Tuesday, December 1, 2009

William Meacham

I like to write about writing because the actual writing process for me has been an obsession since before I could actually form letters on page with a pencil. But when I could, my mother took full advange of paper and pencil to, well, frankly, shush my constant "prattling," as she called it.

Yet before I could actual employ pencil to paper, I had to learn to read. My first word was "Look."

I remember clearly that word on the first page of my First grade reader (the one with Dick and Jane and Sally and Puff, the cat).

Odd how we remember with such clarity some things while other moments never get burned into out memories. I mean life's simple moments whose complexities we come to understand only later.

My first memory: Large black chunks fall away from the sky, revealing the colors of the blue sky. I know I am in the back yard of the cottage where my family lived on my grandparents huge swatch of land on the southside of Indianapolis. Above my head, dangling from my cousin Tommy's muddy fingers is wriggling worm. "Eat it," he says. "Eat it." But then Tommy is brutally pushed aside, and I feel saved. "Get away from my sister," the brute/savior says.

It seems my older brother, Bill, was always saving me from one thing or another while we were growing up. Most of the time he didn't even need to be present. All I had to do was threaten to sic Bill -- who was quite tall for his age and looked much meaner than he was -- on the offender and that proved enough. "Billy Meacham is your brother?" Nuff said.

Through all these many years, he and I have stayed in touch, never forgetting each other's birthdays or Christmas, but we fell away from being as close as we were as children and teenagers. I often tell my girls not to blink because life sweeps away so quickly, but when it came to my big brother, I failed to heed my own advice.

Twenty years passed since we last actually saw each other. Twenty years.

Sadly, my big brother and I came together again in the same place because he was dying. The savior of my first memory had panceatic cancer, the same demon that took our father 25 years ago.

One of the last gifts my brother gave me was a copy of the book with "Look." (He and I had each been hungry readers while growing up. How well I remember his stack of westerns beside the bed in his room.)

Last month, my brother slipped away while he slept. He had been in much pain. He didn't want any sort of memorial, but I think he simply said that because he figured no one would give him one. The brute/savior was a simple and kind man with a terrific sense of humor. He held strong political opinions, yet carried his 6'6" frame with such gentleness.

There are things I will miss about my brother, and things I can never miss because I allowed 20 years to whiz past. But I have the sound of his voice in my brain: "Hello, Judy? This is Bill."

William Anderson Meacham III, born to William A. Jr., and Mary Ann (Gorman) Meacham, in Indianapolis, IN, June 20, 1945, died November 6, 2009, in Rantoul, IL, at his home. He was a mechanic and antique dealer. He leaves his wife, Norma; three step-daughters, Robin McNish, Tami Benniger, and Teri Bailey; sisters Judy Rohrig (Byron) and Kathy Meacham; four step-grandchildren, Nathan and Joshua Hayn, Cody Shinker, and Brad Bailey; two nieces, Kristin and Rebekah Rohrig; one nephew, Bart Meacham; three step-grandchildren, Austin Hayn, Gavin and Emma Nicole Shinker; Two great-nephews Aidan and Micah Owen; a great-niece Ona Meacham; numerous cousins; his life-long best friend Dennis Dailey (Denise); and his best buddy, Molly dog.

A memorial service is being planned for a later date where his ashes will be scattered in the Ohio River at Madison, IN.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

No One Thing But the Other

"The dirt under your boots tells a story"
from the November/December issue of Cook's Illustrated magazine editorial
Christopher Kimball

On those heat-soaked August afternoons of my childhood when nothing seemed to assuage my doldrums, my mother used to offer me a cup of crisply sliced green peppers. She always had something to say, too. "Sometimes people travel all over the place looking for happiness. 'If only I could this... or that... or have money... or...' Well, you've heard them. And you know what? More often that not, happiness is staring you right in the face."

I know this falls along the line of how the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, but with writers, the number one question asked by others is "Where do you get your ideas?"

"Grass is always greener..."

"Happiness is staring you right in the face."

"The dirt under your boots tells a story."

Wise words to writers from the editor and founder of Cook's Illustrated, a magazine for people into cooking? Actually, even though I love all that the magazine has to offer in recipes and tips, it's Kimball's monthly editorial that I relish first and devour with a passion. Any one of his columns provides a kicking-off for writing what Joe R. Lansdale referred to as a "hand on the shoulder."

In ON WRITING HORROR, a handbook published by Writers Digest Books and writing by members of the Horror Writers Association, Lansdale contends that most writer miss the gold mines they're in. "We stand there with our pick and shovel, we look about, and though the walls glow brightly with strains of gold, we squint our eyes against the light, reach down, and pick up iron pyrites instead of gold."

It takes no time at all to realize what Lansdale scrapes from his boots includes swamp muck and dry dirt from East Texas. In most of his works, his settings darn-near become additional characters.

I like to think his mother inspired him to look at what was staring him in face. I know my own stories all seem to at least touch a toe anywhere from Central Indiana to Northern Kentucky. Not that the fantasy writer in me doesn't dream of or appreciate distant worlds...

"Grass is always greener..."

It's just my characters must have been listening to my mother...

"Happiness is staring you right in the face."

And the writer in me can be inspired by a cooking magazine editor...

"The dirt under your boots tells a story."