Monday, 27 February 2012

...Intimate Converse with Men of Unseen Generations...

There is a great deal of difference between an eager man who wants to read a book and a tired man who wants a book to read. ~G.K. Chesterton

I'm about to pay the biggest---and possibly the most outlandish---tribute to a book in my history of literary praise.

I've loved a lot of books, fallen for a ton of fictional characters. Countless stories have been engraved on my mind and heart.

But in the wake of the recent passing of my son-in-law, something landed on my heart with such a soft, loud touch that I was compelled to share it.

A book. A character. A friend.

I reviewed this novel before, but this mention of it is something different. A proof positive that books really are our friends, like they say.

This week, following the loss of my loved one, I found myself walking in circles, trying without success to focus on something, anything. I didn't feel like writing, but at the end of the day, I craved the pages of a book to escape into.

But which book? I couldn't bear tragic themes but I wasn't ready for happy themes either.

Instinctively, I marched to my room and plucked my copy of Notturno by Z. A. Maxfield from the bookshelf.

By instinctively, I mean there was no other book in my mind to choose. I mean the book, the characters, seemed to stand there on some imaginary sideline, waving me over, inviting me to wrap myself up in them. To comfort me.

I'm not doing a review of the book again. This is not a plug for the book, although it just might accidentally seem to be. LOL.

And I'm not showing you the sumptuous cover to promote the book...

And I'm not including a LINK to the book as a means of pimping the novel, either.

Kenko Yoshida said, To sit alone in the lamplight with a book spread out before you, and hold intimate converse with men of unseen generations - such is a pleasure beyond compare.

And, for me, Notturno is THE book that fits this sentiment for me. Right now, while I'm restless and wondering, this book has BEEN my intimate converse.

The author knows that one of the characters, the beautiful vampire Donte Fedelta, is my favorite fictional being of all time. She does NOT laugh at me when I gush over him, when I tell her I knew him the moment I met him in the story.

Ms. Maxfield knew, as I did, that sometimes fiction really IS a hand reaching to us from not-so-imaginary worlds, a brush with something familiar deep down inside us. Souls connecting by the written word.

So the friendship I sought within the pages of this book---this vampire story to top all vampire stories---because, in my heart, it WAS a friend, an intimate one. And it is only a book. Go figure.

So thank you, Z. A. Maxfield, for creating this world for me. A world that, as you well know, I've enjoyed many times already. But now it holds the distinction of being the only book that became a solace, a literary hug of sorts, when I sought it. Now that is about the highest praise I, personally, can bestow on any collection of written words.

Lord! when you sell a man a book you don't sell just twelve ounces of paper and ink and glue - you sell him a whole new life. Love and friendship and humour and ships at sea by night - there's all heaven and earth in a book, a real book. ~Christopher Morley

Thursday, 16 February 2012

A Good Fight...

I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith…

2 Timothy 4:7

Most of you know of my son-in-law, Mike, and his fight agaisnt cancer.

While I don't want to do my usual wordy blog---somehow those words just don't come so easily right now---I do want to let everyone know that Mike passed from this life on February 12.

His transition from this illness into a life free of cancer was peaceful and without pain, a well-deserved rest after such a brave and hard-fought battle.

Although I know with certainty that he would not have wanted those left behind to grieve, it's hard to see your child's name in the same sentence as 'in memory of' in an obituary.
Suddenly the pain you've been able to keep nestled inside floods to the surface and you're forced to acknolwedge they are gone, they aren't going to return, and you do mourn.

But I refuse to mourn for long. Not only because I know he is in a much better place now, but because I choose to dwell on the beauty of having had a son. Even if it was for only the five short years. It doesn't take a lifetime to know someone, to love them.

I can smile in the knowledge that my daughter experienced love, real love. She was one of those fortunate ones who found a soul mate. The marriage wasn't free of trials---no marriage ever is---but it was still perfect in that Mike and Lyndie weathered every storm and always found a clearing.

I won't even say rest in peace, Mike, because---now that I know he's pain-free and healthy once more, I'm rooting for him to have found a lovely fishing hole and is casting for lots of fish and enjoying the sun.

Finally, I found this quote from Victor Hugo on my daughter's Facebook where she shared it after having found it on a plaque in a garden at M.D. Anderson hospital.

Be like the bird who, halfway in his flight on limb too slight, feels it give way beneath him; yet sings, knowing he hath wings.

I love you, Mike. My son.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Mental Starch...

Faith, to my mind, is a stiffening process, a sort of mental starch.  ~E.M. Forster

I've put off writing on the subject...and put it off...and put it off. Waiting for a trigger, a sign to tell me, Okay, it's all right to speak it out loud now.

As many of you know, my son-in-law Mike battles cancer. Bravely battles cancer. Has fought it tooth and nail.

You want to see a REAL alpha male in action? Meet Mike. Through brain surgery, one-and-a-half years of chemotherapy, lumbar punctures, needles, needles, needles, nausea, hair loss, weakness, he has never cried. He's much stronger than me, that's for sure.

Oh, he DOES cry. Everytime he talks to me about my daughter and tells me how strong she's been for him...he cries. He gets a teeny bit beta then. When he tells me how much he loves her, he cries. When he thinks--even for a moment--about that unthinkable prospect of ever leaving her behind, he cries.

But I don't strike off marks for THOSE tears. He's still an amazing alpha male. So alpha males really DO exist.

My thoughts today, though, are on other things.

Pain. A pain that is not physical---damn, how I wish it was, because maybe there would be a med to take for it---but of the heart.

During this illness, I've ridden along on the tide of the faith Mike and Lyndie have had. I was weak. But if THEY could be strong, so could I.

But recently, some crisis arose in the course of Mike's journey. New fears, a relapse.

A gripping pain spread through me---the type I've not experienced since my daughter was small, when she would be hurt, crying, sad, scared---when she called me one day to tell me that Mike had had a spell of speech disorientation and temporary vision loss.

This time, my children were both afraid. That faith---Lyndie's famous (and annoying to cartwheels and pain, sunshine and rain attitude began to slip.

The agony of seeing fear in your children, in hearing your child slipping in her strength, of hearing the begging in their voice to tell them things ARE going to be okay, aren't they? They're big guys, they're not going to come out and ask that, but you can hear it in their voices. That grasping for a light in the dark.

And the reason I broke down to write about this today is because, once again, my daughter seems to feel the need to aplogize for her optimism, her insisting on being positive.

I have no idea where the need arose, I just know she posted an update to those on her list in apology for NOT posting all the grim details of Mike's disease which she chose not to dwell on. That same old criticism she's suffered all along for being too positive, for being upbeat...for choosing to HOPE, to have FAITH.

So...listen up, people.

I can tell you first hand that Lyndie IS very aware of every grim detail, every morbid possibility, ever reality of this disease. Beneath all those sunny cartwheels beats the heart of one of the strongest, most courageous women I know. A woman who DOES know the truth, but chooses to face this monster in her own way.

The world NEEDS more Lyndies. I need her positive reinforcement, because I'm much more negative than she, and I would worry my son-in-law into a much worse state if not for his strength and faith as well as Lyndie's. So thank heavens for those who DO hold out on hope. They hold the rest of us wimps up.

And what the hell happened to having faith anyway? What's wrong with having faith?

Faith is, contrary to what some may think, is NOT denial. Faith is shining a big, blinding bright light in the face of darkness. Faith is fighting. Faith is tough. And, damn it, it takes a hell of a lot more courage to have faith than it does to settle for defeat. A lot more.

Faith is a big, brawny brute with clenched fists, fighting its way through the grimness that could easily destroy one's strength.

Sherwood Eddy said, Faith is reason grown courageous. 

Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens, says J.R.R. Tolkien.

And my favorite, favorite one of all, from William Wordworth, Faith is a passionate intuition.

So, Mike and Lyndie, continue in your hope, in your faith, in their strength.

And ol' Mom will be right there with you in my heart.

He who has faith has... an inward reservoir of courage, hope, confidence, calmness, and assuring trust that all will come out well - even though to the world it may appear to come out most badly.  ~B.C. Forbes