In 1999, I hired a”professional” editor (Tom Case of White Horse Press), who advised me to delete a minor character, the nephew of protagonist Paul Henry Eisen. I deleted Henry.
Fifteen years later I happened across an old photo of my grandfather as a young man:
Emily Henry (center), you’re going right back into my novel. But it’s not the same. Grandpa, I want to walk into the Tall Corn tavern in Waverly, play a hand of Schopfskopf (you’ll have to teach me the card game first) and share a pitcher of beer with you. You never owned a telephone even though you died in 1975, or I’d have called to ask, “Do you have Prince Albert in a tin?” (Of course you did; that was all you smoked in that pipe) “Well, you’d better let him out!” Bwa ha ha!
You’re immortalized now in a landscape Tim did in pastels, that pipe clenched in your jaws, silhouetted against a flaming sunset.
Grandpa, you were the cutest little old man ever. We loved you to bits.
I want to meet this man in the photo, this familiar stranger, who I knew only as a bald little man in OshKosh pinstribe bib overalls and crooked hands, which were deformed by rheumatoid arthritis, supposedly a consequence of Scarlet Fever, during which he allegedly insisted on crawling to the milk born to make sure nobody screwed up the job. My dad (competent at all things, from infancy) at age ten took over most of the farmwork thanks to his father’s debilitated hands (and whatever else Grandpa suffered). Why didn’t I inherit those teeth strong enough to bite a dent into a ten-penny nail? Not a cavity in all his life, but Grandma had to get dentures.
Only one son, one great-grandson carries Emily Henry’s genes (but plenty of granddaughters do). Our son Miles inherited those European cheekbones.
HUG YOUR GRANDPA (and Grandma!) while you can.
WWI Joseph Aaron Usher Sr. (1820 image) emigrated from Ireland in 1800 with brother Aaron. Two brothers married two sisters, Ruby and Sarah, Algonquins. Photo via Nancy Panoch (author of Accountable). Nancy and I are direct descendants of Joseph and Ruby. In the 1920s, two Usher sisters married two Demro brothers (whose grandfather emigrated from Prussia).
my dad’s dad + my husband’s mother = Paul Eisen and his wife in “Ironwolf”