I call it cheap therapy. That gushing, near-religious, poured-from-the-body stress release that comes after writing my heart out for hours each day, delivers more balm to my soul than years of psychoanalysis.
There were eight of them. Eight family members and friends died in five short years. I was a neophyte in this death thing. This clamping-down-on-your-heart, ripping-a-hole-in-your-soul, death thing. It stunk. Badly. I was forty-three when my grandmother died. It floored me. The shock that it could really happen, that they could actually leave me, was overwhelming.
The guilt that had ridden hard on my back for the past twenty years came at me with a rush. I should have visited more. Called more. Written more. But the three baby daughters that we’d had in two years had consumed every ounce of our energy. We’d fallen into bed each night exhausted, and had awakened tired, but happy, each morning. The thought of a ten-hour trip home had seemed insurmountable with three little ones in car seats and diapers. So we put off the visits home for a long, long time.
The next death came in a single, whooshing blow. My colleague at work, with whom I’d shared an office for eight wonderful years, died suddenly of a heart attack. Then my father-in-law, my grandfather, and so on. I struggled to make sense of it. People were disappearing rapidly.
And then it happened. My father was diagnosed with cancer in the same month that his mother died of Alzheimer’s Disease. We had a summer of hope. And then the disease hit again, and he was gone. Gone for good. Gone for real. In six short months, he was diagnosed, treated, and then he disappeared.
I was crushed. Completely shattered. This was bad. The worst.
I walked a lot. I trudged through the autumn woods, as the crispy leaves eddied around my feet. I heard his voice whispering in the breeze. The need to write was insistent. Urgent.
The pieces were gaudy and full of redolent poetry. The words painted my grief. Each time I walked and mourned, I’d return home and write. Again. And again. And again.
Getting the words on paper was a salve for my battered soul. Although I’d always known I would write a mystery series someday, I’d thought it would be when the kids were grown and I had retired.
Then it hit me. I would write a testimony to my father. I’d model my protagonist after Dad. I began to write Double Forté. My hero was a music professor, like Dad. He gardened with a passion, like Dad. He embraced the arts, like Dad. And he assiduously tended to his musical spirit, like Dad. He played Chopin etudes with wild abandon to clear his mind and feed his soul. And he cooked magnificent feasts for his family from his gardens that burgeoned with exotic vegetables.
As the book began to take shape, so did the characters. Gus LeGarde’s secretary, Maddy, became the reincarnation of my Grandma Lena. Oscar and Millie Stone were near replicas of my maternal grandparents. I found comfort in the creation of the scenes that included them. And as the process of writing one book became easier, the next, and the next, and the next flowed effortlessly from my fingertips until I stopped to breathe. I created eight full novels in five short years.
As this healing process provides me with therapy, it also affords an escape to a parallel universe where I control my characters’ destiny. I like it. A lot. I invent the bad guys, neatly dispatch them, rescue my hero from certain death, and cement the intricate relationships between my cast members.
This remarkable outlet allows the creative juices to flow and provides a safe haven for my imagination to flourish. I’m hooked, big time. There’s no stemming the tide. I fight for time to write, feeling cheated if I don’t get my daily “fix. ” And when the latest chapter is keyed in, or the monthly essay penned, a deep sigh of relief is expelled. I’m freed. I’m sated. I’m going to be okay.
Yep. I’m going to be just fine. And best of all, there’s no co-payment.
Aaron Paul Lazar resides in Upstate New York with his wife, three daughters, two grandsons, mother-in- law, two dogs, and three cats. After writing in the early morning hours, he works as an electrophotographic engineer at NexPress Solutions Inc. , part of Kodak's Graphic Communications Group, in Rochester, New York. Additional passions include vegetable, fruit, and flower gardening; preparing large family feasts; photographing his family, gardens, and the breathtakingly beautiful Genesee Valley; cross-country skiing across the rolling hills; playing a distinctly amateur level of piano, and spending “time” with the French Impressionists whenever possible.
Although he adored raising his three delightful daughters, Mr. Lazar finds grandfathering his “two little buddies” to be one of the finest experiences of his life. Double Forte', the first in the series, was published in January 2005. Upstaged, number two, is in production. With eight books under his belt, Mr. Lazar is currently working on the ninth, which features Gus LeGarde and his family. http://www.legardemysteries.com