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.