by R.T. Lawton
One month ago today, I lost my greatest fan, Bernadean G. Carlson. She was my mother-in-law, an excellent teacher of children and a great lady. Turned out she also liked my short stories and seemed pleased to have a writer in the family, especially since she was such an avid reader. I married her oldest daughter thirty-two years ago, but I'm pretty sure that's not why Bernie enjoyed my writing. She and I discussed books and writing almost every time we got together.
As a fifth grade teacher, Bernie got copies of my 22 children's stories as they came out in Recess and Time Out, statewide publications for 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th grade students, over a period of years, about 4 or 5 a year. Of course it may have been a personal bias (she was closely acquainted with the author) because her classes always read and discussed those stories in the class room. Once, I even received a batch of handwritten letters in the mail from one of her classes. They were writing to say thanks and to talk about their feelings on one of those stories. I just hope they weren't writing to me merely so they could get a good grade.
Can't say that Bernie was overjoyed with my day time job, but she soon saw how some of those experiences came out in my mystery stories. She even gave me permission, one time when we came to town for a visit, so a local bookie could come out to her house where I could interview him in her dining room without all his pals seeing him out in public with a federal law enforcement officer. Otherwise, the circumstances would definitely have ruined his reputation. The information I received that afternoon about the inner workings of a nationwide gambling organization became fodder for a short story series. If it hadn't been for the fact that this interview was for the creation of stories, she'd have been mortified to have a criminal in her home. But, since I had a gun, the bookie appeared to be no more than a good boy put on the wrong path by a down-turning economy and she would be out shopping during that time, it would be okay, just this once.
Bernie had her favorite characters in my four AHMM series and would frequently ask what Theodore in the Twin Brothers Bail Bonds and the Little Nogai Boy in the Armenian series were up to next. She took great pleasure in hearing how that little boy got his own story as requested by the editor in Manhattan while her daughter and I had breakfast with that same editor. Naturally, I sent Bernie a personalized copy of each story as it got published in AHMM, and she proudly showed these publications to friends and other relatives.
Some of you may remember about this time last year when I ran a contest on the blog site for the best breakfast recipe. That was one of the times when my wife Kiti was back in eastern South Dakota taking care of her mother for a few weeks while I stayed home in Colorado and took care of two of our grandsons. Testing those recipes took a full week. Every morning, the boys got served a different recipe for breakfast before I drove them over to their local elementary school for classes. At the table, each boy had his own score card where they rated that morning's dish in several different categories on a scale from 1 to 10. These rating sessions often became loud and lively as the boys compared notes and numbers. In the end, we had to have two winners to keep peace in the family. Telling of these shenanigans helped buoy the spirits of Mom while she was undergoing recovery from the chemo and radiation treatments for her cancer. It also helped to lighten Kiti's burden too. I thanked you guys then and I thank you again now.
But, like I said in the beginning, I lost my greatest fan. The medical treatments were too harsh and had to be discontinued. She ended up in a nursing home, unable to remain in her own house. It took a year more, but Bernadean G. Carlson finally passed over at 11 PM on Friday, February 1st, in the arms of her two daughters. Bernie will be greatly missed by all on this end, and there will be a very large gap in my very small fan base.
Sad to say, but Eve Fisher lost a fan too. Bernie very much enjoyed Eve's AHMM stories set in small town South Dakota. It was like those stories were set just down the road from Mom's house.
Well, time to go.
Rest easy, Mom.