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Letter to my Uncle Steve


I hope all is well in the beautiful country. Around here, we have had weeks of dreariness, which couldn’t make me happier. Sun, sun on snow, clear blue skies in winter, these become pain that turns into depression.

It is the writer’s curse to have the ability to affect the lives of other people individually and en masse. I just heard from Uncle Kevin that my dad is furious over the book. This, of course, angered Kevin, who thinks his brother doesn’t need things taken out on him.

As you know, my dad and I have not had a close relationship, ever. I screwed myself up for a long time over the ways we were handled as children in our house. Finally, after nearly 40 years of fucking myself up over the guy, I reached the point of acceptance, resignation, and, ultimately, some understanding and love.

In the book, I tried to portray a man who was unhappy. It’s the truth as I see it. His unhappiness motivated a lot of things in me to find different ways of doing things—one of which was blasting off on a trip that changed my life and, hopefully, those of my children, for the better. I think as I read the book again that there is also muted note of acknowledgment; it was through the unhappiness I was building for myself and the ways it was similar to my father’s that I blasted off in the first place and that things began to come together.

I don’t think that I blamed my own unhappiness on my father. I didn’t want my unhappiness in the way that I don’t want Donald Trump’s money (although a little break every now and then would be great). In the pages of the book, I don’t think I blame him for the problems I made for myself.

But, arrrgh, what do you do with these people? Kevin is all right. I get it and we will fix it up. My dad, however, like my mom, brother, and sisters (a little less in Christine’s case) never understood or cared why I wanted to be an artist anyway. The creative process, the pain of creativity, and the need of expression of things larger than self are perhaps not within their boundaries of acceptance. That’s all right. I get it. I came from there and understand the language and thinking of that kind of anti-intellectualism. Some is healthy, for God’s sake. Artists and writers, for the most part, are a pain in the ass.

I’m not hurt so much by my dad’s reaction. It just causes a little disturbance in my quantum field. Ripples in the pond. I suppose it is another affirmation that family is not something I’m born into but make for myself. It would be good, once, to have their approval. But that is a throwback from the old days when my personal worth and legitimacy came from others. In the spirit of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, I have tried and keep practicing to live free of the opinions of others. Family is such an influence that, at least in this one aspect of living, it’s hard to stay out of the shadow of their opinions.

Plus, neither my dad nor Kevin have read the damn thing.

Tell me how you think dad is portrayed in the book. I’m interested to see what you think. There is no need to dig out the book and research. I’d be interested in your impression. We know the old man, so our vision is clouded somewhat. Still, you are a trustable and able scientist. You know some of my insecurities—more than you probably want to know. But your critique should help me in writing the next book.

In the end, Steve, we write and create because we have to. Creativity comes from the spark of life in the DNA and gets amplified in the chambers of the human heart. It knows no boundaries, moralities, emotional sensibilities. Only we judge what is not able to be judged. I have to be able to write without the critic of parents, friends, critics, and colleagues sitting on my shoulder. Knowing from without how people and events are portrayed in my work, however, shows me how to shape and form the malleable creative idea into something universal, good, and, perhaps, beautiful.


P.S. Keep the Yarn Shoppe ( newsletters coming.

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