Posts Tagged ‘memoir’
Siblings – if you have one or more, you probably know how that goes… Can’t live with them sometimes, and can’t live without them for sure. So often they are our mirrors – in which we see ourselves the way others see us, and at times the way we wish we would truly be. I just cannot imagine losing any of mine, and I realize all too well that they have helped shape me into the human being that I became, in many ways even more than my parents have.
Reading “Sixtyfive Roses” was incredibly sobering. I cannot imagine the courage Heather Summerhayeshad to have to actually write this unbelievable story and have it published. But then, she had a lifelong training in “above-and-beyond” courageous behavior. Imagine knowing since early childhood that your baby sister is ill – and that she will never get better. Imagine promising her not to leave, and not to let her die alone. Imagine being her lifelong protector. Imagine living with this impenetrable black cloud surrounding you and your family. And yet, you have to grow up. And you realize all too well that one day your sister will be gone. Imagine the rage, the despair, the jealousy for not being the center of attention, the desperate desire to make your sister’s life easier… all those conflicting, oftentimes violent emotions. And one day the unthinkable happens… and your sister takes the last, labored breath. She is gone. And you are still here.
The story of how Pam, Heather’s younger sister, was diagnosed withat the age of four, and how her family fought for her and other children with this debilitating disease is not a happy one, but definitely a positive and hopeful one. The strength and courage of everybody involved, from Pam herself to her family, her doctors and others with the same disease shows the world at least two perennial truths: that good does not necessarily win and that courage and fighting spirit can make an unbelievable difference. Back in those days children with CF tended to die very young, and Pammy’s prognosis was no better, yet she kept fighting for over two decades and lived to the age of twenty-six. And she did not merely exist in this world, she lived her life as fully as possible and she made a difference in many other lives.
Heather Summerhayes’s “Sixtyfive Roses” is a , a tribute and a love poem, written in a clear, sometimes brutally honest and always sincere fashion. Her words are beautifully crafted, and her voice is distinct and unique. I have no doubt that Pammy is smiling at her big sister right now, and feeling mighty proud of her.
“Sixtyfive Roses” should be required reading for anybody dealing with a seriously ill person in their life, as well as anybody with any kind of a big or small problem. It certainly puts a lot of things in perspective, and it made me so very glad that I can go, pick up a phone and talk to my siblings right now, which is exactly what I am going to do tonight.
McArthur & Company (2008)
American Dream – Myth and Reality
“Liberty’s Quest” is an amazingwritten by . She writes of her family roots which go back to the Dodecanese Islands in the Aegean Sea of Greece. She openly shares stories of her early family life, which was centered on the customs and beliefs of the Greek Orthodox Church.
Liberty writes about her paternal and maternal roots, her parent’s marriage, her birth, and recollections of her siblings. She tells of family feuds, memories of school, her love for reading and of the impact of WWII on her family.
Liberty talks about her marriage to Poetry Pulitzer Prize winner James Wright. She describes her multi-faceted education in nursing, Jim’s family background, his teaching job in Texas, and of their sojourn in Philadelphia. Jim then enrolled for a year at the University of Vienna. With amazing insight and openness Liberty explains the psychological difficulties of their marriage. While in Vienna their first son Franz was born. Franz Wright later went on to become a Pulitzer Prize winner for his 2003 poetry collection, “Walking to Martha’s Vineyard.”
Influenced by a friend in Vienna, Jim enrolled in the graduate program in English at the University of Washington in Seattle. Jim excelled in his studies. Liberty found consolation in her work as a nurse and in caring for her new son. Their young Marshall did not eliminate the alienation of the broken relationship between Liberty and Jim. It was doomed from the start.
In an effort to find a new start as a single Mom Liberty moves from Minnesota to California and to create a whole new world for herself and her two sons. Her position in San Francisco provided advanced training in medical, public heath and psychiatric nursing.
In 1965 Liberty married Miklos M. Kovacs. Liberty gave birth to her third son, Michael Kovacs in 1966. The intervening years held more unhappiness and despair for Liberty.
Kovac’s attention to detail in the historical and cultural perspectives of her family is both fascinating and engaging. She has keen insights into relationships and the psychological needs of the individual.. Her writing is profound, strong, open, and well organized.
“Liberty’s Quest” is a courageous and triumphant story of making the most of unhappiness and despair. This is amazing epic of one person’s search for personal freedom.
9781931741965, Robert D. Reed Publishers
As Reviewed for Midwest Book Review
Along the way we all have cause to encounter all sorts of personalities; some interesting, some complicated and others that spring to mind for all of the wrong reasons. They can be found in a marketplace in some far-away hidden corner of the globe, or right around the corner next to the pie shop. Part of the fun is never knowing quite where you’ll find them.
Some time back, I took to speaking to veteran aircrew of past conflicts in an effort to record their stories. It allowed me to tie together my interest in history, writing and aviation. Along the way meeting characters who have ‘been there and done that’ but retain modesty and the art of the understatement. While some stories are published, others are simply retained by the family to pass on to the inquiring grandchildren whose questions always seem to surface around school assignment time.
Two years ago, I was approached by one such survivor of World War Two. Not through the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, but an electrician. Repairing all and sundry in the aftermath of a lightning strike, the ‘sparky’ mentioned an old fella he knew who had been trying to get his story recorded for a few years. He’d started to write it himself, but hadn’t gotten very far; maybe I’d like to have a chat with him?
Kenneth Butterworth McGlashan was standing in his shed, shaking his head at a recalcitrant lathe when I first met him. He’d taken to restoring tired antique furniture in his retirement and his workshop was a mix of turned table legs and sawdust. Turning away from his tools, Kenneth greeted memly and immediately began chatting about his Royal Air Force days. With a Scottish accent, the 84 year-old started to describe an aerial combat over Dunkirk in 1940 on which he had come out on the wrong side. We wandered inside and began to chat over a cup of tea about aerial campaigns that had become folklore; the Battle of Britain, Dieppe, . Kenneth had been there for all of them as a fighter , he was one of ‘The Few’ who had defended Britain in her darkest hour.
His sharp eyes hadn’t aged a day, nor had his sense of humour. He related anecdote after anecdote with tremendous clarity and the hours ticked by until it was time for me to leave. Sensing my movement tod the door, Kenneth asked me if I was interested in writing his story and I knew I was, however I sensed immediately that this wasn’t a magazine article or a short story for the family archives; it was a book. This bloke had received his wings on rag and tube biplanes before the war and flown through the entire conflict, from the retreat at Dunkirk to the landings at and beyond. He was living history and I was hooked. I had to say yes.
Was I up to writing a book? Between a two year-old, a wife pregnant with twins and good dose of self-doubt, I had reservations. But as I sat in Kenneth’s lounge room a week later with the wheels of a tape recorder slowly turning, I started to gather momentum. Not through any skill on my part, but because Kenneth was a natural story teller with an ‘A Grade’ memory. He jumped from episode to episode, but I let him go as sorting out the chronology was my job. For a starting point, I couldn’t go past the tale of Dunkirk with which he had first captivated me.
He had been 19 years of age as he sat perched above the English Channel in his new single-engined Hawker Hurricane. The airframe had only eight hours in the air and, by modern standards, Kenneth didn’t have much more. Leading the rear section of three at 25,000 feet, he was tasked with covering the backs of his leading sections. Not long over the Channel, one of his trio turned back with engine trouble, leaving him and Geoff Howitt to fly as a pair. As they flew toward the plume of smoke lifting skyward from Dunkirk on the French coast, the massive evacuation of allied troops was taking place on the waves below in everything from Thames paddle-steamers to personal yachts.
Suddenly, the leading sections dived towards a flock of marauding German bombers. Simultaneously an ear piercing squeal rang out in Ken’s headsets and his wingman broke formation clean in front of him as a pair of Messerschmitts roared from left to right. McGlashan rolled in on his foe, but seconds later heard what sounded like an alarm clock going off behind his head. (It was actually bullets hitting the armour plating.) Reality struck when the port side of his Hurricane began ripping under a hail of gunfire and red tracers skipped between his legs, tearing up the piping and framework of his aeroplane’s floor.
What ensued was a turbulent spinning plummet towards the French sand. When the attack abated, he attempted to level out and get out as his fighter was bleeding to death. Crippled, the Hurricane was attacked again and he was ultimately forced down on the beach just south of the Belgian border. On the ground, he hurried from his fighter and dived beneath one of a sea of abandoned Lorries on the beach. His subsequent nine mile walk to Dunkirk was a drama that included being shot at by German infantry and being threatened at bayonet-point by French Algerians, but ultimately it was a walk of isolation. As a nineteen year old he watched Spitfires dive into the sea and soldiery drift on the swell like so much flotsam as he trudged toward the final point on the Continent held by allied forces.
Needless to say, Ken survived his encounter over Dunkirk. After an eventful boat ride back to England he went on to fly in the Battle of Britain from the’s easternmost airfield at Hawkinge until it was abandoned and laid to waste by the Luftwaffe. At this time his squadron was transferred to Ireland, where they trained foreign s on the Hurricane and attempted to protect coastal towns and the vital shipping routes supplying the British Isles from the west. There was no radar or organised control system in this region, so it was not unusual for the pilots to be scrambled by an irate Postmaster yelling down the phone, “We’re being attacked, what are you going to do about it?”
From Ireland he would be a pioneer in night-fighting in a time when pilots were force fed carrots to improve their night vision. Stacked from 13,000 feet at 500 foot intervals above a burning Merseyside, the ‘advanced’ technique of detection was to wait for the bombers silhouettes to appear against the backdrop of the inferno. The fighters would then dive down, but inherently the bombers had already slipped away into the veil of darkness. Later in the war he would ‘night fight’ again, this time in company with a bomber equipped with a massive light in its nose. Termed ‘Turbinlite’, this technique involved sneaking up on the target in absolute darkness before illuminating it with a 2,700 million candlepower searchlight. This highly unsuccessful game of cat and mouse provided a greater risk to friend through collision than to foe through combat.
Through the disastrous raid on Dieppe in which Ken’s aircraft was again badly shot up, he continued to fly operationally. On the eve of, he was one of a handful of aircraft airborne in darkness over France seeking out the German aircraft designed to jam the communications of the landings. Following D-Day he was deemed ‘Tour Expired’ and was to be pulled from operational flying. Instead he was seconded to BOAC and sent to Cairo as the British carrier set about re-establishing civil air routes in the Middle East. Be it serving in Cyprus through the EOKA campaign, welcoming in the jet age in Gloster Meteors and de Havilland Vampires or winning the Air Force Cross, there always seemed to be something happening for Kenneth McGlashan.
He finally retired from thein 1958 and later established his family and a civilian life here in Australia. In 1990 he received a very cryptic letter from the Tangmere Aviation Museum who was undertaking some research following the discovery of the Hawker Hurricane that Kenneth had left on the Dunkirk beach in 1940. Today the aircraft is set to take to the English skies once more.
So tale after tale occupied afternoon after afternoon. I would sit and listen as Kenneth would detail his extraordinary life and tale of survival, taping every word before spending the night tying it together into some sort of order. Slowly but surely, his life became the book we had both envisaged. We agreed to title it in a style that reflected Kenneth’s level-headed approach and was also a humorous jibe at the fact he had a fewaircraft make ‘unscheduled’ landings in his time.
Along the way, I gained two valuable friends in Kenneth and his wife, Doreen and this is another wonderful by-product of my hobby. Sadly, when the book was launched at Kenneth’s stomping grounds during the UK’s Duxford Air Show in July, he had not lived to see it happen. However, Doreen made the long trip to the UK to be a part of the event. On the second day of the air show she was flown by helicopter to be reunited with the restoration of Kenneth’s Hurricane. Nearing 90, Doreen is insistent that she’ll be back next year to see the fighter fly once more.
Ken always stressed that by numbers, there were 3,000 fighter pilots who defended the realm through the Battle of Britain and within this sum only three percent were officially recognised as “Aces”. He was always proud to be counted amongst the remaining 97%. To me this in many ways sums up who he was.
His life was an extraordinary tale. I didn’t have to venture to some far flung corner to find it though; Kenneth McGlashan was virtually over my back fence and my life became richer because of it.
In our world of technology and advancements, it is sometimes hard to envision mankind choosing to remain in the “dark ages”. The “” formally introduces the reader to those who would rather poison the minds and souls of its followers, than nurture growth or change. As a child, Michael, along with his two brothers and one sister, lived with their mother and her stream of “gentlemen” callers. A few of her suitors were reputable, but once a child was fathered, the mother usually broke off the relationships, moving on to her next conquest. One such affair with Mahmood Saleem went from bad to worse when his true violent side was revealed, leaving the family with a decision to be made. Stay, and be abused daily at the hands of a supposed loved one, or flee to find safety somewhere else. To this end, Jacqueline Wright, his mother, was lead to “The ” where followers were seeking new members to be welcomed into the fold. In her fragile state, she believed every word she was fed and so the children were forced to join the “ ” at the behest of their mother. They believed they were leaving a bad situation for a better life, only to discover that this “life” was really a well disguised hell on earth.
Unfortunately, as in most cases, what can seem perfect on the surface usually hides an ugly truth within its shadow. From day one, the love and togetherness preached to the masses was shattered by the blind eye of prejudice. The families were separated into female and male groupings, one never seeing the other unless in the public rooms. Michael was not “pure” in their eyes being that his parents had different ethnic backgrounds and so the “leaders” felt he was to be made an example of whenever a disciplinary situation arose. If you didn’t do the chores expected of you, you received a beating. If you didn’t bring in at least $10 in donations from the daily canvassing ($20 for adults), you received no food for the night. In one instance, the children were to answer back to their elder in chorus with “praise, Yahweh”. Michael’s younger brother was a mere 11 months old, barely able to say small, easy words and so he did not respond. The result was an ongoing beating for the next 6 hours with rods on this poor defenseless baby that nearly killed him. The tyranny and battering they received was horrifying. Appalling acts of this nature continued day in and day out, dispensed more frequently with time. Eventually, it came to a point that it was either stay there and suffer under their hands until death, or make a break for freedom and try to trust that someone would help even though their “mother” abandoned them. The strength of the child prevailed and Michael, along with his brother Brian, took advantage of an unguarded door which lead to their escape as well as the eventual downfall of the radical organization.
Although authormanaged to physically escape the terror he was accosted by as a child, he is still haunted by the psychological effects today. His heroic effort to expose the many forms of abuse suffered by the members of the so called “ ” still shows the fear ingrained within his being, as he wrote this work under a pseudonym to protect himself. These many years later, with the leader “ ”, a self-proclaimed “messiah”, dead and gone, his unfortunate legacy lives on within the survivors. Every step they make toward self-healing and acceptance, making them a step closer to sponging his stain from their souls.
For a look within the shadowed lives held by manyvictims, and the darkness that can seep from mankind’s soul when led with hate instead of love, read this harrowing tale and aim to “make good” in the lives you touch.
The Innkeeper Tales: Modern-Day Canterbury Tales to Entertain, Enlighten & Empower
by John L, Jr.
HSB Press (2007)
Reviewed by Beverly Pechin for Reader View (12/06)
One look at the book, “The Innkeeper Tales,” and you know that you’ve come upon an establishment that offers nothing but class. The hunter green hardcover, etched with gold lettering seems a shame to cover up; but, the beautiful sleeve that takes the wear and tear reiterates the classiness of the book itself.
Open the pages and enter a life of complete relaxation as you meet the guests of the Abarcrombie Bed & Breakfast, while stranded in a winter storm that insists upon you staying one night longer.
Presented in a fashion that makes the reader truly feel like a guest in the B&B itself, you are gently introduced to many of the characters that have frequented the B&B over the years all while tucked away safely inside the walls of the Abarcrombie and served a continuous flow of spectacular food and drink. The many characters you meet will show the absolute diversity of characters the house itself serves. Starting with Enzo, the man who encompasses what work ethics once truly were and ending with the author himself, giving you an inside look of his own world.
Characters gather around the table to share their stories, some much more flamboyant than others. You learn some often very well-kept secrets as the characters open up to each other, knowing that this once-in-a-lifetime moment will never happen again and they will never have to truly ever save face with any of the other guests so why not tell it all. Nothing is held back as they easily let the stories of their life and dreams flow from their lips sometimes without care as to if it’s being told properly and with taste. After all, this is the real world and their real life they’re talking about and sometimes proper things don’t really happen.
I found myself ready to shoot Randy, the very long windedman but every time I thought I was going to lose my mind he came up with yet another twist in his long but interesting story. Randy becomes the butt of a few jokes as he continues his life long history, making you somehow appreciate him as much as the guests he’s with seem to learn to do. The touching and romantic story of the innkeeper’s step-son and his newlywed wife will end the story with a smile. You will quickly appreciate their young love and determination as they work together to make the B&B a success. Laugh with Burt and sympathize with his wife as you hear about his escapades as a baseball team “owner,” realizing that truth be told, nobody could make up these stories!
Each story’s character finds a place in your heart as you cheer him on to win this race called life. Hardly a life situation seems to have been missed as the characters share their story. You’ll find a womanizer, aman, a romantic couple, an aging builder and so much more as you open the pages of this wonderfully written book. Canterbury Tales move over, you have a more modern and just as classy competitor at your tail! Kudos to Mr. , for a job well done, in his book “The Innkeeper Tales.” And did I mention the ending? Let’s just say it takes a little twist you weren’t exactly expecting!