Here’s an excerpt from my book, I see Old People®, that addresses the way I saw love.
It would literally affect my entire life – from what I looked for in a man to my unabashed love of compliments.
While my memoir, I See Old People®, is about my visits with seniors and the stories that enriched my soul, my book is also a love story. You see, I’m a hopeless romantic and it’s all my mother’s fault. Or maybe it’s my father’s fault. You decide.
While looking for material for my book, I started with a box of letters my father wrote to my mother when they were about to be married. There were two I remembered him writing that were missing. One was a letter describing how she captivated a room. The other written in anger when she couldn’t decide between him and another man she loved.
A letter that connects a daughter to her father
These letters are my sacred connection to the father I lost when I was 9 years old. He died from a fatal heart attack at 43. Written when my dad was about 30 years old, the letters say a lot to me about his character, his passions, his dreams, and his remarkably steadfast adoration for my mom Shirley.
He would even write her a letter before he died and hide it away for her to read after his passing. It was a haunting prediction that he wasn’t long for this world.
To my delight, I found the missing letters in a box of miscellaneous cards and mementos I tucked away when Joe and I moved into our home. It became part of my book chapter titled, “the pedestal affect.”
Growing up, my mother would tell me again and again how my father put her on a pedestal and that’s what I should look for in a man. It would literally affect my entire life – from what I looked for in a man to my unabashed love of compliments.
How he adored her
The best part about re-reading this one particular letter my dad wrote was noting the date. It was written on April 16th, my birthday no doubt. Reading between the lines, it would appear that he and my mother played music together at the Hotel Stuyvesant in Buffalo, New York on a Tuesday evening. He played sax and she played piano and they met in a Baltimore nightclub in 1956.
Dear Shirley, Gwen remarked how lovely you looked Tuesday night. Naturally – everyone in the place was digging you and I felt as proud as a peacock. I must say you did something for the Stuyvesant room. You projected life in its fullest meaning. You couldn’t understand why everyone was coming over to you but I did. I study people wherever I play and the reason why this room is morbid is that the people that come here are about all the same.
They’re all trying to express themselves (the reason for the noisiness) as to enjoyment. They’re mostly business people, salesmen, etc. rather lonely and so wrapped up in their small world that someone as outstanding as you reflecting the true brilliance of down to earth beauty shocks them to an extent that they would enjoy just being in your company.
Shirley you’re the type that projects happiness, loveliness, and warmth which so many people lack and try so hard to attain and ultimately when they see they cannot capture it, just being near someone who has these qualities is satisfaction in itself…Anyone who can be in your presence and not be happy would be a moron or self-possessed – one or the other.
My mother said I should find a man who puts me on a pedestal. Turns out that over the years, I was lucky if I found a date who could let me finish a sentence. Where in the hell would I find the man and this pedestal thing he’s supposed to put me on?
Finding someone like my dad
I used to think it was all a fairy tale. Something my mother wanted to believe. Some sort of glorification that she gave my dad after he died. Or maybe people like my dad were of a generation that would never come again. Maybe the pedestal thing was an old-fashioned trend that went out of style and went the way of polyester leisure suits.
And then I met Joe. He changed everything and he even brought along a pedestal.
Look for Jeanne’s book and memoir, I see old People®, to come out in 2021.
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