The Sun has a section called Readers Write in which readers are asked to submit a short personal true story. I decided to begin submitting as a commitment to writing; this was my first submission, and I had one of those feelings that it might be one of the entries selected. Much to my pleasure, it was. They made some editorial changes for the final version that went to press, which is the second version here. I think it is interesting to see the what and the how of the editorial process.
Back in college when I thought I wanted to pursue writing as a career as a journalist and/or creative writer, two things stopped me. Well, I stopped me, but those things about me were: 1. My immature ego could not handle the editorial process, and 2. I felt that at the age of 19/20 I did not have much to say as I had not experienced much in life yet. I am happy to say that on both counts things have changed. I can see the value and need for outside input, and at the age of 54 I have experienced a lot of the fullness of life in both its joys and sorrows.
So here is my original version, submitted for the topic, "Warning Signs."
“I don’t know what to do with your Mom” my father said over the phone. Never before had I heard
uncertainty in that voice, never had he approached me as an adult in this way. Retired military, he
was always the rock, the stoic, but with a deeply nurturing nature. “What is wrong, Dad?”
He described increasingly anxious, easily agitated, obsessive behavior in my mother. As her
daughter, I thought, “Well, that is just Mom being more Mom than usual.” As a newly licensed
psychologist….well, that is still what I thought.
A few months later, my parents made the trek from North Carolina to California to visit their two-
year-old grandson. I saw what my dad was talking about. She had no tolerance for typical toddler
behavior, cried at the drop of a hat, got all worked up about conversations with her sister. When
not slightly neurotic, my mom was always good-natured and jovial, but now something was
I had no idea how different things would soon be, nor did I see that these changes in her mental
status were the signs of a tumor that had been growing slowly for years in her brain. A few months
after this visit, she suffered a heart attack, went into a coma, and the doctors found the tumor.
Surgery, recovery; radiation, less recovery—Mom was never the same. Dad cared for her as long
as he could and when he had to place her in a nursing home, it broke his heart. When she died
five years ago, for me it was the last in a series of goodbyes to the woman she had been.
I visited my dad a few times in the next few years, once to throw him an 80th birthday party. He
looked impossibly old, bent over from arthritis in his spine; he was easily fatigued. When I drove
away, I cried and a part of me knew this was the last time I would see him, but of course I told
myself, one more visit.
Some time later, on the phone, I again heard something different than I had ever heard
before in his voice. He asked me if I was upset with him because a number of weeks had gone
by since we talked. I apologized, assured him everything was all right. Then he asked in a halting
voice I now remember as frail and possibly a little afraid, “When do you think you might get home
for a visit?”. We talked about Thanksgiving versus Christmas. He died just after Labor Day.
I, an only child, felt utterly bereft as I traveled home for the very last time, to a service of full military
honors to inter my father next to my mother.
I feel ashamed that I did not heed all the signs and intuitions, and yet I recognize that I did not wish
to see them. My parents would forgive me. I have almost forgiven myself; my grief is still raw as I
Here is the edited version, as it appeared (The Sun, February 2012)
“I don’t know what to do with your mom,” my father said over the phone. I’d never heard such uncertainty in his voice. Retired military, he was always stoic, a rock.
“What’s wrong, Dad?”
He described my mother’s increasingly anxious, agitated, obsessive behavior. As her daughter — and a newly licensed psychologist — I thought it was just my neurotic mom being more neurotic than usual.
A few months later my parents made the trek to California to visit me and their two-year-old grandson, and I saw what my dad was talking about. Mom had no tolerance for typical toddler behavior and cried at the drop of a hat. For all her neuroses, my mom had always been good-natured and jovial. This was different.
A few months after this visit, she suffered a heart attack and went into a coma. Doctors found a tumor that had been growing for years in her brain.
After the surgery and radiation, Mom was never the same. Dad cared for her as long as he could. It broke his heart when he had to place her in a nursing home before she died.
A few years after her death, I visited my dad to throw him an eightieth birthday party. He looked impossibly old, bent from arthritis in his spine and easily fatigued. As I drove away, I cried, but I told myself there’d be other visits.
Some time later, on the phone, Dad asked if I was upset with him, because weeks had gone by since we’d talked. I apologized and assured him everything was all right. Then he asked, sounding frail and possibly a little afraid, “When do you think you might get home for a visit?” We talked about Thanksgiving.
He died just after Labor Day.An only child, I was bereft as I traveled home for the last time to attend the funeral. He was buried next to my mother, with full military honors.
I feel ashamed that I did not heed the warning signs. If they were here today I feel sure my parents would forgive me, but I still haven’t forgiven myself.