FATHER’S DAY: Why I became a writer

My father taught me to read and write when I was four years old. He also taught me to tell time that same year. My dad and mom read every evening after supper, so I could hardly wait to join them.

Dad also tucked me in every night and sang to me. On the days his clients allowed, he took me with him to work. Dad was a painter and paper hanger — in other words, an artist. Back then, painters had to mix their own paints, match colors, and all paint was linseed oil based. Dad knew all the tricks to create faux wood and so on. He would also create a stencil for clients who wanted it. One woman had him create a stencil to match her china, then stencil the wall just above the chair rail, all the way around.

Paper hanging meant matching patterns, mixing your own paste, cutting and hanging in room after room. Ceilings were papered as well as walls, and there were borders to hang at the top of the walls. Dad was fast, neat, and meticulous. I loved to watch him, in his white overalls, long sleeved shirt, and white painter’s cap. I loved to “help” him when he would let me.

Dad didn’t speak unless he had something to say. We spent a lot of time just being quiet together.

Because my Dad took such good care of me, spent so much time with me, and taught me the value of silence, I learned to think, to dream, and to be proud of my creativity.

I didn’t have long with him. He died suddenly of a massive heart attack when he was only 42, and I was 7. I am lucky to have so many memories of him. Because he taught me the value of books, I became a writer. I started writing a few months after he died.