My Third Novel's Conclusion, My Heartbreak

My heart begins to break when I think about completing this particular book -- because this narrative has sustained me like no other story I've known. It's both more personal and more universal than my other works. But beyond memory and archetype, it's a cri-de-coeur about needing to become the person one is destined to be. And in the writing, I have met my own life's work, my own fated journey -- having the sense all the while that the pages are suffused with a resonance, an energy, an electrified field that defies explanation. Writers hope and pray to be overtaken by a work in this way -- to be conscripted into passionate service of a profound story. To experience it even once in a lifetime seems a great privilege. I still have several months before this novel is complete, and this constitutes my reprieve. Because I'm not ready for the beauty to end.

Monday, March 5, 2018

The First Hero

"I am the master of my fate.  I am the captain of my soul." -- William Ernest Henley

Once, many years ago, my father wrote a love letter to my mother, even though he knew she was engaged to marry someone else.  In it, he said he knew they couldn't spend their lives together in the way he had hoped, but he wanted her to know he loved her anyway, unconditionally, irrevocably.  And if she ever needed his support, she could call on him -- at any time throughout her life -- just call on him and he would help her without question -- like a mysterious benefactor in a Charles Dickens novel -- like a mythical figure who appears in a Greek drama at the critical hour -- like a lover turning to his beloved.

Because my mother had a quality about her -- a passion for life, a purity of spirit, an ethereal beauty, a charisma -- that my father knew he would never again find in anyone else.  He might go on looking for my mother in other women, he admitted -- but he knew he would never again encounter her.  So, his life would be a pale imitation of what it would have been otherwise -- a shadow play of its potential -- a diligent exercise in going through the motions.

But fate, like all great narrative, is filled with reversals.  Love given freely is sometimes greatly rewarded.  I owe my life to the unexpectedly generous letter of a broken-hearted graduate student who was trying to figure out how to piece together his second-best destiny.  My parents were reunited a year after his letter was sent.

My father was an adventurer of the first order.  He rode camels past the pyramids in Egypt, he dove miles under the ocean in a one-man submersible; he spear-fished; he scuba dove; he raced sailboats; he rode horseback.  At 6'4", he swam the butterfly every day in the open ocean in a way that inspired open-hearted awe in those who saw it -- myself among them. He explored every continent and all seven seas by the time he was 40.  But he never showed more courage than he did in writing a simple letter, declaring an unconditional love for a woman beyond his reach -- a thousand miles and a permanent heartbreak away.

It's a remarkable risk to extend such a love.  And it's an astonishing grace to inspire it.  My parents did both, proving that sometimes the best love stories begin after their seeming end.

Thanks for being the first hero I ever met, Dad -- intrepid, brilliant, adventuresome, stoic, loyal, wise -- the strongest captain in any storm -- the first man to extend to me a love beyond all bounds.

*** Please note:  I am away on work-related adventures for the next several weeks, so please be patient when trying to reach me.  I will respond to emails, etc. as soon as I can during travel.  Thanks for your understanding, everyone.

12 comments:

  1. Your dad looks like a movie star.

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  2. Now I know where you got your adventurer's gene from, Lane. Your father sounds like an exceptional man.

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    1. It's true. My father loved to take me on travel adventures with him -- and he always encouraged me to engage with every sport imaginable, alongside every academic challenge. I was immensely lucky to have him in my life.

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  3. This is such a beautiful story. I would love to see a photo of your mother as well. Can you post one?

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    1. I moved a couple of years ago, Anon, and I'm still locating all the family photos. Please bear with me.

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  4. Your father looks like Lloyd Bridges in this photo. Very handsome man.

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  5. Most men don't have the strength to declare their love following rejection. That's rare and, yes, heroic in its way.

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    1. He knew himself well. He realized he was never going to stop loving my mother -- no matter the outcome. I think that says a great deal about him.

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  6. A great story and a great man, obviously.

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    1. Thank you so much, Anon. He was extremely loving and kind toward his daughter. He overflowed with integrity, strength and kindness. Needless to say, I loved him dearly.

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