Friday, March 11, 2016

HE'S GONE, AND I DIDN'T KNOW IT UNTIL TODAY

Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

When I answered the Question of the Month, I wrote about meeting author Pat Conroy. I had no idea he had died a few days before. I learned it from some of your comments on my post.

I didn't intend to be online today. I'm supposed to be on a blogging break so I can get mucho stuff done, but I remembered that for the umpteenth week in a row, I haven't answered a question about grammar.

So I hop online and learn that Mr. Conroy, who told me to call him Pat, who was so kind to me, who wrote such beautiful inscriptions in my copies of his books--he's gone.

In My Reading Life, he writes of his mother: Peg Conroy used reading as a text of liberation, a way out of the sourceless labyrinth that devoured poor Southern girls like herself. She directed me to every book I ever read until I graduated from the eighth grade at Blessed Sacrament School in Alexandria, Virginia. When I won the Martin T. Quinn Scholarship for Academic Achievement, Mom thought she had produced a genius in the rough.

On the title page of my copy of My Reading Life, he wrote


To Janie,
For the love of story,
Pat Conroy


I think it might have been the love of story that kept him alive. His youngest brother committed suicide. He often mentioned his depression. He grew up with a father who beat Pat until his blue eyes burned with hatred every time his father entered a room. [As] I live out a life too sad by half, he wrote. He thought of Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina when he was suicidal or in despair, and used the characters as a reminder that suicide wasn't the answer.

His mother pointed Pat in the right direction. Pat Conroy wrote of his mother's devotion to words, and her devotion to his reading and writing. She didn't finish college, but she read every book assigned to Pat in his high school and college classes.

Pancreatic cancer took his life.

I don't think I like a world without Pat Conroy.

Loss. So much loss.

And once again, you don't get a post with an answer to a grammatical concern because I have tears for Pat, for the famous artist who treated me as if he were honored to meet me, the man who shook my son's hand and thanked him for bringing me to, what was for me, one of the most magical nights of my life.


Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug




I take it as an article of faith that the novels I've loved will live inside me forever--Pat Conroy.

36 comments:

  1. You had me on the brink of tears, then the final quote broke me down. I didn't know Pat, outside of his words, but he seemed like a good person. We can't afford to lose any more good people. Knock it off, Cancer.

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    1. Researchers have made so much progress against cancer. For that we can be grateful, and I am grateful we had Pat as long as we did. He was nice and absolutely hilarious. I said to him, The greatest humor comes from pain. That was my only comment to which he did not respond.

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  2. Hi Janie - you have a love for him and an appreciation of how kind, thoughtful and considerate he was - let alone being such a powerful writer who influenced many ...

    Take care and all the best - Hilary

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    1. Yes, Hilary, I have a great love for him. First discovered him when he was so young, and I was a child.

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  3. Funny how we can feel so connected to someone we barely know in person but feel we know their soul through their writings. You must have connected which is why you wrote such a thoughtful tribute to him mere days after his passing. I will look him up and tell my hubby since my hubby can relate to the hatred and anger he felt towards his horrible excuse for a father who beat him and his other siblings on a regular basis. I can say my hubby has set that hatred aside finally when his dad was dying of cancer. He actually helped his dad because that is what a son should do, my hubby said. That takes guts in my book

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    1. Much of his writing was autobiographical. Pat also made amends with his father. After Pat wrote The Great Santini, his father set out to become more Santini and less Donald Conroy. He delighted in Pat's success and would autograph copies of his son's writing.

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  4. Replies
    1. Thank you, Linda Kay. I'm sad that he has an unfinished novel.

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  5. His love of our shared home of South Carolina has always touched my heart. I was so sad to hear of his passing.

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  6. When Juggernaut was training in L.A., Johnny Depp was in the store buying guitars. It was a Hollywood moment that impressed me.

    Pat Conroy...one of a kind.

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    1. You and your famous people. Is Johnny half as gorgeous in person as he is in movies? He started out in L.A. with a band, to little success. It was Nic Cage who told him to try acting.

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  7. How awesome that you met him, and he was every bit as nice as I imagined he'd be. I loved all of his books. If I had to pick a favorite, it'd probably be "Prince of Tides." I LOVED it when the gal fixed her mean ol' husband a can of dog food for dinner. :)

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    1. I think all women love the dog food scene.

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  8. I often feel a personal sense of loss when a celebrity dies. That's why my blog is filled with R.I.P. posts. (My latest was Harper Lee.) So I'm sorry for your loss, but so glad you actually got to meet him.

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    1. I didn't feel the loss as strongly with Harper Lee because she already seemed dead.

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  9. I've loved his work since "The Water is Wide"!!

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    1. Oh, yes. I'll never forget reading that book. It couldn't have been long after he wrote it. I was quite young but always reading books that adults said I couldn't understand. Like Portnoy's Complain. My mother paid no attention to what I checked out of the library.

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  10. I was surprised he was only seventy when he died. Too young.

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    1. Apparently it was a fast moving cancer, or maybe he was sick for quite some time and wouldn't admit to it.

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  11. Definitely one of my favourite authors and he wrote my favourite book, Beach Music. I wrote a tribute on my blog and his media team got in touch and sent me a video tribute to post. How sweet! I hate to think there's no more Pat Conroy novels coming out. :-(

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    1. One article said that he was 150 pages into a novel and that it will be finished. That disappoints me because only Pat can write like Pat.

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  12. He was indeed one of the great ones.

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  13. A beautiful tribute. I'm so glad you got to meet him.

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  14. I remember hearing he was sick but it seems it wasn't that long ago. Very sad. Prince of Tides was a wonderful book.

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    1. I read that he announced on his blog in the middle of February that he had pancreatic cancer. It was a very fast moving cancer that took his life quickly.

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  15. Replies
    1. But Blue--he lives forever! He's immortal in more than one way. Try not to be depressed. Pat wouldn't want you to be sad. He'd tell you to read one of his books.

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    2. I Know. It's just that I've seen so many great people died within, what, one freakin' year.

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    3. Blue, the thing is that we reach a point in our lives when many of the important people to us, especially when we were growing up, reach the age that they die. I don't want to make you more depressed, but the rest of our lives will be filled with deaths.

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