A year ago, last December, I decided to pull my manuscript from the small presses I had approached earlier that spring and self-publish my father’s memoir. Looking back, it was a decision I made because of concern for my father’s health and a desire to share his story with others while he could still participate. In fact, at the end of January, my father was hospitalized after my mother found him splayed out on their frozen driveway. Within a few days of hospitalization, the colour returned to his face for the first time in months. His eyes were bright and his spirits high. All it took was a pacemaker to regulate the beats of his strong heart.
It has been nine months since the book was released and, with the first glaze of snow covering the northern landscape signaling the end of the year and the beginning of a new one, I can’t help but reflect on the events of the past year. While writing the book with my father was an incredible journey, I’m so grateful for the chance to share the book with readers. The fact that he has taken an active role in book events makes me feel very blessed. A year ago I wasn’t sure that would be possible.
Since the book launch last March, my father and I have met so many enthusiastic readers. Many were friends and family members, eager to read the book that took so many years to finish. For months, even years, they had asked, “When will your book be ready?” Others were acquaintances and colleagues who sometimes exclaimed, “I had no idea you were writing a book!” Most satisfying, however, were the many emails and phone calls I received from strangers who just wanted to reach out and tell me how meaningful my father’s story was to them and how pleased they were that I wrote it. Those simple acts of kindness touched my heart and made me feel that we, my father and I, had done something more than we intended. So often, at book signings, library events and book club meetings, I meet people who have stories of their own: parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles or others who were somehow involved in the Winter War, Continuation War or World War II. Many bemoaned the fact that their family’s story had disappeared with the passing of their loved one. Others shared with me their secret desire to write their own family memoir. To them I always say, “Do it! You must preserve their memories before it’s too late.”
As Christmas approaches and the year comes to a close, I have no regrets. I took a chance self-publishing, but by doing so I opened doors I didn’t even know existed. While it was exciting to see the book in print for the first time, it was the unexpected surprise of meeting strangers who quickly became friends, the shared conversations about history and memories, and the connections between friends and strangers alike that have made the past year memorable. The fact that I shared these experiences with my father is, well, priceless.
Happy holidays to you and yours and all the best for the new year.
Hyvää joulua ja onnellista uutta vuotta!