Sitting at my table at a book convention in Burbank, CA, I had a weird sensation of being in the wrong place. There I was with my creations, The Promise I Kept and My Life in a Tutu—sweet stories of a woman’s journey through life—surrounded by other tables with book covers sporting bare-chested men, bulging muscles, long Fabio-like hair, and sexy women swooning as their melon-sized busts fell out of their low-cut dresses.
As an author, whether you’ve published with a traditional publisher, self-publisher, or used a hybrid company as I did, it’s up to you to market your work. When I was given the opportunity to write an article for the magazine that was sponsoring the event and invited to be a speaker, I jumped at the chance without investigating the genre further. Any exposure was good exposure, right? Maybe not when the convention was for the romance lover.
“What a darling cover,” a woman complimented as she looked at my favorite photo of my dad and me on The Promise I Kept. He was ninety-five at the time, in a wheelchair, and we were dancing at my niece’s wedding. He was always my favorite dance partner, and this was the last time we’d ever have the opportunity to move to music again. “What’s the book about?”
Thrilled to finally talk to someone, I told her our life story after my mother passed away in 2003. For the next nine years, I cared for him, living up to the promise I made in my thirties that I’d never put him in a nursing home. It was the story of two souls caring for each other at the end of one’s life: me for his physical needs, him for my spiritual ones.
But as I went into more details, her face began to twitch. Next, she curled up her lip, looked as if she’d just bitten into a sour lemon, then blurted, “Ugh! I can’t read that. It’s too real.”
Off she went to the booth next to me to buy several books filled with tales of robust men and voluptuous women barely clothed in tartan plaids, lusting after each other in the fields of Scotland circa 1800.
At first, I was hurt. Why wasn’t my book as good enough to buy? My work was full of heart. It had drama, pain, and ultimately a happy ending. Wasn’t that what a reader wanted in a book—to be spellbound but left with a warm feeling at the close? So what if it was a true story?
A few hours later, I packed up my car and made the long journey home. Though still stinging from the rejection, I remembered that books are a lovey escape. When someone’s life is difficult, it’s magical to become adrift in a fictional story. And, how lucky are we to do just that—get lost and forget.
Thinking back to those nine years with my father, I remembered many times when I wished I could have gotten lost. I even wished I could have forgotten my promise. Caregiving is real—too real sometimes—and we as the caregivers are never fully prepared for the job.
We can get our homes ready by moving furniture around and emptying shelves for their belongings, but we’re never prepared for the myriad of emotions that descend—the frustration, fatigue, anger, resentment, isolation, and sorrow. Caregiving is a thankless job and many times we find ourselves wishing it was all over. I know I did.
But as the months flowed one into the other, I found myself in constant prayer looking for a way to be at peace with it all. In my heart, I knew one day my father would be gone, and I’d be wishing he was still with me. This led to an awakening of the heart where a new connection to my dad’s soul entered, bringing more love than I’d ever felt before.
So, yes, my story is real, perhaps too real for some because death is hard to face. But through becoming lost in the process of caring for him, I became found. My father taught me about surrender and the art of gratitude for everything each day brings. Our life was real, all of it, and real is a good thing. I emerged a changed woman, forever grateful for the experience because it brought the two of us full circle: sixty years before, he held me when I entered the world, and I was there holding him as he left.
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