Monday, October 09, 2006

A Shill for Love

Patty here…

My mother is proud of me for writing three novels. I know this because everybody tells me so. Normally soft-spoken and reserved, she nonetheless regales all who will listen about what she sees as my extraordinary talent. This surprises me because she has always taught me that boasting is unseemly. Apparently a mother bragging about her child is not covered under that rule.

My mother hasn’t read any of my books. She has macular degeneration and can’t read much of anything these days. Poor vision is the bane of her existence, because she’s always been an avid reader. She listens to audio books, but somehow that’s not the same as resting a hardback on her lap and feeling the rough edges of the paper as she turns another page.

She is tiny and frail. She navigates the halls of her assisted living facility with the aid of a walker, which she calls “my three wheeler.” When I hear her use that term it always makes me think of an aging motorcycle mama, cruising the highways and byways wearing a jaunty gray beret. In the basket attached to the walker’s handlebars you’ll usually find items related to my books: reviews, newspaper ads, or the latest cover art. Whenever she enters the dining room, her friends prepare for a pitch.

She was recently released from a rehab center after a six-week stay that included two weeks in the hospital. She had suffered a bout of dizziness and had fallen several times. During one of my visits, I found her in the gym working with a physical therapist. The conversation went something like this:

My Mother
“This is my daughter the author. Did you look her up on the Internet?”

Physical Therapist
“Yes. I checked out her Web site just like you told me to do.”

My Mother
“Have you bought her book yet?”

Physical Therapist
(laughing nervously)
“No. Not yet.”

My Mother
“When, then?”

Physical Therapist
(looking sheepish)
“Soon.”

Even I was squirming during that interrogation.

My mother is so good at hawking my books that I took her to the Northwest on my first book tour. Here we are at the airport waiting for our flight to Seattle. She looks cool and collected in her wheelchair, while I look as though I just stumbled out of a three-martini lunch.



While we were waiting to board the airplane, we cruised through some shops and came upon a neck pillow that made us snort with laughter. We had to have it. She was wearing the pillow on the flight home when a man approached her in apparent distress. “Excuse me, madam,” he said, “but did you know that you have a large bug on your neck?” Very corny, but we had another huge laugh. Two guffaws for only $14.95. Life is sweet.



Seattle welcomed us with a monsoon. Here we are in the parking lot near the Seattle Mystery Bookshop. Undaunted by the rain, I threw a poncho over my mother and her wheelchair and off we went, we two intrepid hucksters.



Publishing can be a tough business, so it’s comforting to know I have a few people in my posse that I can count on no matter what happens. And one of those people is that tiny, frail woman with the bug on her neck.

18 comments:

  1. That tiny, frail woman with the bug on her neck is a real character, Patty. And a sweetheart. I suspect that everybody around her loves her just as much as you do.

    And has a copy of your book on their shelves. Just wait 'til she starts asking you to sign them all.

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  2. Patty, what a sweet mum you have! Not bad for a singleminded cheerleader. :-D

    My mum just loves showing all of my artwork to people too. I miss her a lot and wish I got to see her a lot more than I do.
    So I assume the gorgeous lady with her in the photos is you? A bit different from your formal portrait on the Nakedauthors.com header. :-D
    Cheers
    Marianne
    PS: Glad everyone had a great time at Bcon! I was training it through the English countryside, watching the fields and little towns, and canals unfold.

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  3. What a great story, your mom rocks ;-)

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  4. Jeff, Marianne, and Rae...three of my favorite people. All of you ROCK!

    What a wonderful trip you must have had, Marianne. I love the English countryside. In fact, I love all of England. Welcome back. We missed you.

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  5. Your story really tugged at my heart. My father (86) also has macular degeneration (the wet form, which is not good). My dad still struggles through each of my large print novels and will soon be moving on to audio books. But he is always smiling, and seeing your mother smiling in those photos gives me one more reason to agree with Tom Brokaw about "the greatest generation."

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  6. from Jacqueline

    Ah, Patty, where would we be without our mothers. My mum is just the same - when I was last in the UK, we went into a local bookstore (for me to load up with books for "research" purposes), when I heard my mother say, in the requisite loud voice needed to let everyone hear, "Oh, Jackie, they've got your books here - isn't that lovely!"

    I wanted to just melt into the floorboards.

    My mother-in-law is the same - she's a one-woman promotional powerhouse at the age of 86 (and wheelchair-bound in an assisted-living facility). Half the audience at my event in Cleveland were there because she told them to go!

    But the story of your mother's macular degeneration brings me to tears - I am so sorry. I remember when a very dear elderly friend (to whom my second book was dedicated) lost the ability to read. He said that it hurt so much when he, for example, heard something on the radio that intrigued him, then thought, "Oh, I'll go and look that up in the encyclopedia, find out more about it ..." only to realize that he couldn't look things up any more. It just about broke my heart.

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  7. Too bad we can't get all of our mums and dads together in the same room for one big boasting session. What a hoot that would be. Hopefully one day the medical community will find a cure for macular degeneration.

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  8. Loved your story about your mom, and I love that bug! My mom brought her entire quilting group to my book launch, and my dad, who I've only ever known to read the local newspaper, called me from his vacation on Cape Cod to tell me how much he loved my second book (which is dedicated to him). There should be some sort of parent award, but then again, wouldn't they all get it??

    It was great seeing you at Bcon!!

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  9. Great seeing you at Bcon, too, Karen. That's so sweet about your mom's quilting group. And your dad is obviously thrilled with your success. Write on!

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  10. I love the photos of the two of you, you guys are adorable!!

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  11. Patty, the photos and the story are great. You are one lucky daughter.

    My own 90-year old mother is advancing quickly into the twilight of Alzheimer's. But I took such pleasure at seeing her open my book and say "You've written a book! And it's dedicated to me!" Ten seconds later the loop started again and she was again surprised by the book and the dedication.

    How nice to be able to bring her pleasure six times in a single minute.

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  12. Thanks, Cornelia. My mom is getting a big kick out of all your comments.

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  13. Hi Patty!
    And you thought it had gone too quiet without me. :-) I got lonely back here today for lack of ability to share some of my memories from England (big emotional crisis going on with a friend)so I sent a huge email to poor Jacqueline telling her the Maisie Dobbs bits. :-D
    A hearty big congratulations to Louise for her brand-spanking new award. 'Go Team!!"
    Ooh *blush* - ta Patty.
    Highlight of my trip was a traintrip to Plymouth where yours-truly sat with nose pressed against the huge carriage window for three hours going ooh-aah - particularly at the canals and canal boats. :-D

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  14. Er, I'm as bad as a mother when it comes to my husband's books in bookstores. I admit that I had a quiet word to the manager of Forbidden Planet on Shaftsbury Ave in London and asked him if he'd like to have Bob sign his art books for the store. It makes my beloved preen just a little, and it helps sell the books. That's my story an' I'm a sticking to it.
    Besides, his hand had recovered from the thousand or so he'd signed in Torquay over the weekend, so Bob was a bit chuffed to do it.
    Cheers
    Marianne

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  15. Louise, that's a sweet story about your mom. Marianne, it was way too quiet without you. Your main squeeze is so lucky to have you at his side. We NakedAuthors are lucky to have you, too.

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  16. Now we know where Patty gets her vivacious smile and her joie de vivre!

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  17. Patty, and here you lead me to believe that it was her Platinum Visa card that made you a best seller! Clearly, it is not only your merit, but the infectiousness of your mom's personality---her belief in you that she effectively imbues in those whom she "touches."

    Better than a Best Seller or an Award, you are blessed in one of the best manners possible. Thanks for "sharing" your mom with us.

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  18. Thanks, you two. You're too kind.

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