17 June, 2012

Scrappy Sundays - Father's Day Edition



We don't live in a vacuum. We don't create in a vacuum. No, we are surrounded by school schedules, sports, travelling partners, family drama, and that pesky housework. When it came to writing Sunday Morning Quilts it was no different.

My Dad was diagnosed with lung cancer in March 2008. There were a few years of treatment and, ironically, better health as he quit smoking and got his blood pressure under control. But the winter of 2010/2011 showed us that the cancer was taking over and his decline was quick. This coincided with the first winter I was home full time and was writing the book.

Amanda and I spent a week together in March, hammering out the final text and taking photos. I tried not to think about my family, but things were obviously bad with my Dad. I waffled between guilt for being away to work on my pet project and elation at doing so. I talked to my Mom and my husband about the reality of the situation. I talked to Amanda about our Dads.

It seemed like the writing and my Dad's health were in direct contrast. One giving me so much happiness and excitement, the other giving me pause, sadness, and challenge. Over a year later I can't think of these two things exclusively.

When I came back from Amanda's we more or less moved to be with my family. My Dad was admitted to a Palliative unit. My days became a combination of hospital visits, keeping the girls busy, and finding the time to finish the manuscript. I sat in the old, old recliner in my Dad's home office with a cable snaking across the room making sure all the Us were removed from colour and favourite and our images were numbered properly.




I'm not sure my Dad ever really understood the book writing process, or even why I was doing it. He was the kind of man who expected 100% every single time you did something - both in effort and result. He never said, but I'm sure there was a lot of head shaking on his part when after going to university and grad school I quit my job to be home with my kids and write. Then again, he was an old fashioned Eastern European, maybe he thought that's where I should be? But he never said anything negative to me about it. Never shot me down. This, if you knew my father, was shocking.

When he finally let us tell people he was sick and dying he was inundated with visitors. Old friends and colleagues flocked to the hospital with sweet treats and old stories. One of us kids was usually there and we were inevitably introduced to a crusty plumber or painter who remembered us as kids or unruly teenagers. My Dad would show off his grandkids, or complain about their behaviour. And when it came to me he always mentioned that I was writing a book. He might laugh that it was about quilting, but he always brought it up.

This is as close as he would get to saying he was proud of me.

I didn't need my Dad to say these words, nor did I need him to say anything else. Actions always spoke louder than words with him. Every day when I arrived at the hospital my Dad would ask me how the book was going. Was I done yet? The day that I finished everything I was quite proud to finally answer in the positive.

We had only a few weeks left after I hit send. The book was submitted on April 1, he died April 12. He never saw the final product, never slept under one of the quilts. 

Writing a book, or any other creative process really, happens while life happens. But when we make the commitment to that process we often have to work through difficult times. It isn't all sunshiny studios, cups of tea, and quiet afternoons. It's hard to get up early, working at odd hours and in snippets to bang out the work. It might have been easier to put the project aside and devote everything to my family. But that would have mean letting down Amanda, myself, and violating my contract. I know that people would have understood, but I was committed to my commitment. That was something my Dad would and could support.

The book is out there now and doing well. When it came to the book I think my Dad would have kept it on the bar at home, next to his worn out deck of cards so he could show it to a buddy that came over for a drink. He might have flipped through it in between TV shows. Maybe he would have asked me how long it took to make a certain quilt. He may not have understood my goals or the world of quilts, but I'm pretty sure he would have been proud. 

Working on Sunday Morning Quilts was indeed work, but it was a respite from what was going on in my life. Sometimes the daily activities of life are evident in the final product, sometimes they are not. My father and my family life are not in this book, but they are still a part of it. The stories thread together in my existence, in the story of my family.


Don't forget to check out Amanda Jean's post about the men in her life.

25 comments:

Esch House Quilts said...

What a beautiful post, Cheryl! I'm so glad you were able to see your Dad's pride in you without the specific words.

Rachel said...

Tears in my eyes for sure. Thanks for sharing!

O'Quilts said...

U did the right thing.

Betty Crocker Ass said...

Damn you for making me cry this morning.

Sigrun said...

Beautiful post, made me cry as well. It is the hardest thing to experience god and bad things in your life at the same time.

Lynda Halliger-Otvos said...

Oh Cheryl, this post defines why you write-it is magnificently put together, quietly woven with love and care. May there be more books in our future-your writing needs to be seen by many.

The Art of Homemaking said...

A beautiful post~ a beautiful tribute to your father. That book will always have so much emotion tied to it, for you, I'm sure. Hugs from Lexington, sweet friend~

Anonymous said...

You know when I see an old mesh-back ballcap I always think about your Dad! And salsa reminds me of him too - because he made the best salsa I have had thus far in my life. Jason often says he wants to start making salsa and again your Dad making all his jars of food pops into my head.

Dads sure have different ways of letting us know they are proud of us! I am certain he was proud of you!

xox Amy

Carla said...

Wonderful posts. You have an amazing way with words. Blessings on you and yours.

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful tribute to your Dad. Your book is on my "wish" list, and after this post, I must move it to "My Cart."

Thanks for sharing how you coped during this difficult time. It's timely for me. Jan

momof3 said...

Thanks for sharing your story with us, we all have challenges that help us grow. I think it is wonderful that you had the book project to help you through the illness your father had.

LOVE the book!!

sewfroufrouquilter said...

This must have been a very rough day for you. I'm sure your father was proud of you -- I think our fathers tell us more in what they don't say than what they do.

cambric cotton said...

Sorry you had to experience the pain of your fathers illness and subsequent death at such a great time for you. My Dad is also of the old world, where emotions are seldom shared. After my Mum's death several years ago I told him how much I loved him and we hugged. Even though he can't say the words I do feel loved

upstateLisa said...

Beautuful post. Life is complicated yet so simple.

M-R said...

Wonderful post, Cheryl and a great tribute to your dad.

lynda said...

wonderful post and wonderful book, but not sure WHY you had to change the spelling??? The Harry Potter books sent to the US had to have the British words taken out and changed....showa how inflexible many in the US are..(yes- I live in the US.....)

Patrice said...

Thank you for sharing this. I'm so, so sorry for your loss.

Beth said...

wonderful post and a lovely reminder that we have to keep going in the good times and the bad times. I am sure your first book will always hold memories of your Dad.
Keep writing.

Kimberly said...

What a great post. Thank you. So much of what you wrote I can relate to as I lost my mom almost 2 years ago to breast cancer. I wasn't writing a book! but I do remember the push and pull to spend time with her and look after my family and other responsibilities. Life is a constant juggle of priorities and a struggle for balance. It sounds like you did a great job of fitting in the important things for him, for you and for your family. I am sure he was well and truly proud of you.

amandajean said...

your post is so beautifully written. i'm glad you are documenting all this...and that you are sharing it with us.

CitricSugar said...

Beautiful post, Cheryl.

Gramma Quilter said...

Awesome story! Oh and i love the book!

Shauna said...

What a beautiful tribute to your dad!

Katie @SwimBikeQuilt said...

I had to come back and comment--I read this on my phone. I thought this was just beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

Kerry said...

Beautiful post, made me cry as well. It is the hardest thing to experience god and bad things in your life at the same time.