Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Guest Blog: How Do I Love Thee...Let Me Recount the Ways

Today's guest blogger is Art Hoffman, who brings us a touching story of friendship and love.

It was with a feeling of numbness, more than grief, as I read the email in the Georgia motel room on the way back from Florida. True there was some sadness. But I had anticipated news like this one day. After all, when your "high school girlfriend" is 100, the relationship stretches for weeks and months, not years.

But to hear that my precious Jeanne had died on my birthday? My life's start and her life's end all ironically packaged in one 24 hour period? 
Too much to bear, I thought, as I reclined against the pillow and sighed. My wife asked what was wrong. I told her about the email. She understood and
gave me space to simply stare at the wall.

Jeanne and Art


Instantly, my mind raced back to the day when I met Jeanne. It was October 2010 at Roosevelt High School's "all years" reunion in Chicago. What I had no way of knowing then was how fate had something special in store for both of us. My expectations were fairly simple - to reconnect with classmates from the 1960s. It wasn't until I read an article about 97 year old Jeanne Goodman in the Chicago Tribune the day before that I changed my plans. I was immediately captivated by her story as related in that article: a shy, retiring teenager, slowly blossoming into a more confident woman and then meeting the love of her life, Morris, with whom a solid fulfilling marriage endured for many decades. I am a sucker for schmaltzy love stories. There were enough such tidbits about the romantic side of that relationship featured in the article that I vowed to meet her at the reunion. 

She arrived, accompanied by one of her daughters and son-in-law. I politely asked if she would mind if my wife took a photo of the two of us. She agreed and we made small talk for a couple of minutes. I recall she asked if I played basketball on the school team. Guess when you are a petite 5 foot tall (if that) and standing next to 6'1", you will come to that conclusion. I said no and she followed with some self-effacing charm: "That's OK, people sometimes ask if I play miniature golf." She moved on to the cafeteria with her family and I thought to myself, great, I got to meet her and now have this anecdote to relate and a souvenir photo.

In hindsight, taking that photo and then sending it to her set the stage for what followed. Not flowers or candy (though I did brighten her day with these over the next couple of years). A simple 4x6 print - that was the seed. Why? Because as soon as she received it, she called to thank me and relive some of the memories from the reunion. It didn't take long though for our conversation to get around to our respective backgrounds and history. As a 97 year old, I knew she was born the same year as my own mother, Rose, who had died 25 years earlier. I began to pick up on some of the many ways Jeanne reminded me of my mother and thought again about the serendipity that brought us together that evening. But, more importantly, I sensed that our relationship was expanding.

When I learned that Morris was also born in 1913, I casually inquired where he had attended high school and she replied Tuley High School, my mom's high school. We had already established that Jeanne and I shared a classmate connection (albeit 34 years apart). I was now wondering if her Morris and my Rose had a more direct link 80 years ago and, fortunately, for both of us, I had the ability to research this further, namely Rose's high school yearbook. Without telling Jeanne I had it, we talked further and agreed to stay in touch.

Once I located it in the basement "archives", I eagerly (but carefully) leafed through the time worn pages. And there I found them, two fresh-faced 18-year-olds - she was smiling, he was more serious, staring at me
from the bottom two corners of the page (here outlined in red). Because of another welcome happenstance, the alphabet, Rose GORDON was closely linked to Morris GOODMAN.

Wow, I wondered, they likely knew of each other, perhaps Mom even sat behind Morris. Did he carry her books home? Did she help him with his homework? Did he watch her tennis matches? Was she rooting him on at his track meets? No way of knowing of course. Just as there was no way of predicting that nearly a century later this man's future wife and this woman's son would be embarking on their own high school saga. I emailed Jeanne the next day, letting her know of this discovery and promising to send a copy of that page. She didn't take long to respond, informing me that although she once had a copy of the yearbook, she no longer did and offered her reaction at seeing his photo once again. "It's unbelievable that you found my Morry...I now believe that anything and everything is possible, all of this is so emotional for me."

Her and Morry's story enchanted me. Here was a marriage begun two weeks before Pearl Harbor and suddenly ended six weeks before 9/11 when, during their nightly ritual of toasting each other with a glass of wine, Morry died of a brain aneurysm. National tragedies bookending a tale of love and absolute devotion to each other. I was charmed by the way that Jeanne praised Morry: "He opened a whole new world for me and I loved it." She met him at a dance in May 1941. "He was the cutest boy I ever saw" she recalled, "he asked me to dance, what a great dancer." And it was mutual. Morry proclaimed to fellow drivers in the streets of Flagstaff, many years later, rolling down the window and waving and smiling proudly, "You see her? She's mine. I'm the luckiest man alive."

But Jeanne became mine as well, as part of this "love affair" borne out of a chance encounter at our high school. Over the next many months, we bonded during long phone conversations, discussing current events, politics, classical music, the arts, computers and technology (and I am the one born well after World War I), health issues and, not surprisingly, the afterlife. One of her emails requested that we would "keep in touch as long as possible, after all, it's later than we think as far as I'm concerned." The occasional visits to see her in Chicago were always cherished. 

It did not take long before I became an adopted member of her family, and forged a friendship with both her daughters. All of this culminated at her memorable 100th birthday party in September where I was privileged to attend and video the festivities.

Her reaching that milestone was never assured though. Just months before, she had received the cancer diagnosis. I was not the only one who was questioning how much fighting spirit she could muster at that stage of her life. After all, she was 99. But not to worry, especially with her unwavering commitment to dance at her grandson's wedding. With pluck and grace she soldiered on through biopsies, tests and surgeries. The promised dance materialized. And four months later, the eagerly anticipated birthday party would be held on a crisp September afternoon. The "proverbial good time" was had by scores of family members and friends from all over the country.

But the sunshine and brilliant fall foliage outside the restaurant that day were symbolic for me. I knew their warmth and beauty would fade in mere weeks. The days would soon "dwindle down to a precious few." Natural forces were at work. And as all this transpired, inevitably, how would I feel? Especially because now I realized I had been given a remarkable gift.  A chance to love and be loved by a second mom. My own mom's spirit had returned via Jeanne. And now it would be departing for a second time. I began to grieve for myself, as I also anguished for her immediate family.

As we all monitored her declining health over the winter. I struggled with alternating desires. Selfishly, I wanted her to overcome the illness, ignoring the reality of the situation. But I was 
having trouble with the notion of "letting her go." If hers was a "life well lived", maybe there was still a bit more "living well" ahead. Those were difficult times for me but nothing compared to what family members were experiencing. So ultimately, it is fitting that I found the greatest comfort in what her two daughters related at the service held to celebrate Jeanne the week after her passing. Sharon noted that Jeanne was everyone's role model and a wonderful inspiration. Heidi recalled many years ago that when she asked "Mom, what will I do without you when you're not here?" Jeanne softly replied "I'll always be with you because when it is time for me to leave this earth, my heart will live within your own."

Words with very special meaning. For Jeanne and her family. For my mom and me. All of us together. Acknowledging a love that came full circle.




Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Gold Trap


The Eight Sentences:

     In the darkness of her bedroom, Miriam Gold felt a hand over her mouth and then heard a whisper in her ear, “Crawl into the bathroom and call 9-1-1.”
     It was a pre-arranged course of action she and Ron had planned years ago and had never had to use it — until now.
A digital clock showed 2:30 A.M. and the house was pitch black dark — you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. Ron had always felt darker was safer. 
     Ron rolled back away from Miriam as she began to slip out of the bed onto the floor. While he still lay on his back, he reached down and felt his .45 caliber pistol in its holster attached to the side of the bed, a bullet already chambered.      It felt as comfortable in his hand now as it had for over thirty years. His thumb found the safety with ease and flicked it down — he was ready to shoot. 
Ron Gold's .45


The Back Story:
     Ron Gold is a member of The Presidents Club. In this scene, he and his wife,Miriam respond to the unwelcomed visit of an intruder.
     Ron is retired from the U.S. Air Force. He was a member of a special forces group (similar to the Navy's SEALS).
     From the book: "The Golds had celebrated their sixtieth wedding anniversary two years before, when Ron was eighty. They were both in good health despite their genes — remarkable for their age. They both had high blood pressure and Ron had battled diabetes for years. With the exception of Ron’s obsession with television documentaries, they enjoyed good mental health as well." 

What now?
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Join us here at Weekend Writing Warriors. The same 

link will take you to the work of dozens of talented writers.

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Sunday, January 19, 2014

Meet Abe Region


The Eight Sentences:
“One of the assistant managers had hired me. I guess it must have been about the second day on the job, I was in the men’s room with a mop and other clean up products. I’d finished the urinals, toilets, and sinks and I was about to mop the floor. Someone came in behind me and it was someone I didn’t know. His name tag told me he was the store manager. The first words out of his mouth was, ‘You’re going to be in management one day.’

“I said, ‘How do you know?’

'Nobody wants to clean the restrooms except a member of management -- I sure cleaned my share of them!’ and we laughed together.'"

Behind the scenes:
     Each Friday, my publisher, Venture Galleries, posts one of my blogs. 
     Twice a month, they feature one of my blogs as a part of their "Author's Collection."  Sunday, Jan. 19, I begin a series of blogs about the members of The Presidents Club.
     This week, we begin with the first member mentioned in either of my books, Abe Region.  He made his debut in The Tourist Killer and it was a comment by him, that sparked the idea for The Presidents Club.

What now?

 Looking for more viewers, readers, and contacts?

Join us here at Weekend Writing Warriors. The same 

link will take you to the work of dozens of talented writers.

 Check out their work, too.  Here's the Facebook link for the

 Sunday Snippett group.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Meet the "Presidents"


The Eight Sentences:

We got 3 of the 4.
“After being around these guys for a few hours, it’s easy to see how Thibaut — or anyone — could fall under their spell.”
“Charming?” Rosemary asked.

“Irresistible!”

“Tell me more, I think I like them already,” as she clasped her wine glass with both hands. She focused on his eyes but also watched every move on his face as he spoke. 

“Only one of them works now, Abe, the first one the boss met, and the others are all retired. Of course, the bartender works. Anyway, there are two doctors, two teachers, a preacher, a former Lowe’s manager, and one ex-military.”

The Back Story:
      Dinner at Rosemary's apartment with Gerald Pointe. He's the head of security for billionaire investor, Julian Thibaut. In this conversation, he begins to tell her about the men he's met in the Louisville Tavern  the men who make up The Presidents Club.

      Today's blog begins a series of blogs, each of which will focus on one of the members of the group. Next week, Abraham Leroy Region, aka: Abe.

News

     The Presidents Club went live on NOOK earlier this week.
Please help me with some exposure by sharing this link in the social media.

What now?
 Looking for more viewers, readers, and contacts?

Join us here at Weekend Writing Warriors. The same 

link will take you to the work of dozens of talented writers.

 Check out their work, too.  Here's the Facebook link for the

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Saturday, November 16, 2013

For whom did you last vote?

+
The Eight Sentences
They could hear the dominoes being shuffled again,so Abe spun around on his bar stool to face the gamesmen and asked, “How many of y’all vote?”
His answer was four blank stares. 
After a pause, York spoke up, “You mean in elections?”
Louie said to Abe, “Guess you got your answer, huh? What about you, do you vote?”
“Sometimes, the last time I voted was when Samuel L.Jackson and I voted for the brother, gimmie another beer.”
Louie volunteered, “The last time I voted was for Miss Rheingold.”

The Back Story
     The members of the Presidents Club and their bartender discuss the relative interest of the general population in voting. Some people don't even bother anymore. Do you vote?
Louie the bartender did. He voted for Miss Rheingold in the beer company's annual competition. 

News
     The Presidents Club went live on Amazon earlier this week.
Official release date is Tuesday, Nov. 19. If you've enjoyed my snippets, I hope you'll help me with some exposure by sharing this link in the social media.

What now?
 Looking for more viewers, readers, and contacts?

Join us here at Weekend Writing Warriors. The same 

link will take you to the work of dozens of talented writers.

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Saturday, November 9, 2013

The "Pro Choice" Choice


The Eight Sentences:

"When I lived in Baton Rouge, I knew quite a few people, men in particular, who would profess their belief that abortion should be banned. Complete total ban in every situation. They’d brag about standing up in meetings of the Knights of Columbus and announce bold, confident proclamations of their beliefs. They were fond of using absolutes like ‘always’ and ‘never’.”

“It’s good to see people stand firm with their convictions, don’t you think?” asked Debert.

“Ah, yes, but listen to this. Find one of those men out of that environment and ask them in private, ‘What if it were your wife or daughter that got raped by a retarded, homeless drug addict?’ The expression on their face would change and then you’d see what I’m talking about when I refer to, ‘situational ethics.’” 



The Back Story:
       Last week's snippet featured a conversation between professional assassin, Claudia Barry, and her only confidant, Mr. Debert, about her choice to put her unborn baby up for adoption. 
       Today's sample comes from another chapter in which she and Debert are discussing her career choice. During a lengthy diatribe in her attempts to justify her profession, the subject of abortion comes up. Claudia is a conflicted woman who has made conflicting choices and yet is still at peace with herself.

News:

The Tourist Killer was featured this past Friday, Nov. 8, in the debut of a new website, The Fussy Librarian
If you'd like your book promoted by direct e-mail to thousands of readers who have requested recommendations (by genre) then check'em out.


What now?
         Looking for more viewers, readers, and contacts?

Join us here at Weekend Writing Warriors. The same 

link will take you to the work of dozens of talented writers.

 Check out their work, too.  Here's the Facebook link for the

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Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Planned Parenthood Flashback

The Eight Sentences:

Debert pressed on, “It’s clear that your career choice had a major influence in your putting the baby up for adoption.”
“Picture this -- first grade teacher has each child stand up and talk about their family. My kid stands up and says, “I don’t have a daddy but my mom makes lots of money killing people.”
“You’re right, that wouldn’t sound good,” replied Debert, playing along.
“Besides, it’s too late now anyway.”
“What do you mean?” Debert became concerned.
“I’ve already killed someone --two, in fact.”
There was a long silence, Debert was stunned and speechless.


Art Hoffman
The Back Story:       It's 1976, three years after Roe vs. Wade and Claudia finds herself pregnant. The above eight sentences come from the flashback in which she visits her doctor in the Hackensack, NJ Planned Parenthood office. Claudia has decided to pursue a living killing people, but when faced with this choice, she chose adoption. A PP doctor will deliver the baby. In that same scene, she meets with the only person she can trust (Mr. Debert) and they discuss her conflicted nature and her current situation.       
[Special thanks to my good friend, Art Hoffman who traces his involvement in the family planning movement way back to 1970 when he began working at his first Planned Parenthood in Chicago, Illinois. Over the ensuing decades he also worked for or supported Planned Parenthood affiliates in Los Angeles CA, Rochester NY, Albuquerque, NM and Louisville, KY. Not surprisingly, most of his co-workers were females, so he developed an admiration for strong, fearless and independent minded women. Perhaps that is why Claudia intrigues him so.]                                                           

What next?
Looking for more viewers, readers, and contacts?

Join us here at Weekend Writing Warriors. The same 

link will take you to the work of dozens of talented writers.

 Check out their work, too. 

     Here's the Facebook link for the

 Sunday Snippett group.