Good morning and happy Sunday! If it’s spring where you are, hope you’re enjoying the warmer temps and sunshine. If it’s second winter, as it is in most of the Northeastern United States, I really hope Mother Nature lets up soon.
Regardless the weather in your corner of the world, I still have some awesome to share with you today. Author Linda Morganstein dropped by to share a guest post with us and to give away a copy of her new book, Girls in Ice Houses.
Want to get in on the giveaway? Yeah, you totally do! Simply drop a comment in the space below and you’ll be entered. Simple as that. Then, on Friday, May 1st, I’ll draw the winner. Oh, yeah, you need more details. Linda is giving away an ebook internationally (because shipping from the U.S. to anywhere that isn’t the U.S. is INSANE). And if the winner lives in the United States, she (or he) win’s her choice of ebook or paperback.
A Voice From The Past: A Lesbian Writer and Her Father
by Linda Morganstein
“Guess who?” a voice shouted through the phone lines as my partner and I sped south on Interstate 5 near Bakersfield. We were headed to Hollywood to celebrate my fiftieth birthday and for book research. The year was 2002. Cell phones were unreliable novelties, especially along barren stretches of remote desert, such as the vast stretch of interior corridor that forms a good part of Southern California. That crackling voice shouting almost unintelligibly would become one of the major influences in my life, creatively and emotionally, from then until now.
The voice was familiar, especially the heavy New York accent. At first, I thought it might be my uncle.
“Guess who?” the voice repeated.
“Who?” I shouted back.
“It’s your father.”
That statement was worthy of a stunned silence on my part. My father. The man I hadn’t spoken to in twenty-five years.
“I can’t hear you,” I shouted. “I’ll call you when I get reception.”
The rest of the drive south consisted of me ranting to my understanding partner about why my father would call me. I thought I would never speak to him again. I certainly wouldn’t have initiated reconnection. I honestly didn’t know how to deal with him. I, who am known to obsess, reached the hamster on a spinning wheel level of frantic speculation, covering every scenario, motivation and response.
I waited a few days in Hollywood, just to make sure I’d invented and anticipated every fantasy. When I finally did call, my father’s motivation for calling was possibly the only one I hadn’t considered. My stepmother, the evil Queen, was dying.
A little history. When I was twelve, my father, a heavy smoker and meat eater, had his first heart attack. He was a maître d’ in a resort hotel in the Catskills area known at the Borscht Belt. He was an incredibly handsome man with a vast amount of charm and humor, knew a cadre of celebrities, and was addicted to gambling and cheating on my mother. My siblings and I worshipped him.
After eight months of recuperation, my father returned to work. Not too long after that, he ran off with his dining room hostess. She eventually cured him of gambling and carousing, mainly by taking the reins over his life (with, of course, his cooperation). That woman became the evil stepmother in the fairy tale of my life.
Jumping forward a few years. When I was twenty-six, my twenty-four year old brother died of leukemia. My father refused to attend the funeral, claiming he had a weak heart. Weak heart. No kidding. Some time after that, I stopped speaking to him. For twenty-five years.
Because of my father’s poor health, it was expected with near certainty that he would die before his wife. His call, on my fiftieth birthday, made clear that his wife was dying and he was trying to reestablish contact with me and other family members so he wouldn’t be alone. Why should I care that she was dying? Why should I care that he wanted me to love him?
I did care. I didn’t know why, but I did. We started talking regularly on the phone. I even made peace with the evil Queen, who sounded so frail that I found a way to feel compassion. After she died, I flew to Florida and see my father again. Our first meeting took place in the middle of Hurricane Frances. (My life, by the way, is ripe for fairy tales, this being one of many oddball subplots.)
Yes, I spent three days in a Florida retirement community town home with no power and no contact with the outside world, trapped with a father I’d lost. We played cards, ate sardines and canned asparagus and talked. We cried and laughed. I realized we had a bond that was sick but not incurable.
I kept visiting him. He got blinder, harder of hearing and starting falling. So, hear this. After a few years, I moved my father up to Minnesota to live near me and my adopted family—my partner’s large and welcoming clan. I drove up with him, another adventure, and settled him into an assisted living facility not too far (and not too close) to my home in Saint Paul.
My four years with my father in his old age were completely unexpected and unpredictable. Perhaps no surprise, I started a novel about a father and a daughter, originally called The Comedian’s Daughter, later changed to Girls In Ice Houses. That novel was released in March (Regal Crest, 2015), and I am proud of it.
Currently, I am working on a creative non-fiction piece that combines memoir, social history, philosophy and spirituality. It incorporates all the fairy tales of my life in a project that is visual and prose. I have taken the format of LIFE magazine and created my own magazine called NUMINOSITY. It’s a book project in which each chapter is an issue of the magazine. I create all the stories and ads. It is, in short, the most challenging thing I’ve ever done. Wish me luck!
And you? What are your relationships with your parents, especially your fathers? Has it inspired your creativity?
For more information on Girls In Ice Houses or my current project, NUMINOSITY: MY BOOK OF LIFE, go to my web site: http://www.lindamorganstein.com. I have established an interactive page for NUMINOSITY where you can see the work-in-progress and comment on it.
Linda Morganstein is an overeducated writer who happens to be the product of a Borscht Belt childhood in the Jewish hotels of the Catskills. In the seventies, she dropped out of Vassar College and drove a VW van to California, where she lived in Sonoma County for many years. Later, she studied with Jane Smiley in Iowa. She currently resides in Saint Paul, Minnesota with her understanding spouse Melanie and her exceptional dog, Courage. In addition to writing, Linda is avid golfer and sourdough bread-baker. In short, she has a phobia for boredom. Due to her Borscht Belt background, she has a distinct interest in humor as an antidote to the complications of life. This includes an arsenal of jokes supplied by her late father, a master comedian.