This post is part of an interview series featuring the authors of Family Stories from the Attic, an anthology of essays, creative nonfiction, and poetry inspired by family letters, objects, and archives. Monday posts are featured on the Hidden Timber Books website, and Wednesday posts are featured here. Learn more about Family Stories from the Attic at the bottom of this post. Without further ado, let’s meet Nancy Martin, author of “The Teetotaler.”
Q: Did you write “The Teetotaler” with a particular person or reader in mind?
Nancy: When I wrote “The Teetotaler” I was really thinking of two people– my daddy, the teetotaler in the story and my son. My son’s full name is Wayne Arthur Martin, named for both of his grandfathers. Wayne the younger, grew up visiting with Wayne the older (my father-in-law) and reading his stories as we worked on Patton’s Lucky Scout, a book of the older Wayne’s stories from his time in WWII. However, Wayne the younger doesn’t know as much about his other namesake, my dad Arthur Brown. My son was only two years old when my father died.
When my father’s declining health worsened in 1998, we quickly caught a flight from Wisconsin to Kentucky. We went straight from the airport to the hospital. There medical staff warned us that Daddy was already “unresponsive”–that he may still be able to hear us, but we were probably too late to get any response. They were wrong.
Carrying my young son to Daddy’s hospice bedside, I set Wayne right on the bed next to Daddy. In as chipper a voice as I could manage I said, “Thought you might like to see your grandson.” It did seem to take effort, but my Daddy opened his eyes and managed a trace of a smile. Then daddy closed his eyes and his face relaxed.
While Daddy’s last year had been difficult, he held on to life. He hung on to celebrate his 50th wedding anniversary with my mom that August. He hung on to see his only grandchild one more time. And he hung on to life until November 1st, as his last gift to his wife. Mom feared he would die on Halloween and for her that would have made his death even worse.
My son Wayne sometimes demonstrates the same determination, you might even say stubbornness, of my Daddy, his grandfather. I want Wayne to know where that comes from. My story about Daddy being a Teetotaler, I hope, shows Wayne how daddy was a man of his word.
Q: How has the publication of your piece influenced the work you are writing today or your writing in general?
Nancy: Over the last several years, I have been helping others write their stories and toying with starting a blog that concentrates on memoir. Having Daddy’s story accepted for this anthology was another push for me to go ahead and launch my blog, Butterfly Drive. It’s fledgling, but I hope it will encourage others to write their own Family Stories From The Attic.
Q: What books are you reading at the moment?
Nancy: These days I find myself drawn to reading memoirs. I’m just finishing up Families, by Wyatt Cooper. It is a 1976 memoir written by Anderson Cooper’s father. I tracked it down after reading The Rainbow Comes and Goes, the memoir Anderson wrote with his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt. I sat that book aside to read Simpatico, written by one of my storytellers, Joan Kuraitis. I’m proud to say she is the second person from one of my memoir groups that I have encouraged to publish her book. The other one being Following the Lines, by Irene Litz-Barre.
I encourage everyone to read memoirs and to also write their own experiences. There are lots of good true stories out there, one of them may be hiding in your attic.
Connect with Nancy
Family Stories from the Attic features nearly two dozen works of prose and poetry inspired by letters, diaries, photographs, and other family papers and artifacts. Editors Christi Craig and Lisa Rivero bring together both experienced and new writers who share their stories in ways that reflect universal themes of time, history, family, love, and change.