As most of my blog friends know, I attended my first ever writer's conference the last weekend of October. It was awesome. And I'm planning a blog post explaining its awesomeness. But, I wanted to write about something most people don't know.
My grandfather was an author. Well, first he was a journalist. That was in the late 40's and 50's and on. Which is pretty cool to me. :) Later he became a journalism professor at a university. And then, he became an author.
Growing up, we didn't live near him, and I rarely got the opportunity to visit. But he and I wrote letters. From a young age, I knew I wanted to be a writer, and he was very encouraging. When he'd respond to one of my letters, he'd include my written letter with red ink all over the page. Always editing. :) I wonder if he was preparing me a future of seeing red.
When I was in high school, he offered his home to me if I chose to attend his college, and especially if I continued to pursue a career in writing. Unfortunately, I never took him up on that offer. After high school, I fell in love and ran off to Germany. That's also when I gave up on my dream of becoming an author.
Fast forward to a few years ago when my dream of being published reignited. I wrote a book. And then another. And then started on another. But, I hadn't told my grandfather that I'd dusted off my desire and chased it like nothing else. I wanted to prove it to him. This time, I wanted to show him more than my will, but my book. The finished product, proving I'd finally stopped talking and started doing.
I dreamed of sending him a signed copy like the book he'd sent me. Pictured his face, proud of his granddaughter. Pleased to know the "author gene" hadn't ended with him.
But, about two or three weeks ago, as I prepared for the conference, a thought occurred to me. The process of being published was a long one. And my grandfather was getting older. Maybe simply telling him what I'd done or sending him a manuscript would suffice. He'd still be proud, even if I couldn't sign a copy yet.
So, on Saturday, October 27th, after I'd pitched to agents and editors and received wonderful feedback along with requests, I decided it was time to write a letter or make a phone call. Time to tell my grandfather that I'd followed my dream. I had one more day of conference left. One more day till I made that phone call.
On Sunday, October 28th, after the closing ceremony I followed the new friends I'd made to a gathering for the after conference dessert and celebration. As I was chatting and laughing, I got a text. I peered down at the phone and my heart dropped. My throat closed. And my eyes stung. My Grandpa Ladd had passed away that morning.
I tried to pull myself together. Not show that I'd just received devastating news. But it was impossible. So, I left and headed home. The moment my car door slammed shut, I wept. I wept for my loss. Wept for the missed opportunities. I never told him I'd written a book. I never told him how far I'd come. How close I was to my dream. And now I never can.
It's been a rough week for me, mourning the loss of my author grandfather while submitting my work. Being continually reminded that I had waited too long. That I had missed out on the experience of holding his hand while walking the author's path.
Yesterday, though, a friend suggested that my Grandpa Ladd can still be an inspiration. He can still push me forward and hold my hand through this process. And I very much agree with her. As I write, I'll think of his encouraging letters. As I edit, I'll laugh at his red-ink revisions. And when the day comes that I'm sitting in front of a stack of my published books, signing my name, I'll set one aside. Just for him.