Reinventing Myself, Part Four

At age 74, you have a right to expect that the major changes of your life are behind you. The struggles and doubt and pain of finding out who you are, that’s for youngsters. The responsibility of caring for a family, of picking up sons when they fall and applying such guidance as they’ll accept, that goes away as they grow up and leave home. If you’re lucky, you’ll then get to resume building a relationship with the person who helped you along the way.

I did. She’s been wonderful, strong when I wasn’t, nurturing when I was awkward, steady when I wavered. Our relationship is almost fifty years in duration now, and for almost forty-nine of those years we’ve been married.

That’s not common nowadays; bonding is incomplete, I think. Those who change life partners periodically, always searching never quite finding, cannot know what I mean. They’ll never wake up and know without questioning that the life partner of all those years is there, the same as she’s been for almost half a century. I hope she also knows that about me, that I’ll be there. I suspect she does.

But my restless spirit isn’t quiet, not even now.

Life as a senior citizen isn’t idyllic. Change comes, and not all of it is good.

A number of years ago our youngest son began manifesting symptoms of a disease. We didn’t know. So many little things, the evidence became much more significant as time went on. An initial matter; Kevin was delivered early. My wife began developing an incompatibility reaction and the pregnancy was medically terminated. Kevin was jaundiced, but after a blood exchange began growing. Then there was a bout of hepatitis, but it went away after treatment. More serious symptoms appeared later in life. But by then we had moved to New Mexico to be closer to our children and young grandchildren. Kevin had been living with his brother but now there was to be another baby and the room was needed. Kevin moved in with us.

He’d worked at various jobs, eventually with his older brother as a construction laborer. But that soon ended; Kevin’s balance was going. He couldn’t climb ladders. Later he manifested myoclonic jerks, and in time these became more severe. A physician prescribed Depakote, a heavy dose. The jerks subsided but the disease worsened. One day Kevin was sent home from his job at Solo Cup, unable to return unless cleared to do so fby a doctor. That didn’t happen. Instead, based on the doctor’s evaluation, Kevin was medically retired. We realized that something very serious was going on. The usual tales say that it takes numerous attempts before Social Security disability is approved. Kevin’s sailed through on the first try. By then Kevin was getting around the house on a walker. After a fall that injured his knee, he went into a wheelchair during the day. He never went back to the walker even after the bruised knee healed. By 2012, Kevin needed assistance getting in and out of bed. Fortunately I was available, even if not very strong. But I was strong enough. I’d retired several years before from teaching. I had the time to help. We endured together.

And that’s how I came to reinvent myself for a final time. Kevin needed me to be available but didn’t require constant care. I decided to try writing fiction during the time Kevin didn’t need my help. It wasn’t much of a stretch. I’d already begun writing short essays. At age 70 I decided to join Mensa, more as a lark than for any other purpose. I found nothing to interest me in the US online group, but the international group was better. I became a member and administrator for the International Mensa Forum. I noticed something when I commented on the Forum. Most members wrote short responses, about the length of a paragraph at most. I wrote mini-essays, some of them on the order of 1000 words. And the members took the writing seriously. They didn’t peer askance and dismiss the maunderings of an old man, they read and responded.

I collected some of the mini-essays and posted them to a blog, this one. And in May of 2013 I began writing fiction. Between the occasional call to assist Kevin, I wrote. I escaped from pain and disappointment by writing; I still do.

It’s now the end of March, 2014. During the past 11 months I’ve written more than 400 000 words. I caught the bug. I doubt there’s a cure for the writing disease. If so, I don’t want it.

My first efforts weren’t very good. Practice helps. I’ve gotten much better and found an editor during this past year. Others have helped too. Through practice and from suggestions, I learned to write.

Two weeks ago Kevin’s disease finally won. By then it was expected, even welcomed. We grieve as we must, but life goes on.

Two days later my first book, heavily rewritten, was posted on Amazon for sale. The sequel followed shortly. The Wizards Trilogy is beginning to sell, slowly but steadily. I’ve found a few fans already. I got fan letters while learning to write from a number of countries, not only the US and Canada but also from Britain and Europe, even from Australia and New Zealand. The Darwin’s World Series is in final edit before posting. Each of the two books in this series runs to more than 100 000 words. They’ll be on Amazon as soon as the editing is finished. And the next two books in Wizards and Darwin’s are underway.

From soldier to teacher, from caregiver to novelist, such is my final reinvention.

At least, so far!



4 Responses to “Reinventing Myself, Part Four”

  1. cawhiteman Says:

    I have been reading your first Combat Wizard book. It is a really good read so far. I will leave you a review on Amazon when I am finished. Best of luck with your writing.

  2. Bea Says:

    Well done Jack ! You are an inspiration to all of us that know you. Bea

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