Side by Side…

by | Jun 29, 2020 | Any Way I Can | 0 comments

It took some convincing.  “Who the hell wants to hear about my life,” he grumbled.  Who the hell wouldn’t? I thought.  With credits that spanned fourteen feature films and 39 television movies and miniseries…

In 1998, my father and I started on a decade long journey, chronicling his life.  It took some convincing.  “Who the hell wants to hear about my life,” he grumbled.  Who the hell wouldn’t? I thought.  With credits that spanned fourteen feature films and 39 television movies and miniseries, there were more than enough stories to fill out a book. 

Dad’s best friend, the Pulitzer Prize winning writer, Frank Gilroy, weighed in.  “Come on, John, you’ve worked with stars like Paul Newman, Henry Fonda, Bette Davis, and Gregory Peck.  I love your stories!”  

And so we began.  Every Saturday, I traveled to his house, recording his memories from daily journals onto eighty-eight cassette tapes.  Then, I transcribed them into 400 pages.  Once again, he grumbled.  “I don’t do prose.” 

“Just write, Dad.  We’ll figure it out.”

 

All we had were Saturdays, so our weekly ritual continued.  He wrote, I rewrote, and we edited together. My husband and I welcomed a child into our lives and I left teaching, taking on an internship at a magazine.  Eventually, I saw my essays appear in magazines and anthologies.  Enough to believe I could write a book with the man I’d put on a pedestal.  And Dad learned he could write prose with his snappy style, sparing the words, and punching up the dialogue. 

Many Saturdays later, our manuscript was complete.  Dad was 80 years old now, driving to my house to accommodate my heavier working load.  I typed “The End” not because I needed to, just because it was.  We high-fived and let out a whoop of joy.  Then, we looked at each other.  It was that exquisitely triumphant and painful moment in time when our lives, so intertwined for a decade, would have to separate again.  Through my tears, I watched as he strode down my front steps to his car, hand clutching his briefcase, glittering JTG initials winking back.  I wanted to stop him, to bring him back into my office and start our book all over again.  I blew him a kiss goodbye.  

Dad passed away at 92.  I still see him in his office, sitting at his desk, his lively, blue eyes regarding my own.  “Ready, Jennifer?”

“Ready, Dad,” I say, every morning now as I delve into my own memoir.  That memory of us, side by side, inspires me every day.

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