Sunday, May 21, 2000
What Is Love? got its debut at the Marketplace across from the Cotton Pickin' Fair in Gay last weekend, and, believe me, it was a labor of love.
Those two days gave me more exposure to the sun than I had throughout the entire summer last year. I am allergic to sunlight and I am still swelled and miserable from the weekend.
But, for once, I am not moaning and groaning in pain. I'm too excited, and besides, the pain and edema will all probably be gone in another week or so. But the book will still be here.
About 10 or 11 years ago, Dr. John Stone, cardiologist, poet and dean of admissions at Emory Medical School, invited me to come hear him read some of his work. I was mesmerized. New to the literary scene at the time, I was unaware how absolutely awesome a good reading could be. And believe me, Dr. Stone knows how to read, and write.
So, after the reading, he invited me to his office to share with me other pieces that were in the works. He also showed me a poem in the shape of an apple, a gift from a friend. He was in awe of it and I suppose I was, too. The format had a name. He told me what it was. I don't remember.
That day I went home and tried my hand at writing something in the shape of something. I ended up with What IS Love written in the shape of a heart. Then I filed it away. Yep, for more than a decade, I just sat on it.
Then, a little more than a month ago, that heart-shaped piece emerged from its place of storage and began to take on a life of its own. In just under four weeks from my first consultation with a printer, I had the book in hand.
Not without growing pains, of course, but I had the book in my possession ready to make it available to others. And that's when the fun began... when the joy became so great that I have been able to forget about my own physical misery most days.
And that, by the way, is what I think may have been the catalyst for publishing this little book now. My health has not been what I'd like it to be over the past year, and I suddenly got to thinking, If things keep getting worse, someday might not come.
You all know what someday means, don't you? Someday you are going to do this or that, look up this person or that person, go visit this place or that place, take art or music lessons, write a book or plant a garden...
For the past 14 years, in this column in one way or another, I have told you a hundred times or more there is only one thing I can't bear. That's regret.
Maybe that's the reason I tend to be so impulsive, (though the years have slowed me down a tad). Was there ever a time you wanted to do something really important, something special, something only you could do... and you passed up the opportunity until it was too late?
One of my more painful memories is of the little lady in the nursing home in Sylvester. When I was 19, I taught a Sunday School class of teens younger than I was. It was a very small church, but there were eight or ten of us and every Monday evening we went to the local nursing home to visit the seniors. We all had our adopted residents. Oh, we took goodies and tried to speak to one and all, but we each adopted one person with whom we tried to spend quality time every Monday evening.
On one visit, my feeble little friend asked me to bake her some chocolate chip cookies and bring them back before my next visit, before the following Monday night. I was quite busy and did not get around to it until Sunday. Then I baked the cookies in the afternoon and was preparing to deliver them when some young friends showed up and wanted me to go fly kites with them. I wrapped the cookies and sealed them in an airtight container, certain they would be just as good on Monday night at my routine visit with my elderly friend.
The following evening the cookies were fine, but my friend was dead. She had died that Sunday night. That's what I mean about regret.
What IS Love? is out. I will have no regrets over never having published it. It's not chocolate chip cookies, but it is food for the soul. I have already seen a number of men and women choke up while reading it. Others have giggled, or just smiled. Then they have turned to me and hugged me and thanked me. And you know how I feel about hugging. This little book may turn out to be the most fun thing I have ever done!
I'm feeling better already.