A most unfortunate part of growing older, my dad told me years ago, is the loss of people who have been important in your life.
I thought I understood it then, but with each passing year I realize how truly unprepared for that loss I have been. This does, however, help me appreciate the people who remain with me.
Last weekend while driving home from a book promotion trip I kept reflecting on that as my mind tried to fill the boring hours of turnpike travel. Those thoughts were prompted from very interesting conversations I had with a young author who happened to stop by at two of the places where I was signing books.
He is a very bright young man with an intense focus on history, a talent for writing and the ambition to not just write but to promote and sell his books.
Many, many people I encounter want or plan to write a book. A number of them do follow through, and most of their works are very good or even better. Even rarer, though, is the person willing to do the leg work to properly promote and sell that book.
Through my years as an author I have come to appreciate that promoting books is far more difficult than writing them. For me making phone calls and in-person visits, sending emails, posting on social media and sending out samples is not nearly as exciting as researching and writing books. In my case the promotion actually goes against my grain, as I typically prefer to remain in the background and not call attention to myself.
When it comes to promoting my books I owe a lot to the encouragement of my wife, who is my best cheerleader and encourages me to get myself and information about my books in front of the public. Some of my friends have been very supportive in this sense as well.
The young author I encountered over the weekend impressed me because he has a new book out, and he is intensely exploring how to sell it. I looked at a copy of his book, which deals with Victorian parlor games, and was very impressed with it. The book meshes nicely with his work as a living historian in Gettysburg, which also is a plus.
In many ways he reminds me of myself at a much younger age, so I tried to provide the best advice that I could, and offered to help him along the way.
I owe much of what I have accomplished in life to the guidance and mentorship of others, starting with my parents. My values, spirituality and outlook on life are very much a product of their influence. I can’t even begin to go into detail about what they have imparted to me. That would require a column – actually a book – all its own, so all I can do here is offer them my deep, heartfelt appreciation.
I truly am blessed that Mom and Dad are still with me, and remain a huge part of my life. My only regret here is that making a living gets in the way far too much of spending time with them.
As a high school student I was offered a jump start in my writing and journalism career by Regis Spielvogel, at the time the publisher of the Stryker Advance weekly newspaper. He gave me a forum for my writing and an introduction to photojournalism, truly providing me with a jump start to my career. Regis is one of those people important to my life I have lost, and I think of him often.
Grandpa Allison imparted to me a love of reading and of history that is a huge part of who I am. This was a great gift, and his death when I was only 14 years old is one of the great losses of my life.
Grandma Champion in Alabama is another of my life’s guiding lights. She was the epitome of love and support, and watching her calm demeanor was a great lesson on how to live that remains with me to this day. Even if something bothered or worried her it very rarely showed, and whenever I am tempted to lose my temper I try to picture Grandma’s calmness. When my anger does show and is directed at others I feel like I have let her down.
Within the last two months parents of two of my classmates have died, Dean Clark and Helen Grisier. I was a close friend of Helen’s son Marc, and she always made me and other friends of her sons very welcome in their home. I always appreciated Dean Clark’s humor, and I was glad I encountered him and was able to chat with him just a few weeks before he died. In no small measure I appreciate my classmates’ loss.
More and more I treasure encounters of those from my past who are still with us. In my living work at Sauder Village I often got the chance to visit with Donna Haye, who was a pillar of the Stryker First Baptist Church when I was growing up. I have always appreciated Donna’s good humor and outlook on life.
After having lunch with Dad on Tuesday I encountered another such person, Dave Graber. He was my sixth grade teacher, and I always admired him for his obvious dedication to teaching and his knack for making learning fun.
I could go on and on about those who have had a positive impact on me, but I am running out of newspaper space after barely scratching the surface. Remembering them here has been a wonderful treat, and words alone cannot provide a proper thanks.
Don Allison is an author, columnist and retired editor of The Bryan Times.