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Caring for a declining parent is very hard. It can be a full-time job. It takes over your life. The funny thing is that when it’s over, you can feel adrift, because suddenly your life is your own again, and you don’t know what to do with it. But this feeling passes.

Some people who’ve read my story may take it as more autobiographical than it is. Since it’s a very short story, it presents the main character in essentially one mood throughout - lassitude and resignation. I’ve been in this mood, of course, but only sometimes. One reason it took me more than a year to write eight pages was that I only worked on it when I was feeling worn out. In other moods, I didn’t relate to it.

In general, readers think fictional characters "are" the author in ways that they usually aren’t. One reader criticized me because a character in one of my books disparaged Bruce Springsteen. As a big fan of The Boss, he was offended. Truth is, I like Springsteen. But my character doesn’t. The same character (sort of an antihero) murders people for money, when they "deserve it." I don’t do that, either.

The other thing about short stories is that they have to be pared down to bare essentials. Possibly the best short story ever written is "The Cask of Amontillado," by Edgar Allan Poe. It’s all about one character's revenge on another - yet we never learn what their quarrel is actually about. The entire back story is omitted. You couldn’t do this in a novel, but in a short story it works to perfection.

Ah Ro, you said that, “Sometimes I feel like I was put on this earth specifically to take care of my dad.” I too often feel this way about my mother and I tend to agree with Michael, that, “The funny thing is that when it’s over, you can feel adrift, because suddenly your life is your own again, and you don’t know what to do with it. But this feeling passes.”

I might agree with Michael, except that the ‘adrift’ feeling seems to be increasing in me as the years go on. That could be due to other things or lack of things in my life but I do feel that perhaps my purpose in this lifetime is almost finished. I find it increasingly difficult to be motivated by anything now. I am trying to fight against that feeling but it isn’t easy to do as the weakness of age creeps doggedly on. - AOD

“it presents the main character in essentially one mood throughout - lassitude and resignation. I’ve been in this mood, of course, but only sometimes.”

Glad to hear that it’s only sometimes. And I can relate. Just emerged from a few days of feeling that sort of apathy/despair (prompted by a brief medical scare), so I understand the longing for death.

Which reminds me that the wonderful Kenneth Ring has just published a gentle memoir called Waiting To Die. Cozy reading for us older folk who vacillate between wanting/not wanting to be here.

I’m now re-reading his Lessons From the Light, by the way. It’s masterly and moving—probably my single favorite study of NDE’s (out of countless others of which I’m also fond).

Dear Michael Thank you so much for the story you dedicated to my late husband Arthur Ellison, that was very kind of you. I was pleased, as Arthur would have been, to know that his comments and views have helped you. Arthur was always a seeker after the truth. He investigated every kind of paranormal event, but he also practised on himself. He learnt lucid dreaming, transcendental meditation and we held our own seances at times and experienced table tilting with his sister. He met many mediums and had sessions with them to see whether they were as good as had been claimed. I have remarried to Arthur's friend Peter, they were on holiday together when I first met them in 1958. Before Arthur died we discussed what would happen to me in the future and Arthur said then that I would get together with Peter! I am pleased to know that Arthur's knowledge of life and beyond has helped you. Marian Barton

Thank you very much for the kind words, Marion. Arthur's book "Science and the Paranormal" was very meaningful to me, and his characterization of the subconscious as "George" always stuck in my mind.

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