Ode to Walter

This was supposed to be posted yesterday but alas, the day got away from me.  Weird times.

Anyway, here it is:  As you know, I finally found a publisher and am nearing the completion of my lifelong goal of holding one of my own books in my hand.  I'm staring down a dream I've had since I was eleven years old.  And there is one person I had really hoped would be around to see this day who will not be--my grandfather, Walter Conlen.  He passed away 6/2/10 surrounded by his family, after a very full life.  The anniversary of his death was yesterday and it got me thinking about him. Although every time I think about my books, about getting published, he comes to mind. 

We never discussed my writing or the getting-published process other than in broad strokes.  He knew what I was trying to do, we didn't get into the nitty-gritty of it.  We didn't really need to--I always had his unwavering support.  What I really credit my grandfather with is inspiring my love of reading and maybe even my love for the genre I write in.  From what I remember, he was retired by the time I came along, or pretty close to being retired.  He still played a banjo in the Avalon String Band and yes, for a time, he was a Mummer.  The last time I really let loose and danced in public was because of him and that banjo:

He would play and I would dance on his banjo case!  Until I got too old and too heavy for it and then later, post-Seinfeld, realized that I dance like Elaine and it was probably best not to do it in public.

Except slow dancing, like so:

Anyway, one of the things I remember and cherish and admire most about my grandfather (who served in the military, fell in love at first sight with my grandmother and was devoted to her for over 60 years as well as being a very hard-working family man) was his love of reading.  When I was growing up, he would visit our neighborhood library every week (for some reason I feel like he went every Tuesday but I'm not entirely sure) and he would come home with a very large stack of hardbacks and he would read his behind off!  I never saw anyone who could mow through a stack of books like my Pop-pop.  In our working-class, mostly Irish Catholic neighborhood, there wasn't all that much value placed on being a reader but that didn't seem to bother him at all.  He read and read and read.  And he read crime thrillers, mysteries, suspense novels. 

Later, when I was a grown up and he had gone blind from Macular Degeneration, his children bought him audio books so he could continue filling up on novels.  He used to give them to me when he was done because I used to travel a lot.  What we found was that I had already read most of them!  We had exactly the same taste, were drawn to exactly the same books, enjoyed reading exactly the same things.  Yet, it was never something we talked about.  I just grew up watching him read, watching what he read.

Last year on the anniversary of his death, I had planned to go to the cemetary after work to visit him but instead, I left work and found this: 

Yes, that was my beloved car

My husband thinks Pop-pop was looking out for me.  Had I been walking to my car when this happened, I would have been killed by that giant tree.  But the mid-day errand I was supposed to run turned out to be unnecessary so I was not walking to my car at that particular time.  I didn't make it to the cemetary that day.  But my grandmother told me recently she is sure that Pop is looking down on me and that he knows that I've fulfilled my lifelong dream.  I just wish he was really here.  I think he would have enjoyed reading my books.

How about you guys?  Ever achieved something you'd been working toward for a long time but lost someone important along the way?


  1. Lovely story, Lisa, thanks for sharing (and I love the Seinfeld reference--dancing like Elaine: not a good thing). I am disappointed that both of my parents are gone and will not see my books come to light. Writing was a deep background thing for me until after both of them were gone, but they would have been extremely supportive of my ventures.

    Now we've seen Nancy's cover, looking forward to seeing your first!

  2. This is almost a real life scenario of the story I sent you the other day. It is sad and uplifting all at the same time. A very nice tribute to your Grandfather.

  3. That is a great picture of you and your grandfather. He sounds like my kind of guy...you're blessed to have had him in your life!

  4. Thank you for sharing this, Lisa. I'm sure your grandfather is so proud of you up there!

    I have similar feelings regarding my uncle who unexpectedly passed away on my graduation day. Maybe they're having a nice chat about us now. :)

  5. Aw, that is such a sweet tribute! I love the picture of you banjo dancing. And now I can't get the image of you dancing like Elaine out of my head. LOL!

    I'm positive your grandfather is watching out for you and is so very proud. I haven't lost anyone in that way, but I have recently lost a friendship that meant a lot to me. She was with me early on in my journey to be published, but has since cut me loose, for whatever reason. So, yeah, I do miss her sharing in my dream.

    Thank God I have you and Carrie and Jenny. Come October, we'll be sure to have a drink in Pop-pop's honor and say cheers!

  6. Beautiful tribute.

    I've been intensely private with my writing. I haven't wanted to tell any family or close friends because I didn't want to field questions about it if it doesn't succeed.

    My father gave me my love of reading. He's retired now and churning through books at an amazing rate. I finally broke my personal creed and gave him my WIP. He really appreciated it and provided great feedback. I'm just glad I got to share it with him no matter what happens with the book.

  7. Great tribute to your grandfather. I do fear not getting published before my parents pass away. I mean, it wouldn't really matter to them if I got published or not, but it would just be nice to say "look what I did." That never seems to go away, no matter how old we get.

  8. That picture of you dancing with your grandfather is precious, as is the banjo case dancing. So funny that you two had the same taste in books!!!

    Throwing this out there, as the time of publication grows near please let us know. I will be more than happy to feature it on my blog, add it on goodreads, buy it, and tweet it! If you're doing a blog tour, I will be happy to host you. So proud of you Lisa!

  9. This is such a lovely post! Thanks for sharing those pictures, too. It's a wonderful tribute to your grandfather who I totally believe is watching out for you.

    Congratulations again, Lisa! So happy for you. I can't wait to read your books.

  10. This is such a touching post, and a beautiful tribute. I had to laugh about you dancing like Elaine, I do too! What a wonderful photo of you and your grandfather dancing together, and the banjo photo is priceless.

    I bet the first time you hold your book in your hands your grandpa will be watching over you and smiling from ear to ear.

  11. I always get chills when I see that car.


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