My Passion

I have had a passion for story telling since I was a child. My favorite past time was to tell stories with Mary Jane my imaginary friend. I would tell my mother "I'm making on to believe".My love of story telling led me to major in acting at Boston University School of Fine and Applied Arts. Later I would have a thirty year career on radio and TV as a news anchor and host and producer of my own interview teachiprograms..I enjoyed helping students tell stories. I taught writing classes for five colleges. (Some of these overlapped). Now I have my own business Carole Nelson Video Biographies. My company tells people's stories which includes an interview, video of the person in his or her every day life. We add old film, video, pictures and music. Each is a mini documentary of a person's life something for generations to treasure
You will find a blog here telling parts of my own story, those of my grandmother and mother as well as snippets of the lives of people whose life stories we have told. If you are interested you may e-mail me at I would be happy to arrange a time when you could see portions of video life stories we have created and discuss what we could do for you. Each story is individual and contains what you want to tell. Meanwhile enjoy the blog.I continue "making on to believe".

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Interviewing is Storytelling

I had believed that my two loves storytelling and interviewing were separate skills I had developed but not related. They are. It was when I realized that interviews are really short stories. They are compact; the storyteller is also listened and vice versa. It is one thing to conduct radio and TV interviews as I have done for four decades it is another to know how to successfully conduct an interview for business. There is a great deal that hangs in the balance. For instance, in a job interview the person being interviewed will tell his or her story as prompted by the interviewer. It may not include the most important parts of the person’s life and the story will emerge in the form of answers to questions. The person doing the hiring knows its importance. This interview had to determine if the person has the skills or says he has the skills, is able to work in a team, values patience, persistency, loyalty. Does this person practice the work ethic? (It should be a given. From what I am told by employers it is not.) Then there is the person’s background. Sure, it is in her resume but resumes lie. People lie about the jobs they have held, the skills they have. But having a person talk about her background is something else. This is where the skillful interviewer picks up clues. Does the interviewer believe the person sitting before him or her? The key component is trust and that works both ways. The interviewer trusts that the person will be forthcoming and then an assessment can be made whether or not this person is a good fit for the job. The interviewer is not promising long-term trust only during this interview. What is implied but not stated is that the interviewer will give the person every chance to show “his stuff” to show why he should have the job. That is not to say the interviewer may not have negative responses. That is part of the job. It is rather the person is given “a fair shake” to show why the job should be his.
            Trust works the other way as well. The person being interviewed has to trust that she has a chance, that she shows in a short amount of time what about her training, her life experience, her values means she should have the job.
            Where is the challenge? The challenge is the same that I faced in the more than one thousand interviews that I conducted. Every person being interviewed has a reason for consenting to the interview. He or she has a book to sell, a movie to watch, an album to listen to, even a political stance to entice people to share.
It is a given the interviewer accepts this and it is only fair that you allow the person to do this to a point. The person being interviewed has been asked the same questions hundreds of times. She is prepared. She may have talked points. There may be things she has to make sure are included. The book goes on sale when? What is there about the plot or contents that should inspire a viewer to buy the book? But interview times runs out quickly, especially during TV interviews which is why I have always preferred longer term radio talk interviews. I as an interviewer will make you feel comfortable not threatened even if I don’t agree with you. I will let you present your “pitch” in the best possible light.
Now what? What prevents any interview from becoming a well rehearsed dance? Each person knowing what to expect, the questions and answers being almost rote. It is the breakthrough. This is the moment you go from eyes glazed over on the part of both the interviewer and interviewer to suddenly awakening. What is that? It is the unexpected questions. Notice I did not say unfair questions. No sudden quote from an adversary, no bombshell to which the person has to react it is simply not expected. The person doesn’t have time to stop and come up an answer the other person wants to hear. This is honesty, unless the person is very, very practiced at dealing with ad hoc questions. When I taught Business Practices in College I earned the label The Interviewer from Hell. I put my students through some of the worst possible interviews they might face. What if the interviewer just doesn’t like you, has already picked someone else, doesn’t think you have what it takes” to get the job “done. You as the person being interviewed have to ask those surprises but not impenitent questions. “How would you place your company’s strengths against (fill in the blank of competitors)? What plans to you have for the company in the next few years? People being interviewed have a much better chance of getting the job if they have done their homework about the company. That way their questions are knowledgeable.

            The interviewer suddenly asks
Tell me about your high school years. What were your interests? What did you do for fun?” Off the subject? Of course, not. The interviewer wants to know the whole person, not just his or her skills. It is the whole person who will attend the company picnic, eat in the lunch room with the other employees, and handle stressful job situations. One can only hope that this mini-story based on trust and the unexpected along with the usual questions will mean each party walks away feeling the interview went well. They don’t always. I asked General Westmorland

  about the casualties during the Viet Nam war, a number he supposedly had grossly misrepresented. I asked the question. He looked at me for a minute with no apparent emotion, took off his microphone and left the interview set. Mike Wallace on Sixty Minutes didn’t let him off the hook. 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Bugs bite the Creative Spirit.

Why is it that reality can sidetrack your creativity in a  heart beat. All the words are  in my head for two projects but nasty bugs and a clumsy move  meant those words never made it to the computer.  First was the bug that simply flattened me, no other symptoms. Next what appeared to be a cold but developed into bronchitis. That one took two weeks for recovery (might have been the flu). Then yesterday in the middle of an editing session when I rose from my chair and started to walk my foot turned sideways so I know I have a sprained ankle. One of my creative projects is writing the scripting and editing a woman's life story on video. That is what my business is telling people's life stories for their own viewing and for future generations to know who this person was. This project was a challenge. What we are producing are mini-documentaries with a few differences. I did the pre-interview,and then I helped her gather 73 photos. The interview takes basically a day. My videographer/shooter is a perfectionist when it comes to lighting and audio. We are trying to keep the finished product to an hour but here is the conumdrum: the person decides everything she wants in the video. This woman had so many dramatic incidents in her life that the interview last an hour and a half. If this were a documentary we would choose what parts to use and what parts to leave out.The next big job for me is listening to the audio track and deciding what I need to condense and read in a script and what parts of her interview I use. (People do ramble). My goal is to put all the dates, places events in the script and then use the parts of the interview that are more heart felt with more emotion involved. That means going into a "soundbite" picking out a section I want to use and giving the editor the correct incue and outcue. The next step is an all day editing challenge. What pictures go where. If anything is part of the voice over that I read then we have to have pictures that match the meaning. My videographer and business partner then does all the editing with high definition software. It is much more difficult than the editing we did before HD, He does all kinds of special effects with the pictures and then puts original music on the track. The problem is there is so much work involved that two thousand dollars is the lowest price we can offer and that means each of us is working for about twelve dollars an hour. The benefit is that we both love doing this. I know when this woman sees her video she will be thrilled even if the "bugs" did slow the process down. Please check out my web site and watch the video of one man's story

Monday, August 17, 2015

Passionate about Storytelling: Passionate about Storytelling: Passionate about Storytelling:  A woman who worked with my husband called to tell...

Passionate about Storytelling: Passionate about Storytelling: Passionate about Storytelling:  A woman who worked with my husband called to

Passionate about Storytelling: Passionate about Storytelling:  A woman who worked with my husband called to tell...

Passionate about Storytelling: Passionate about Storytelling:  A woman who worked with my husband called to

Passionate about Storytelling:  A woman who worked with my husband called to tell...

Passionate about Storytelling:  A woman who worked with my husband called to tell...:  A woman who worked with my husband called to tell me that she had come across an article from the Orlando Sentinel about me that she had k...

 A woman who worked with my husband called to tell me that she had come across an article from the Orlando Sentinel about me that she had kept for 23 years. She wasn't even sure why she kept it. Did I want it? She gave it to my husband. The article was yellow with age. The page was crisp to the touch. I
It was not an article I had been happy about. The year was 1992  The Orlando Sentinel had called the reporter telling me the paper  wanted to do a profile of me for its Sunday magazine section. I agreed although I questioned the timing. I had been fired by Channel Nine even though I had signed a contract just months before. (How you can be fired for no reason when you have a contract?That is another story).  Now I had been fired from the radio talk show I had hosted for three years I was stuck with a new house I had built after I signed the latest contract. I couldn't afford the mortgage or the expenses. My savings dwindled quickly. I had moved from that house to an apartment and now I couldn't afford that. I was moving in with my sister and putting a few possessions  in storage. The same day I met the reporter for lunch at Apple Annie's in Church St Station I was moving out of the apartment. I had broken two toes when a moving box fell on my foot. That week I had shown up like every other unemployed person in the unemployment line (no longer required). I talked about the need to start over, to pare my life down to the essentials. I was in survivor mode. When the article came out the headline read :Appreciating the Recession with the former TV news anchor on unemployment." I had become the symbol of the unemployed.  I was quoted as saying "I'm good at starting over. I'm almost better at starting over than I am when everything is in place and going fine". Be careful what you wish for. At that moment I had no idea what lay ahead of me. If I thought I had experienced tough times I hadn't seen anything yet. I did say concerning unemployment checks "The heavens don't open up. Plenty of good people have to do it. You realize you can survive and you take risks." Could I have imagined then that I would fly to Seattle with three suitcases, feeling out whether this was a move I should make. I did make it. I lived with my son and his family across the Puget Sound in Bremerton. I took over my son's small office with my clothes hanging off doors, windows and sills. I had no computer skills then. I had a word processor which broke down. I wrote resumes and cover letters in long hand and stuffed the envelope with promotional materials from my TV career. What kind of a chance did I have finding a job. Bob Jordan my former boss and co-anchor from Channel 9 was now a news director for a Seattle station. He helped me land a part time job as a radio talk show host for the number one station in Seattle. I took a full time job as a professor at The Art Institute of Seattle but not before filing for bankruptcy and having my car towed away. I would live and work in Seattle for six years. Those were wonderful but terrifying years.Years before that move I had worn expensive clothes and had my hair and make up done every day for TV. Now I wore jeans, Doc Martin boots, carried a heavy book bag on my back and usually was sans make up. And that adventure  was only from '92 until '96. I had returned to Orlando attempted to market a defunct studio, taught for two colleges, hosted three more TV programs in Orlando and,met the man I would marry years later. Are you still with me? I was so captivated by transitions  not just mine but other people's that I would host a TV program in Orlando  on Navigating Transitions.I won't go into all the transitions that occurred after that. What did that article tell me?It told me that now in my 70's my personality and philosophy haven't changed. I am still willing to hang my fanny over the fence knowing in doing so that I am very vulnerable to shots either by people or just circumstances. The article had been accompanied by a picture which I hated at the time. I was standing in the full sun against a tree with my arms crossed and a facial expression that pretty much said  "Bring it on". It was oddly reassuring now. I wasn't doing anything new. Only the circumstances had changed. It is an article and a picture that are as apt today as they were 23years ago.  I will follow my passion and am willing to take the risks that go with it. I am glad the woman found the old yellowed article. Maybe I will take it out again when I am in m 80's.

Friday, August 14, 2015

I am trying to write a memoir but I can't go past those first ten years. It brings up feelings of.  anxiety of a kind of depression I can't even name. The house is tiny, maybe 1200 square feet, a two story house just across the street from Brown and Sons the dry cleaning plant my grandfather owned and where my father worked. There are vivid images, more vivid than images from much later in my life. It is during the war. I stand at the sink and pluck "pin feathers" from the chickens my father has killed. There is a chicken coop in our back yard. It is fenced off with wire fencing but I stand by the fence watching the chickens. I smell the strong odor from the yard. My father kills a chicken when we need one. I watch as the chicken runs around frantically even though its head has been cut off. It is dead. I stand at the sink and press on the orange button that will release color into the bag of lard I am holding. This is our 'butter'. I massage the lard until the orange color is spread  throughout the plastic package.
At night I lie propped between two arm chairs with a flannel rag on my chest. Under it is a coating of Vaseline. A humidifier hisses steam into the small living room. My mother brings me milk and butter. She says it will cut phelm. I stand at the edge of the   front lawn. I clutch my doll Rebecca as I watch the kids going to school. Soon I will go. Part of me yearns  to leave this house, but another part of me is scared. I don't want to go. I wet the bed. I wake up with wet sheets. I have not had any water to drink since supper. My father stands over my bed. He picks me up by one arm and spanks me through the wet pajamas. I walk in my sleep. One night my parents find me down the street standing at the bridge, looking down in the water. Sometimes they talk to me when I am sleep walking. I have no memory of it nor do I remember answering them, but I did.  I hear my parents yelling late at night. I want them to stop. My father has been out late again, returning at 2 in the morning. He drives the truck that picks up and delivers dry cleaning throughout central Vermont. My mom cries sometimes. She says there is no reason for him to be out that late. One morning she wakes me up. She is sobbing. She gets me dressed and my sister and I go downstairs. My father is sitting on the sofa. "Come and sit on my lap", he says. I never sit on my father's lap. It feels uncomfortable. Probably I am too heavy for his lap. "You need to be a good girl', he tells me. "Do what your mother says". I think he is going to war. He is not. He is in love with another woman. We leave in a cab and go to my grandparents' house. My grandmother is standing at the front door. She is crying. She is wearing her slip. One strap has slipped down over her shoulder. Every night I go to bed and think about my favorite book. It is the "Box Car Kids". These are kids who have run away and live in a box car. They scourge for food. They make a table from an orange crate. Every night I dream of living in a box car. When it is dark I will close and lock the massive door. Is anyone inside with me?. They are the friends with whom I share the box car.. It is the beginning of a lifetime of going to sleep at night thinking of escape. Sometimes people are saved with me; other times I am alone. What am I running from? During all these years it has changed from Nazis to Indians, then the Mafia, sometimes aliens and I am taking all my friends and family on a giant space ship. We alone are saved. I love small spaces. I hid in the closet in my bedroom when no one was looking for me. Now whether it is a doctor's office or any tiny room I think of how I would live there. Where would the sink be? the microwave?Where could I put my books.  When I was ten we moved from that house. I see the little girl standing on the edge of the lawn. I want to go to her, to put my arms around her, to tell her it is going to be better. Her life will be much better. She may not believe me. I will not tell her that the dream of escaping from this house frames each might of my life, even now when I am an old woman.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

An Unexpected gift

It has been an unexpected gift. I started this company because I wanted to interview people who would have a legacy of their lives in their own words. What has happened during this process is discovering the courage and fortitude people have experienced in their lifetimes. It has been inspiring to me on a personal level. The famous people I interviewed over the years always had something to promote. They had "talking points" to promote a book, a movie, an album or maybe a political campaign. They were out to promote; I was out to find some candor somewhere. It was far easier on talk radio than TV. The TV interviews were always short so it was a battle allowing them to simply promote and my trying to give viewers a glimpse into who this person really was. Radio made that easier and that is what I miss. But the interviews now are with ordinary people who have met extraordinary challenges. The woman whose life story we are doing now is a woman who re-invented herself. She had a life as a public servant, a successful business woman but a matron. She is divorced now. She had to go through a lot of pain to get to the point where she is attractive in her own eyes and everybody else's. In her older years she has discovered her own independent spirit, her own sexuality. She has not let life, friends and family define her. A huge struggle but what a woman today! I work on an interview like this and think I am so glad I have the opportunity to allow her to tell her story on her own terms. As she said when I die I don't want someone else writing my obituary. How lucky I am to have struggled for fifteen years to finally have this company that tells life stories.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

It has been a struggle with many moments of doubts. How do you start a business when you are in your 70's and although you have a passion you have no money? Finally, I can say that it is happening. I worked with two different videographers over a period of years when I found the videographer who shared my vision. We did videos that I am proud of, people's life stories on video with photos, old films and videos, music and special effects. All of this in addition to an interview that is from a half hour to an hour. Plus I found someone to design a web site who shared my vision. Intrigued? Check it out.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

My new business Carole Nelson Video Stories is off to a great start. I am so grateful to have found a great videographer Todd Dunlap and a web page designer to help me. They share my vision of capturing people's life stories on video. The stories vary from a half hour to an hour. Some are dramatic; others are not. They all have a story to tell. We do the interview, and then work with visuals, editing, music to create what is your life to live on for future generations. It says this is who I am to some; to others this is who I was, my footprint on the earth. The web site will allow easy access when it is done. For now these are the links on YouTube. One should lead into the other, four parts.
ary Lambert’s Video Biography Part #1 ~ 

Gary Lambert’s Video Biography Part #2 ~

Gary Lambert’s Video Biography Part #3 ~

Gary Lambert’s Video Biography Part #4 ~

Monday, June 8, 2015

Tell Me a Story! Tell Me a Story and Then I'll Go to Bed

When I was a child my love of storytelling took so many forms. I loved to read Grimm’s’ Fairy Tales to my grandmother as I sat at her feet and she took a fine comb to my hair looking for dandruff. I loved comic books and later I devoured the magazines like Photoplay with the stories of the lives of the actresses and actors. My love of acting took me further than I ever thought I would go but not as far as that long held dream of starring in a play on Broadway. I longed to crawl into the lives of other people, to be them as least for awhile. On some level I knew I wasn’t movie star material but I had heard the sound of applause; that was the affirmation I needed.
 But as a child I didn’t foresee one day acting in a play in the Richard Rogers Theater in Boston, of looking up in the balcony which was so steep it seemed right over my head. I would never have dreamed of 30 years in the media as a news anchor, TV and radio talk show host, always telling stories. I loved interviewing on radio because there was more time than on TV. I sought out and found people I wanted to interview Deepak Chopra before anyone was familiar with his work, Elmore Leonard with his fascinating crime stories, even my teen age idol  Eddie Fisher.  I saw the handsome young man on his own show sponsored by Coke not the old man who sat in the studio delighting in making me squirm as he told me about  his sex life with each of his three wives. Stories don’t always end the way you think they will end.
 But it is the stories from my family. I asked so many questions and I have a good memory so I have been able to fill in the blanks in at least some of my family history. What a shock to find the similarities among the lives of my great grandmother, my grandmother, my mother’s and my own.  Each of us faced daunting challenges, heartbreak, betrayal and the need to somehow summon strength we didn’t know we had. What a gift I owe them and how grateful I am for their stories. I asked the questions about their lives.  They told me some of the answers; other  answers I found from relatives, of putting together the pieces of the puzzle.  In the weeks before my mother died while she was in the nursing home she hated, before I had her moved to Hospice  she told me of some of her childhood memories…of the aqua gown she wore to the prom and how it swirled around her as she danced the Lindy and the Turkey Trot. She told me of the excitement of being the one in her family allowed to turn on the lights for the first time when electricity came to the small Vermont village where she lived.
Of course, there are many questions that are unanswered. Somewhere I believe there is a half brother I have never met, part of a secret life my father led during the years I was growing up. I started to pursue the story. Decades after “the other woman” and my father had died I picked up the phone and called the dead woman’s brother. I was the one who had seen her. I knew her name. “Tell me about my father and Irene”, I said. “Carole, let it go” he said. “They are gone now. There is no reason.” I had called given my name and simply asked the question. It was as though I had asked the question in 1950. It was not just my story. The man I think  my dad fathered doesn’t know that we share a father. He thinks he was adopted by a family member. I hang up the phone when I reach him. It is my father’s voice on the other end of the line. I see now the clues that I didn’t see when I was growing up. I feel my mother’s pain and how she wrestled away the power in the family from my father. He allowed her to do that.
 Some questions I tried to ask were left on the table.  I was a mother of two sons at that time.“Tell me about the problems you and my mother had in your relationship “I said. He averted my eyes. “Oh you talk to your mother about that”, he said. Was the relationship ongoing with the other woman? I will never know.
 If I come across as an interviewer when I meet people (which I have been accused of) it I want to climb into that person’s head. Now come the stories of the people I interview for my new venture Carole Nelson Biographies. They hold me enthralled. No one has a boring life. I want that person to leave a footprint, to say:” I was here. This was and is my life, its challenges, its joys; this is what I want people to know about me when I am gone.”  I want to help them to do that. My passion of “making on to believe” has continued all these decade since I first listened to and told stories to my imaginary friend Mary Jane. The stories have only become richer. This picture is of my mother and her parents. I could swear my grandmother is crying.

The idea to do Biographies started in 1998. I had returned recently from a six year stint in Seattle as a full time professor at The Art Institute of Seattle and part time radio host for KVI. I came back to Orlando to do Biographies with Ed Bookbinder who had a very successful video business Visual Impact; it didn’t work out. We had good intentions, but the two biographies we did were anything but what we had envisioned. 
Our first client was one of the richest men in Orlando. He was old now and he wanted his life documented. We had no idea to what extent. I guess it goes back to the adage that money is power and this client had us in his power, at least briefly.  I will call him Bill (not his real name). Bill wanted every aspect of his present and past life documented. That meant pictures from his growing up years in north Florida through his early days as a businessman in Orlando and his present position as President and CEO of one of the biggest businesses in Orlando. That was just the beginning. He wanted me to interview him and Ed to shoot him at so many places we lost count. We shot him doing exercises in his bedroom, at his beach side home, at parties he hosted and business meetings where he presided. I had just come back from Seattle so I had the time; Ed’s video business Visual Impact was flourishing so at times this was a big inconvenience. Perhaps the topper was calling us the night before to tell us he wanted us to fly with him to Atlanta so we could shoot him in his doctor’s office and I could interview his doctor about the ground breaking treatment his was receiving. When we showed up in the examining room not only was there no room for the doctor to move he wasn’t pleased at the intrusion. All of that was lost on Bill; he knew what he wanted. Weeks turned into a month or two. It appeared we were producing Ben Hur. Finally, I did an interview with him in the studio. He seemed visibly rattled that day. Some of his answers made no sense. At one point he told me that we should all be vegetarians because unlike chickens we were not conivores. Right! What a shock to chickens worldwide. Think of all the steak dinners they had missed.
            When Bill received his video he was pleased. It had cost him a lot of money. We charged him for all the travel time and expenses.  Ed was able to edit the final copy down to about an hour and a half with a lot (on the cutting room floor, metaphorically). We hoped future ones would not be so complicated. We were wrong.

Never Say Never

 The second request that Ed Bookbinder and I received to do a Biography was from a dear friend, a woman for whom I have great respect and who had been my mentor. The request seemed impossible to fulfill. She wanted a biography of her father-in-law. Unfortunately, he spoke no English. That meant she would have to translate the questions to him and then translate the answers to me. All the elements that I look for in an interview seemed to be missing. I want rapport with my subject which takes time to establish during a pre-interview. The person has to trust me, to believe that I will help him tell the story to capture the hi-lights of his life and to tell it in a way that will be compelling for relatives, friends and future generations to enjoy. This pre-interview time was not there although the woman told me some of the parts of his story he wanted told. Eye contact is important, but I would have eye contact with no communication between us, just the translator talking. Ed and I agreed to do it. Amazing! This experience taught me not to pre-judge where these interviews could take us. It is one thing to have guidelines, but with Biographies the story can work itself out in many different ways. One part of the interview was especially moving. His eyes filled with tears as his daughter-in-law translated for him of the horrible dilemma he faced at the beginning of World War II. He his wife and sons had come to the states from Hungary before the war broke out. The couple had left their daughters behind to follow them later. They never left. They were sent to a concentration camp. He spent years agonizing over whether or not he should have gone back, if he even could go back. There other parts of his story that were interesting, some riveting. So a biography could be created even with circumstances like these. Ed and I planned to continue with Biographies, but Ed’s business schedule made it impossible for him to find the time to shoot and edit. The interview itself and the shooting may seem to take a short time, but the time writing a script, pouring over the interview to edit it and then editing the video takes hours and hours. I took a job as a marketing director for a studio. Biographies was on the back burner, way back on the burner.

Friday, May 29, 2015

The last years of a life sentence

When I was growing up, even as a young adult, the person I turned to when I needed advice, solace, or just a warm embrace was my grandmother, Nana. From the time I was ten years, my family lived next to her and my grandfather Popo. In the years before I was a teen ager I remember her as the hostess for all the guests who stayed in her tourist home and the  motel they built next to it.. My grandmother was the reason many guests returned often; some became like relatives who visited once or twice a year. It was clear what drew people to her. She was friendly, always a smile or a belly laugh and always eager to talk. At night when guests sat on the wide front porch of the hundred year old house, my grandmother was eager to hear their stories. I was too. My parents were busy next door with a thriving motel business and restaurant. They were up at 5 and didn’t go to bed until the last guest was checked in, sometimes 11. So my grandmother’s front porch was the source of much of my knowledge of the world which existed beyond Rutland, Vermont. My grandmother would serve coffee and one of her Swedish pastries around nine o’clock. I think now it was a way to keep guests on the porch longer. This was her only life. By then, my grandfather was a heavy drinker. He had retired from his job as a mechanic at the Vermont Marble Company. There was little to occupy his time. Usually after he had a few drinks, he would come to the front porch but his presence was always an intrusion. He would rock back and forth on his heels and tell a few stories of his own, stories that had nothing to do with the ongoing conversation. If there was a good looking woman on the porch he wouldn’t leave. He would make lewd comments and launch into dirty jokes until my grandmother ordered him back into the house. He was an embarrassment to all the guests. He was more to my grandmother. He was the albatross around her neck; he had been for decades. At the most they had a tolerance for one another; at the least it was bitter arguments about his drinking. And there was more. This is the man who raped her when she was 21, got her pregnant and then had to marry her. She never forgave him.
Later when I was a young adult she was the one who consoled me over broken romances and held me when my fiancé jilted me a month before the wedding. She murmured consoling thoughts as she held me against her ever expanding body and breasts so flat they appeared not to be there. She had been misdiagnosed as suffering from arthritis so her doctor prescribed heavy doses of steroids. They gave her a pumpkin face and expanded her once trim figure. She had an aneurysm on her knee.
I never thought to have he tell me the story of her life. I have attempted to write her life; I am 300 pages into an historical romance. It is about her life but of course, it is fiction. There are so many unknowns, so many questions I never asked when I was caught up in the drama of my own life. I have tried to put myself back into the early twentieth century to try to imagine her life with a man she hated.  On the day of her fiftieth wedding anniversary, when all the guests had gone, she took her two sisters aside and begged them to take her to the courthouse so she could get a divorce. They refused telling her to enjoy the life she had. Of course, each of them had been happily married for decades. She could never turn to my mother because despite his drinking my mother still loved her father. After all, he had doted on her from the day she was born. If she had told me would I have taken her to the courthouse? Probably not. She was using a walker by then because of the intense pain in her knee, (the aneurysm that was never discovered). Where would she have gone? If she had stayed where would my grandfather had gone? The woman who had grabbed every opportunity that came her way to rise above the life sentence she had been handed was out of opportunities. She told me every night he would get drunk and come into the living room where she sat confined by her walker and he would talk on and on. He finally had someone, a captive audience to his ramblings. I was her bright spot she told me. She looked forward to my coming home first from college and later from out-of-town teaching jobs. She died in October 1961 when the aneurysm moved from her knee to her brain. My mother called me to tell me to come home. I came home that night on a Greyhound bus. My father picked me up at the bus station. “She’s gone”, he said. The pain was intense, more than the pain from the jilting six months before. I never said goodbye. She was buried in the light blue dress she had bought for my wedding. She had never worn it. After the pain subsided I had imaginary conversations with her. When I had a problem, was sad, or just missed her I would hear her say “Oh honeysuckle, it will be all right.” I do it less often now but there are still nights when I hear her whisper in my ear “It’s all going to be ok honeysu