Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A Loving Tribute to the Most Important Woman In My Life

Today would have been my mom's 75th birthday. Emma Lou Jones Fry. She died with lung cancer last year, and I miss her so much it hurts. Most of you who know me knew that my mom and I were close. But close doesn't even come close to describing our relationship. She was my best friend, my staunchest supporter, and the best mom a girl could could ever have. She believed in me, and if it weren't for her, I would never have began writing.

My husband Danny, two kids Jaymi and Justin, and I moved to Thomasville, North Carolina, in the summer of 1988. My dad had just suffered a heart attack, so leaving my parents was the hardest thing I've ever done. After Daddy recuperated, they came for a visit the following fall. I was never so glad to see anybody in my life. Daddy looked great, and Mom and I had lots and lots of catching up to do. When we began reading the same books back when I was in high school, one of our favorite things to do together was to discuss those books--the characters, the plots, the endings. During their visit to NC, we picked up right where we'd left off. After I concluded one of my quite unfavorable reviews, commenting on how I would have changed this and that, she said, "Diane, you need to write your own book."

Hmmmm, I thought, you mean, all those stories rolling around in my head driving me crazy for the past several years might actually find an outlet? That's when my muse sparked to life. All those characters I had come to know cheered, excited for the chance to finally see their hopes, dreams, and even their worst fears come to life. I can't begin to tell you my joy when I began the creative process of writing, and actually witnessing those stories unfold right before my eyes.

From that moment on, Mom was not only my number one fan, she was my editor. We had loads of fun discussing plot points and character traits of my words on paper. She was a stickler for making sure the hero and heroine stayed true to character. Part of Mom's editorial procedure was to read every word out loud, a process I continue to this very day. You can't imagine how many fits of rolling-on-the-floor giggles we shared when reading aloud the love scenes.

Mom was excited about my current work-in-progress--Rio and Keira's story. There was no doubt in her mind that it would be a best-seller. A true mom, right? And boy, was she. Now that she's gone, I'm a little lost. I feel as if I'm adrift once again, searching for that illusive muse, who seems to be as lost as I am. The story is still there in my head, the first draft roughed out, the first 6 chapters revised, the characters still waiting for me, if a bit impatient. I'm hoping this blog will remind me to believe in myself as my mom believed in me. To find that joy in writing again. To remember the reason I began writing in the first place. To know that my mom will remain in my heart forever, cheering me on.

She left me with another legacy, too, one I treasure above all the rest--the love of family. Because of her unwavering love, I have always felt that same kind of love for my husband Danny and my children Jaymi and Justin. Jaymi, who is now 31 years old was in Texas with me when Mom suffered through her last breath. My sweet daughter's presence saved my life. Together we were stronger, just like my mom and I had always been stronger together.

After Mom's death, while I was still in Texas taking care of my dad, packing up the house, and preparing to move him to North Carolina, my sweet daughter who is now 31 years old called me in tears one day, worried about me. She couldn't bear the thought that I didn't have my mom to talk to whenever I needed her, or just when I wanted to share something with her. Of course, at that point Jaymi and I both were crying, which was SO not going to work. After all, it was my job to dry my baby's tears, right? And all of a sudden, with the softest touch, I felt my mom's presence, and I knew what to say to her, just as if Mom had whispered in my ear. "Tell ya what, sweetheart," I said to Jaymi, "when I need to talk to Mamaw, I promise I'll call you instead." That simple sentence, much to my relief, was enough to spark the laugh I had hoped for.

Justin, my 27 year old son, wasn't there when Mom died. He had come for a visit a couple of weeks earlier, right when I needed him the most. You have to understand, from the moment I arrived in Texas for my yearly visit, totally unaware of my mom's condition, and seeing her for the first time, a ball of terror and anguish settled deep in my heart and wouldn't let go. Even the involuntary act of breathing hurt because I knew I wouldn't have a mom much longer. But the moment I saw Justin's precious face in the airport, an unexplainable peace settled over me. I shouldn't have been surprised. My son has always had the uncanny ability to calm the waters in a stormy sea. He's that steadfast anchor to hold on to during the worst of times. And with a gentle kindness in his soul, he always knows the right words to say, and always with a hug. His presence those few days gave me the courage to face the days ahead.

And then there's my husband Danny. Possibly the greatest legacy my mom left me was her example. She taught me to love my husband through the good times and especially the bad times. I forgot that lesson a time or two, but I always knew that she was right. Today, Danny and I have been married 35 years, and I love, appreciate, and respect him more now than I did when I first fell in love with him in high school. He was the definition of strength and comfort for me during Mom's illness. He was my voice of reason. When I panicked, he talked me off the ledge. When I cried, he listened and cried with me. He had to do it from a distance--a very long distance--but it was enough. It was as if he were there with me.

Best of all, for the five months that I was in Texas, Danny took charge of everything going on at home. The greatest relief for me? I knew he was taking care of the kids--good grief, I sound like a mom, don't I? My kids are grown and married to wonderful people, but a mom--the kind of mom I always wanted to be--the kind of mom my mother was--always worries about her kids no matter how old they are, right? Well, I didn't have to worry. Danny wore my mommy badge with pride. Of course, he about wept with relief when I got home so that I could take over all the daily drama.

So, here's my tribute to you, my mom, my friend. Thanks for sharing a lifetime of laughs with me. Thanks for teaching me to enjoy life no matter the circumstances. And most of all, thanks for always being there. Happy birthday, Mom.

I'd love to hear the special memories you have of your mom. And if your mom is still there for you, I hope you will call her and tell you how much you love her. When Mom's radiation oncologist released her for the final time because there was nothing more he could do for her, it was like a bullet to the heart for both of us. We didn't speak for a while after that. But when I got her home and settled in bed, she asked me if there was something she needed to do. I didn't understand at first, and then it hit me. So I told her, "No, Mom, there's nothing you need to do." I told her lucky we both were not to have the burden of unfinished business. Everyone she cared about knew how much she loved them. Not only did she say the words on a regular basis, she lived those words in everything she did. We all hold that kind of powerful love in our own hands, thanks to the hands of our mothers.

Thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


Don't you just love a good hero? Delicious muscles in all the proper places. Piercing eyes--any color will do. Dark hair, blond, red, salt-and-pepper, gray, long, short, doesn't really matter. A smile that can knock you off your feet. A man who can crush the enemy, yet hold a newborn baby with reverent gentleness. A CEO who can clinch a deal without a shred of emotion, yet will cry quietly at the death of his dog. Of course, I am writing this from a completely biased woman's point of view. But if there are any of you men out there brave enough to read this particular blog, and if you want a step-by-step way to a woman's heart, then read on.

Oh, boy. And how about al those stereotypes we tend to seek out like hungy, hormonal bees to nectar? The boy next door, a tortured soul, the bad boy who is strictly off limits, a loner with secrets. And my personal favorite: the brave soldier who is willing to sacrifice his life for the lives of his fellow soldiers, a man who loves his country enough to die for it, who fights through the terror to take care of business, and understands the true price of freedom.

Even when I was a little girl, instead of watching cartoons on early morning Saturday TV like the rest of my firends, I was watching old reruns of The Lone Ranger, Tarzan, Wagon Train--gotta love that Rowdy Yates (Clint Eastwood for all of you too young to have a clue who I'm talking about)--Gunsmoke, The Rifleman, Old John Wayne movies, and any black-and-white war movie I could find.

My first love (keep in mind, I think I was probably ten years old at the time) was Audie Murphy. He starred in an old war movie about his life as a soldier. That did it for me. I was hooked on military heroes. Strong (in every sense of the word), loyal, brave, tough on the outside yet vulnerable on the inside, and most important of all, they were men of honor. They fought for what they believed in. They always wore white hats, even when those hats were black. And they always saved those weaker and more vulnerable than themselves.

Sigh...is any wonder why I write romance?

So tell me, who are some of your favorite heroes? What are some of the traits or qualities you value in a hero?