01 March 2013

Lost


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.

9 comments:

Fran Rizer said...

R.T., thanks for a beautiful tribute to a lady who sounds like a wonderful fan and mother-in-law. Please accept my sympathy to you, your wife, and the rest of your family.

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your loss, RT. What a blessing to have had such a good relationship with your mother-in-law and a family member who loved your writing, neither to be taken for granted.

John Floyd said...

That's a great tribute, R.T. Sincere condolences for your loss.

Eve Fisher said...

R.T., condolences, sympathy and prayers. It's always hard to lose a parent, and why does it always happen in winter? (My best friend up here just lost her mother last week.) The old order passes - and the missing them goes on for a very long time. It's also a very strange feeling as we then step up to be the next "old order"...

I remember you writing me about taking a copy of one of my stories to her and how much she enjoyed them. Thank you for letting me know how much she liked them.

Robert Lopresti said...

Our sympathies for your loss, R.T. Wonderful piece. You and Kiti are very lucky to have had her in your lives so long. Reminded me of the fact that when I found out my first story was published I sat down to dinner, but my parents rushed out to a newsstand, so they actualy got a copy before I did.

Robert Lopresti said...

Our sympathies for your loss, R.T. Wonderful piece. You and Kiti are very lucky to have had her in your lives so long. Reminded me of the fact that when I found out my first story was published I sat down to dinner, but my parents rushed out to a newsstand, so they actualy got a copy before I did.

David Dean said...

Truly wonderful tribute to a lovely lady, R.T. She would be proud of your writing once more.

I was fortunate to have had a similar relationship with my father-in-law. He considered me Irish-by-marriage and we spent many an evening discussing God and politics over a whiskey...or two.

My condolences to you and Kiti. It's a tough loss.

Dixon Hill said...

I know how you feel, buddy. Sincerest condolences to you and your wife.

--Dix

R.T. Lawton said...

Thanks one and all for your sentiments. I've long thought that Sleuth Sayers is a great group to be a part of, and you just reinforced that opinion, yet again.