Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Father's Inspiration

By Lisabet Sarai

I'm writing this on Father's Day. It's a bittersweet holiday for me. My dad died a bit more than three years ago, on his eighty sixth birthday. Oddly, I feel his presence today far more than his absence. I've come to understand, during the time since his passing, that he'll always be with me, in my memories and in my heart.

I've written a lot about my mom over the past few years that I've been a contributor here, but not much about my father. He had his flaws and his problems - don't we all? - but they pale in comparison to his positive qualities.

Dad lived a long, joyous and fruitful life, including more than a year that was grace, pure and simple. After a serious cardiac incident, he was sent home to hospice care, not expected to live more than a few weeks. He confounded the prognosticators by recovering significantly and thriving (relatively speaking) for another seventeen months.

On reason I want to talk about my dad here at the Grip because he, more than any other individual, inspired me to read, and to write. He had the gift of words, and passed it on to his children. I recall him reading aloud to my siblings and me, folk tales, fairy stories, adventures like Treasure Island and Robinson Crusoe. He told his own stories, too, invented worlds and characters for our pleasure. There were the Gulkons, terrible demons who lived in the fire on the hearth, and Houligan, the god of snow. (I grew up in chilly, stormy New England.) I still remember sitting spellbound (nearly fifty years ago) while he recounted the story of the hapless wizard Thomas Carl Sefney who had to touch his wand to every one of the monster's thousand tentacles before it consumed him.

Both my parents encouraged me to write. My first poems date from about third grade. During my childhood I wrote fantasies about Martians and ghosts, and plays about the Beatles and politics. In my adolescence, too shy to speak to any of my crushes, I poured out my adoration in anguished free verse. In my twenties and thirties, I wrote science fiction and first tried my hand at romance. Finally, in my forties, I actually managed to publish something (other than in my high school newspaper). My first thought was to send a copy to my father.

My dad and I shared favorite books, characters and authors. When he and I got talking about Sherlock Holmes or Frodo Baggins, H.P. Lovecraft or Edgar Allen Poe or Anne Rice, the rest of the family would roll their eyes and leave us to our obsessions. I never had any difficulty figuring out what gift to get him for his birthday or Father's Day. There was always some book that I had seen or heard about that I knew he'd love.

I never did introduce him to my erotica, though. I was so tempted to show him the pile of paperbacks with my name on the cover, the volumes I had penned or edited. (I suspect that he would not have considered ebooks to be "real" books, but then, he never did really master his computer either...!) I wanted to autograph him a copy of my first novel, telling him how much he had contributed to my literary endeavors. I wanted him to be proud. However, I didn't want to make him uncomfortable. He loved Anne Rice's vampire tales, but I recalled the way he reacted when I gave him a copy of her BDSM classic The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty - an embarrassed grin and a "oh, that's interesting". We didn't discuss that book much. I'm pretty sure he never read it. Though I would have welcomed the opportunity to open up to him about my own pursuits in the world of Dominance and submission, I sensed that he would rather not know.

I guess that there are just some things you can't share with your parents, no matter how close you are.

Now that he's gone, do I regret that he never knew about the my risqué alter ego Lisabet Sarai? Not really. The only thing that I regret is that I didn't get a chance to wish him a Happy Birthday one last time. I was just about to pick up the phone when I got the call from my sister, telling me that he was gone.

I was thinking this morning, however, that I just might dedicate my next book to him. He deserves it.


  1. I envy you your affection for your father. This post made me very wistful.

  2. It made me wistful too. I never showed my father my writing either. I did show him one of the Nixie stories that didn;t have any sex ("The Dying Light") and he kind of said "Oh that's nice." but he never read it either. So I guess it was just one of those things. Its a consequence of the genre we've chosen, or what has chosen us, that we can;t really tear open our shirts and show our families the superhero costume underneath.


  3. Hello, RG,

    I was really lucky. I got to spend a lot of time with my dad when I was younger especially. I was the oldest child, and he was just thrilled to have kids, partly because he retained a childish joy in life to the very end.

  4. Hi, Garce,

    One of the things my dad and I definitely did not share was an interest in sex. (My mother complained, after they were divorced, that he was a "cold fish".) I remember once I was staying on the couch in his apartment with my boyfriend and he came in while we were making love (under the blankets). He was clearly upset.

    So no, no erotica for him. Sigh. I know he was proud of me anyway.

  5. My Dad, who is now 85, also was an avid story teller. My sister and I would cuddle up on each side of him as he told us the "Edie" tales. Our favourites were "Edie and the Wolf" and "Edie and the Snowstorm."

    He would pretend to fall asleep and we would have to feed pretend money into his mouth to wake him up and get him back to the story. I still remember my sister and I changing, "A penny a nickel a dime, a quarter, two quarters, three quarters, a dollar . . " I believe he came to at $1.00.

    Some of his tales were designed to scare us into staying in bed. He said there were 'skulks' under my bed and if I got up they would grab me by the ankles and devour me. Then he'd toss me on my bed, race to shut off the light (I was scared of the dark) and slam my door shut.

    I'd scream with fear but I couldn't get up. The skulks would get me if I did.

    He has asked me if I couldn't write something less 'smarmy.' Sigh. I gave him two stories that had a minimum of sex in them but still, too much sex, I guess, for my Dad.

    Felix and I wrote a crime novel last year, published under our real names. He read that and said, "It was as good as any other book I've read." I think that was a compliment.

    Erotica authors, by and large, must stick to this rule: Friends, yes.
    Family, no.

  6. Oh, I think it's lovely that you intend to dedicate your next book to your father. Regardless of the content, I am sure he would be pleased. A lovely tribute on Father's Day, Lisabet. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Hello, Madeline,

    I love the story about putting money in your dad's mouth! I can imagine my dad doing something like that.

    At least your father knows you were a published author.

    My siblings have read some of my work. My brother is appalled - he equates BDSM with abuse. My sister, I believe, is intrigued.

    Thanks for dropping by!

  8. Thanks, Kristina,

    I'm not sure how he'd feel if I dedicated a M/M erotic romance to him...


  9. My father also passed - about 7 years ago. He would have been horribly embarrassed by the genre of my books but equally proud of me. He was a good dad and I miss him but you're right. He isn't really gone. He's in my memories and stories and that gives him life still.

  10. What a lovely, moving post, Lisabet. Thanks for sharing.

    Incidentally, my dad happened to be the first person with whom I shared the news of my first publication acceptance. There was about a 50%/50% chance of this happening, as my parents were the first people I called, and he happened to answer. :) He also asked to read that story, and I have consistently experienced my family as supportive of and happy for my writing/'s something I do appreciate a lot.


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