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:
“This is my daughter the author. Did you look her up on the Internet?”
“Yes. I checked out her Web site just like you told me to do.”
“Have you bought her book yet?”
“No. Not yet.”
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.