Novels

About Adrian

 

So, who am I and why do I think I'm the right guy to tell this story?

First part is easy: 1947 boomer, Viet Nam vet, and UW graduate. I’m talking Washington here, not Wisconsin or Wyoming. Most of my studies centered on literature and creative writing, what else. I’m also an inveterate, over-committed critique group participant, and a member of a local writers group, Just Write on Whidbey, and the Pacific Northwest Writers Association.

Not sure I like labeling myself, but the truth as I see it is that each of us carries labels like these. If you’re my age or a bit younger, the post-war 50s shaped your life in ways both clearly understood and ethereal as a watermark. We’re boomers, with all the pride felt for igniting the 60s revolution, and all the disenchantment from what we have failed to deliver. Still, we have much to like about our generation. Good things happened. Like the civil rights movement, which focused first on race, then gender, then sexual orientation. Plenty of work left to be done, but a good start was made during our tenure.

Viet Nam is another story. I have one important thing to say about being a Viet Nam vet: the war is always with us; it does not go away. It has colored our lives and sensibilities. We are not unique, though. All wars linger. Are the current conflicts worth fighting? I have my opinions but hesitate to pass judgment. But this much I know is true: 44 years have passed since I first ran across the tarmac in Da Nang, and I fear we have learned little.

But what does all the above have to do with writing a story about a boy with a bipolar mother and an old man with Alzheimer’s? Why should I be the one to write this?

It’s all about narrative. I don’t mean the story I’ve written, I mean mine, the story I’ve told myself about me. You each have one of those if you think about it. It builds over your lifetime in fits and starts. For me, that’s where the labels come in, boomer and vet. I have some others as well. Father of a bipolar son. That face I see in the mirror, not truly bipolar, but enough to say I know what it’s like. And I’ve seen my share of Alzheimer’s in my extended family.

But I suppose the real reason I wrote Taking Flight is simpler. I found a wonderful poem written by David Hollies titled, Lost and Found. It came to me at a time when I was just beginning to imagine my protagonist, a man dealing with mid-stage Alzheimer’s, knowing the end of memory was in sight. It’s my own worse nightmare. I wanted to know what it would feel like. That’s when I stumbled upon David Hollies’ poem. It showed me an opening through the dementia hedge, a place of acceptance, fear-free and gentle. I used that to build my character. Of course, a story changes in the telling, or at least mine do. I found a new protagonist. I kept the crusty old character, Harry, in and out of clarity, often confused about to whom he is speaking, but re-engaged by the 13-year-old boy, Jay, who becomes his sidekick on their journey. What they learn together about love turns out to be what I learned too.