My father came to my last book talk. For those of you squinting, tilting your heads, and doing the math… Yes, he departed this world twenty-four years ago, but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t enjoy a good haunt. We’re family, after all.
This book talk was at the local library and the program director introduced me to a man before the talk started. He was a generation older than me, sitting in the back row wearing a ball cap. His faded eyes narrowed as he stood up. The first thing he told me was that people usually got really mad at him when he came to things like this. He didn’t smile.
That was when I recognized something familiar in this contrary old man. Lots of us have complicated relationships with our fathers. It’s a love so humorless and fierce that it can feel like hate. I’ve tried to make peace with that dark love forever, but I’ve settled for getting better at recognizing it dressed up like someone who knows what buttons to push. Not that my father would have gone to a book talk during his life. Unless it was Louis L’Amour at the local pancake house.
The book talk started by playing my book trailer on a projector. I am so sweet on that trailer; the music makes me mushy. Then I read a couple of passages and answered a few questions. After we adjourned, the old man came to me and announced that he disagreed with me on a few things. He said he was against five acre horse properties. I nodded; it would be fine with me if we all had more land. He said all he ever rode where rescue horses; that he retrained them. So I thanked him for helping the horses.
See how good I’ve gotten at this? I used to be more defensive but I’m the one who thinks you can improve family relationships post-death. It wasn’t obvious at first; I’d get aggravated by someone, or even just uncomfortable. It would stick in my brain until it dawned on me that it wasn’t them at all, but a splinter of memory, still festering. And I had one more chance to get it right.
Then the big finale… he told me that all my horses were therapy horses and that was fine for me. He was dismissive of my training methods. His horses needed to earn their feed and not just stand around, he said, and this positive training thing didn’t work. He’d seen Parelli, he said. He gestured with both hands, wet his teeth, preparing to tell me the biggest, filthy-worst thing–that he’d seen Parelli hit a horse. I wish that was news but he’s nowhere near the first person to make that claim. He was looking at me hard, waiting for a response. First, I did the thing horses taught me. I took a breath and exhaled, to slow things down. My shoulders dropped and I smiled. I told him that I grew up just like him; riding the bad horses until they were good horses. He’s like lots of horsemen who think women are too soft to train horses, so I assure him that I’m not the one who baby talks and carries treats in my pocket; I like a good working horse as much as he does. And I thanked him for coming.
Just as he turned to go, he leaned close again and whispered, “I liked that you did what you had to do. And that you said how it felt.” and he was gone. Was that a compliment? It’s crazy what you think you hear when the blood isn’t pounding in your ears.
THIS WEEK: If you’d like a signed book, there’s a link above. This Saturday, the 19th from 2-4pm, I’ll be at The Tack Collection, 104 N Harrison Ave, Unit A, in Lafayette, Colorado. (303-666-5364) It’s my first stop in Northern Colorado and I hope to see you there.
And there is a bit of finger drumming, as I wait for the new year. The second book, Relaxed & Forward, Relationship Advice from Your Horse is ready for the final proof process, but rather than letting it get lost in the holiday rush, I’m waiting for 2016. Impatiently.
BTW: If you’ve already left a review on Amazon, thank you, and if it isn’t too much, please consider asking your friends to do the same. It takes a village for an indie book to float–a boisterous, insistent village who calls all the neighbors in to help. As always, I’m in your debt. Thank you for supporting Stable Relation.
When I moved to my farm, I wanted to tell my father. Even after he passed, seeking his disapproval was a habit hard to break. At the same time, there’s a peace that comes with realistic expectations. So I don’t wonder what my father would have thought of my book. He would never have read it. We both know I’m no Louis L’Amour.