Today is an important day. It is my father, Chet Cunningham’s birthday. He’s 86 today.
A couple of weeks ago at Thanksgiving dinner, held at my niece & nephew’s house, his face lit up when he saw me and we hugged. He said he can never get enough hugs, and I believe him. As the kids – well, adults and young adults now – gathered in one room, their elders (oh my goodness, I’m an elder…) gathered in another. Dad and I cozied down on a comfy couch and talked about writing. I was having the devil of a time with the book I was currently writing, and he felt he wasn’t writing enough, either.
I need to get to 347 on the wall, he says. When I give him a confused smile, he nods. I’ve got 346 books published, need to get to number 347. Taking a long time. Glad I’m with Wolfpack Publishing, he says.
He says he only gets maybe an hour in the morning, but after lunch he’ll get in a good three hours of writing. After dinner, he will watch football, then head to his office for another hour before watching the ten o’clock news.
Five hours, he says, shaking his head. Not what I used to be able to do.* But I enjoy my naps.
That’s more than I get done, I tell him. His hands are in mine, and they feel so very
precious. The skin is thin, his veins bulge across the back, and his fingers are oddly shaped by arthritis. He catches me looking at them.
This one hurts, he says, rubbing his ring finger on his right hand. These other two, they don’t hurt anymore, but this one does. Except when I’m writing, then I don’t feel them at all. And he shakes his head.
That’s because the story catches you, and you forget about your aches and pains, I say. Me, too, Daddy.
My own fingers have been aching, when I’ve had a long day at work and then go home to write. I kiss his gnarled fingers and wonder if mine will look that way when I’m 85. I can’t even fathom that much time passing from right now.
He puts his forehead against mine. I’m gonna be 86 in a couple of weeks, he says.
I know. I’m so sorry we can’t come down to see you on your birthday, I tell him.
He shakes his head a bit. Both my parents died at 86. Then he gets a twinkle in his eye. I’m gonna beat them, he says.
My heart clutches just a little bit. I know you are, Daddy, I say. You’ve got to make it to at least 350 novels published.
Yeah. That’s the ticket, he says, and we laugh.
Happy birthday, Daddy. Here’s to book number 347, and may they all continue to sell.
*Chet’s schedule, when I was in school, went something like this: write from 9:30am to noon, have lunch. Write from 1:00pm to 4:30pm, then come out and be with the family until after dinner. Write from 6:30pm to 11:00pm, then watch the news and wrap up with Johnny Carson.
He’s my hero.
Find his books…Pony Soldiers
Other books with Wolfpack Publishing