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On the Death of My Beloved Cousin

Billy and Jerry. My boy cousins. Closest I came to having a brother. There was our cousin Larry, but he drowned when he was fourteen in the Little Miami river, trying to save his friend. Larry didn’t know how to swim. “Just like him to jump in anyway, the fool! Show off!” Billy fumed in irrational fury while Jerry and I turned away, not wanting to witness his mourning. The rivalry between Billy and Larry was over now.

And I became the oldest. I never expected to be this old though. Seventy-nine. I never expected to outlive them all. I never even thought about it. I wanted to write about them while they were living. So they could know how much they meant to me. We never lived in the same state from the time I was six. We saw each other only in the summers my mother would go back to Ohio all the way from San Francisco to help her sister Mildred take care of Grandma and Grandpa.

No, I didn’t expect them all to be gone when I finally got around to writing about them. Jerry would have wanted to read what I wrote. I think he read all three of my published novels. Billy never read anything. He’d complain to me, “Why do you keep reading books? You already know how to read.”

No, I didn’t mean to wait this long, with my eyesight failing badly now, when I can hardly see what I’m writing.

You died, Jerry. Two days ago. As your son Solomon said when he telephoned, “I feel so alone.”

So do I. It is just very empty, a world without you. Even though it’s been almost thirty-seven years since I saw you, since we went out to the pond together and were still young.

That isn’t possible. Unless there isn’t time as we think we know it. Unless it is all happening now. All the pain, all the joy, all that lies in-between. Einstein! You started us thinking! Imagining. Crazy things!

It was cancer, so not unexpected. I, anyway, expected it, having lost a daughter and my sister to that same killer. But Jerry always said “I’m fine” when I asked him how he felt. He never complained, about anything. “It’s all part of life,” he said once. He and the kids were so happy when his wife Linda was allowed to come home from the mental hospital. It must have been when Jerry retired from working at a series of minimum wage jobs and took social security, then he’d have been home to take care of her. The small family group that depended on him and he himself seemed not to grasp that it was very likely a death sentence when he  got the diagnosis of stage four lymphoma. Was their faith that strong? He trusted the chemo treatments, the radiation, the doctor, whom he liked, to cure it.

He was the cook for all of them at home. One of my last phone conversations with him was after he’d fallen and the family found he was too big, too heavy, for any (or all) of them to lift, so they had to call the ambulance and he was kept in hospital a couple of days. This happened several times, and after a matter of days he’d always been allowed to come home.  I asked him about the strange sizzling sounds I heard coming over the wire.”Me, I guess,” he answered. “I’m fryin chicken.”

That’s somehow a comforting memory to have, Jerry standing at the stove frying chicken. Except he’s not there to do it anymore.

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SECRETS

 

Secrets play a crucial part in my psyche and in my writing. I’ve written four novels. “They Called Me Bunny” is grounded in secrets: Bunny hides her  love for Richard both from him and her best friend Cork, whom he loves. Her adoption, steeped in secrecy, and Bunny’s search to uncover the secrets of who she is are the essence of her story. It is a search for truth, for love, for her own identity.

“The Circle Leads Home” also expresses a yearning to reconnect with identity. And a secret, or more than one, at its core. People guard their secrets with the ferocity of a lioness protecting her cubs. I know I do. And yet I strew clues like crumbs along my path, hoping to be found out? Because I know I can never find true intimacy with another person while I am guarding my secrets?

I have a fear of getting Alzheimer’s, like my mother and her mother, like my older sister, and then I would not know how any longer to carry the burden of my secrets and not hurt anyone else by telling them. Maybe the secrets would come seeping out, or erupt, like oil from the ground.

Tom is tormented in “Flight to Ohio” by the fear the secret of his true identity will come out and hurt not only him but those he loves. “Woman at the Window” is an odd rendering of who I am, a long howl of yearning, told mostly in code. Oh, the excruciating loneliness of being human! And the joy, the relief, of creativity

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Addition to “Animals and Poetry,” published earlier today

For those who are breathlessly waiting, the title of the book from the point of view of General Robert E. Lee’s horse is “Traveller.” It is by Richard Adams, author of “Watership Down.”  Traveller was a difficult horse, but Lee’s favorite. The “twist”in the novel is that Traveller never understands that Lee was defeated, I read in Amazon’s review.

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Animals and Poetry

Other animals are interesting, more so to me lately than humans. I liked the movie “Paterson.” You may not. It is slow. The dog was quite present in the movie, even central. An English bull terrier named Marvin. A memorable character. I could see “Paterson” becoming a cult movie. In another time perhaps. It is about poetry. “And much more,” as the newscasters say.

I am reminded of a book I read with my Seattle book club about the Civil War written from the point of view of General Lee’s horse. Fascinating and heart-breaking. Can’t think of the name! Did it have the word Thunder in it? I’ll try to check on it and let you know. The book club, founded in 1979, is still going on, with most of the original members. Including me, though I moved to Berkeley in 2000.

Just last week I learned Virginia Woolf wrote a book called “Flush” from a dog’s point o view.

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At Books Inc. bookstore at 1491 Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley (cross street is Vine) on Thursday, October 20,2016 at 7 pm, Mary Anderson Parks will read from and discuss her latest novel, “Flight to Ohio, from Slavery to Passing to Freedom.”

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There Will Be A Reading!

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Do You Know About Marcus Books?

Do you already know about this unique bookstore? Marcus Books is the oldest African American bookstore in the USA, and it happens to be right here in Oakland, at 3900 Martin Luther King Jr. West, on a corner on the east side of the street, just before MacArthur Blvd. I believe they opened around 1960. They also have a store in San Francisco on Fillmore that I heard is reopening soon. They have an amazing collection of books by and about African Americans, maybe exclusively, including a good selection of children’s books. Also black greeting cards.

I was very excited to “discover” them and left a copy of my novel “Flight to Ohio, from Slavery to Passing to Freedom,” with Blanche Richardson, one of the owners, in the hope they will carry it. I heard about Marcus Books from a friend who, when I told him about my novel, said he couldn’t believe I had never heard about it or been there!

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I HAVE BEEN NEGLECTFUL – Please forgive me. I had an emergency appendectomy two weeks ago and now can’t even remember how to operate my website. It happened soon after “Flight to Ohio” was released by the publisher. You should be able to order it from any bookstore or online at Barnes & Noble or Amazon.com. My author’s name is Mary Anderson Parks. Thanks for your interest and support. I am recovering well. Love to all of you.

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Again Our Hearts Go Out to la France et les Francais

Please know you have our most profound sympathy for the tragedy in Nice. All I can think of to wish for in these troubled times, here also in the United States, is that reason prevails, that hate does not dominate us.

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“FLIGHT TO OHIO” EXISTS!

My copies arrived at our door, brought there by the UPS man. I’ve held it in my hands! It is an actual book. I don’t know why I find that so hard to believe.

it’s very moving seeing my mother’s face on a book I’ve written, a book that reveals family secrets. I hope she would understand. My wonderful cousin Bipp in Florida, when I told him of my worry, said, “Mary Carol, Aunt Maude would be proud of anything you did.” That surprised me and made me happy. I hope it’s true.

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