Apr. 2, 2009

A Fatherís Pain

by Larry Smith

My father ignored his pain,
rode it out without complaint—
high threshold they call it now.

He worked as a brakeman in snow and rain.
Once he pulled his own back tooth,
held the pain in his side one time
till it burst his appendix, then
lay in a hospital bed for days.

He wasnít hard on us kids,
never struck us, took us to
doctors and dentists when needed.
He used to sing in the car
bought us root beers along the road.
He loved us with his deeds.

The day he died, he played golf
in the morning, came home,
muffling the pain in his arm,
went upstairs and lay down.

"A Father's Pain" by Larry Smith, from A River Remains. © WordTech Press, 2006. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of Giacomo Casanova, (books by this author) born in Venice (1725). In 1785, he retired to a castle in Bohemia, where he set out to write his memoirs. He left behind 4,000 pages of manuscript, later published as The History of My Life. His memoir made him into a legendary hero, famous for seducing women.

It's the birthday of novelist Émile Zola, (books by this author) born in Paris (1840). He was 19 years old and working as a shipping clerk when Charles Darwin's book On the Origin of Species (1859) came out. Zola was struck with the relevance of Darwin's theories to everyday life, particularly the life of the poor, who had to struggle constantly to survive. Zola wrote a 20-novel cycle, which includes The Drunkard (1877), Nana (1880), and Germinal (1885).

He said, "If you ask me what I came into this life to do, I will tell you: I came to live out loud."

And, "There are two men inside the artist, the poet and the craftsman. One is born a poet. One becomes a craftsman."

It's the birthday of Hans Christian Andersen, (books by this author) born in Odense, Denmark (1805). His mother was a washerwoman, and his father was a shoemaker who loved literature, read to young Hans from the Bible and Arabian Nights, and took him to see plays. But when Hans was 11 years old, his father died, and the family was so poor that he had to go to work in a factory. He was extremely tall and effeminate, and one day some of the other workers pulled down his pants because they suspected that he was a girl. To help him escape his miserable life, his grandmother told him elaborate stories about how he was actually descended from royalty.

When Andersen was 14, he moved to Copenhagen, and eventually he landed a spot in the Royal Theater singing school and the Royal Theater ballet. He wrote a few short plays, and when he was 21, he wrote a poem that became hugely popular. He wrote travel pamphlets about his journeys across Europe and the Middle East. In 1835, he finished his first novel, The Improvisatore: or, Life in Italy. He was waiting for it to be published and he desperately needed money for rent, so he quickly wrote and published a pamphlet containing four fairy tales. It was such a big success that he published a new collection of fairy tales every Christmas for the next few years. He started off by retelling stories he had heard growing up, but then he began making up his own. His stories include "The Little Mermaid," "The Emperor's New Clothes," "The Snow Queen," "Princess and the Pea," and "The Nightingale." "The Ugly Duckling" is considered his most autobiographical tale.

The stories were severely cleaned up for children when they were translated, so many people outside Denmark mistakenly think of Andersen's fairy tales as lighthearted. In their original form, many of the stories are dark and have tragic endings.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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