During the month of November 2018, my short story collection, Sons of Steel, made a grand total of $21.44 in sales. Four print books and 2 ebooks. Not a lot, by any means. This morning, I donated all $21.44 in sales to the American Diabetes Association in honor of my late uncle, Alan.
I didn’t know him well. In fact, I only have two vivid memories of him. Once, we visited him and his family during a summer trip back to my parents’ hometown. He was making honey flavored lollipops in the oven—a practice I’d never seen before. His youngest son had gotten a new coat from somewhere for the upcoming winter. My uncle leaned down to his son’s level and pulled him close in a fatherly embrace (I remember my cousin squirming to get free) and my uncle asked him ‘Is it blue?’ I knew Alan was blind, but I don’t think it hit me until right then that he couldn’t see the coat. I remember wondering how Alan knew what the color blue looked like.
My second memory of him, happened when I was older, but sometime before I’d turned fourteen. Again, we were visiting him in my parents’ hometown. Alan was living alone, divorced. My mother, sisters, and I took him to a local department store. After getting out of the car, we started walking through the parking lot and Alan put his hand on my shoulder. Just like that, I was his eyes. It was a surreal feeling. Such responsibility on my part. Such trust on his.
By the time I’d turned fourteen, Alan’s health had steadily declined. Part of one foot was amputated. That same year, he died tragically. Struck by a vehicle as he crossed the street. He lingered in the hospital for a few days, maybe weeks, before he was gone.
I was devastated. His was the first death of someone I knew. Someone I’d spoken to and interacted with. It shocked me how upset I was, though. After all, it wasn’t like we’d been close. He was my mother’s brother. Someone I’d met a few times over the course of my lifetime. Yet, his life impacted me greatly.
In many ways he represented hope and possibilities. Alan had owned his home. He’d once developed and operated his own business—even while blind. In my mind, he was the epitome of success, and I wanted to grow up to be successful somehow.
So, why now, after all these years make a donation in his memory? Because when the idea for Sons of Steel came to me, I’d been telling my youngest daughter about Alan. About his gumption for continuing to live despite his blindness and disease. About how much he’d accomplished in his young life. And I knew that the next book I wrote would have a blind baker in it, modeled loosely after this man who’d inspired me.
It took me years to write
but throughout the process, Alan was right there, lodged in my memory and in my heart as I wrote. The main character in “Blind Guy in a Bar” is my fictional version of Alan. He makes another appearance in “Out of Luck” --that was a tough one to write.
If you don’t yet have a copy of Sons of Steel (or if you have a copy in your TBR pile), I hope you’ll be as inspired by Alan’s fictional version as I was by the real man. It’s highly likely I didn’t do his character justice, but I’m forever grateful I had the chance (and the words) to make him immortal and allow his memory to live on forever.
As for future Novembers, I think I’ll make this ADA donation an annual thing. #LetsCureDiabetes