asked, typically the same day as a book releases. Similar to people asking newlyweds, or sometimes immediately following a wedding ceremony, when the lovely couple is having children. These questions are often asked in moments of excitement from the requestor, not necessarily meant as a slight upon the subject being asked. However, writing is time taking out of my day to literally sit and stare at a computer monitor while typing for hours, every day. It’s time not spent with my husband, my dogs, my friends, my family. It’s time separate from my full-time and part-time jobs. It’s time spent not sleeping, doing chores around the home, and overall taking away from the sliver of time trying to have a life outside of work.
This summer was a particularly awkward and painful one for me, and admittedly and unabashedly, I confess I did absolutely zero writing. None. Zip. Nada. Nothing. Other than social media, my computer was only used for paying bills and looking at funny YouTube videos.
Why? Why after working so hard to be published for the first time, and successfully launching a 3-book series, would I spend 2.5 months writing absolutely nothing at all? As we all know, life throws curve balls, and sometimes their emotional impact lasts longer than expected.
After nearly 11 years since my Dad’s passing, and 11 years spent on our family’s attempted healing, it was decided that this was the year my Dad’s ashes were to be interned into the Tahoma National Cemetery. For those who don’t know, Tahoma National Cemetery is specifically for those who have served in the U.S. military and their spouses. I won’t go into detail, but it was a small ceremony with traditions held by the U.S. Navy. My Dad served for the Navy during the Vietnam war, living on the U.S.S. Enterprise. (No, not a Star Trek reference… this time.) He was on the aircraft carrier during its initial combat deployment. He worked the night shift, complete with a schedule starting at 2:00 am, and a bedtime of 7:00 pm. He never changed this schedule for the rest of his life, save for family vacations. That discipline stayed with him from when he was 17 years old until he was 60 years old. That is, (let me get my calculator here), 43 years of tradition.
My Dad passed in a sudden, painful way, while at home, the day after Thanksgiving. It was supposed to be a year of celebration. My parents had celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary that year. I had just come home from CWU and was starting my first job post-graduation. My parents were approaching discussions of retirement and considering moving to Nevada where it was warmer. They had even flown down twice that year to scope out property. I was planning on looking for an apartment.
It had been a normal evening. We were all home from work, had eaten dinner together. My Dad was on his way to bed. My mom and I were up watching some lighthearted show on TV. My mom and I were with him. We didn’t get a chance to say goodbye, we didn’t know it was coming, and before we knew it, he was gone. My mother and I were immediately thrust into deciding how to live the rest of our lives without him. Our last moments together as a family were spent in terror, pain, confusion, trauma, and anger. While I would never, under any circumstances wish anyone ill or a long and a painful death, I envy families who had times to not only internally say goodbye to their loved ones, but know when the end was coming. They were able to make a plan, and a semblance of peace regarding the one they lost or are losing.
The end is not always a Lifetime movie drama with everyone around a gurney in a hospital, or someone lying on their death-bed. Sometimes the end is something that takes moments away from you. We never got to say, “I love you”, or try to keep him comfortable in death.
We never got to say goodbye. His life ended in pain, fear, and confusion. Surrounded by EMTs instead of his loved ones.
He had not wanted a funeral service, as stated in his will. He wasn’t a man for pomp and circumstance. His co-workers threw a memorial at the University of Washington, where he had just accomplished his 10th year working there. My mom retired three years after his death, after working for the UW for over 28 years. For the rest of us, we moved on, but others needed an official ceremony so we had somewhere for his remains to reside. So, we held one.
I don’t believe in the word “closure” as it’s used today. I don’t believe that the loss of a loved one is something you “close a chapter on” and then live as if their memory has no effect on you every day after they’re gone. The memory is an ever evolving blob. Sometimes it shrinks, sometimes it takes over, sometimes it’s a microscopic dot on your radar. While the ceremony provided much-needed release for my Mom and some of our family, it did the opposite for me.
After eleven years, I’d gotten to the place where my dad’s memory wasn’t gone, but it had morphed into just the good memories. The ones I enjoyed. The memories didn’t stand out from any particular event or milestone in my life. It was the little things, like seeing him smoking outside, leaning on the garbage can in his sweatpants. The way he always folded his hands on his stomach while reclined in his Dad Chair watching an old western. Hearing him whistle while he was working or tinkering at his workshop surface. The clink of ice while he was drinking his Pepsi, the constant, friendly battle between him and my Mom, my Mom being a die-hard Coca Cola fan. His hugs. The horrible, evil glint in his eye while I was sitting in my parent’s new car that had programmable seats (a new thing for any driver at the time). He had pressed the button causing the seat to start moving. I freaked out, wondering if I had broken the car and the robot apocalypse was trapping me inside the vehicle for all of eternity. The never ending trips to Costco as a family outing. Those were all thrown away for the last two months, temporarily vandalized by the gut-wrenching memory of the last hour of his life.
This had a severe impact on my mental status this summer. I’ve talked about depression and anxiety before, but I will continue writing about it until the stigma is gone. That people understand that it doesn’t “go away”, you “can’t snap out of it”, it’s not a “mood”. There are good days, there are bad days. There are long stretches of good days/weeks/months, swiftly hitting you up with time where you never leave bed, the lights are off, and you just lie there for hours. Doing nothing. No TV, no phone, no radio, no talking, etc. You feel weak, tired, achy, listless. The nightmares come back. Whatever quiet I was attempting to obtain was blighted by restless sleep filled with made up scenarios my backstabbing brain came up with to terrorize me in my dreaming subconscious. The dreams mean nothing, but their lingering effects on how they made me feel stick with me for days afterward.
You just… try to exist and hope it’s enough.
You try to remember that you exist.
All of these memories came up and made it difficult to find the mental and physical capacity to write. Writers are always saying, “Write every day. Even when you don’t want to you. Find time to write every day.” They never tell you how much. For me, it was sticking with social media, updating my Facebook Fan Group on its usual schedule, keeping a presence on Twitter. That was all I could do.
That was enough for me.
By the way, the U.S. military is dismantling the U.S.S. Enterprise this year. Did you know that?
Back to the Big Question: When is the next book coming out?
Now that I’ve talked with my publisher at Trifecta Publishing House, here is my answer: After two and a half years of solid writing Roxy, frankly, I need a break. While I have a general idea of how I want the her next story to go, and ideas for several more books, I’m not in the creative head space to continue her story at this time. There are some other ideas I’ve been mulling for years that I’d like to move forward with and get out of Roxy’s world for a little while, and I need to write something else. There is an idea for a fourth Roxy Summers book. The idea is with Trifecta. It is not under contract at the moment. It will be written.
I don’t know when, but in the near future.
Never have I been looking forward to going back to work in my life. As same for the students who attend, I like the structure. The reliability that the building will most likely outlive me. The steadiness of the schedule. Routine. It helps me stay on task. I actually write better when my schedule is full. I think it’s the discipline and the mental reminder that my writing time is limited, that if I don’t complete it now, I’ll have to catch up the next day.
The work is there, I just need to type it. Enough time has passed that I’m ready to metaphorically pick up the pen and put it to paper. (I do better typing than handwriting out my thoughts. I’m far faster, and a more accurate, typist.)
Wishing you a fantastic fall, filled with easily cleaned falling leaves, lots of vibrant tree color, and pumpkin spice only if you want it.
Love and hugs,