Last night I opened the newest issue of O The Oprah Magazine (I’m a subscriber), my heart beating fast. There it was, a feature piece written by yours truly, entitled (by the illustrious O Magazine book editor @Leigh Haber) “A Family Affair.” It’s a story about my father’s relationship with Jeanette Currie, a woman with whom he had a son out of wedlock (what an antiquated phrase, but it’s all I’ve got for now), a relationship that continued—to my great surprise—until my dad’s dying day. The theme of the issue is forgiveness. It’s also about how life can take you in alarmingly unforeseen directions. Meaning, never in a million years would I have thought that I would have anything like a positive relationship with this woman, who broke my entire family’s heart. But there it is, and our bond, as well as the one she had with my father and mother, will be a dominant thread in my next book.
I’m not here today to talk about Jeanette Currie, though. I want to say something about the incredibly generous and forgiving nature of my family—my brothers, aunt, and cousin, in particular—who have supported my need to figure out and untangle this complex story in writing, which is the only way I know how to get to the bottom of anything. I know it wasn’t easy to see this piece in print, and it will most likely get harder. They loved my father, as did I. We all still do. He left a true and inspiring legacy behind; he left a trail of heartbreak, too. He was a human being, I discovered in the years since his passing, and such, contained multitudes.
I’ve been thinking about how much harder it may be to write about the dead than the living, particularly when it comes to people who left mysteries in their wake that those who loved them must confront without the comfort of getting any sort of explanation, no accounting for the why of it all. I feel empathy for the people who will read the Oprah piece and be surprised and disappointed, even hurt, by what I wrote. But I did what I did not out of malice, but because I believe the story of my father, my mother, and Jeanette is not, after all, an unusual one, and there are many people living with the pain and confusion of such discoveries who will feel less alone by the story I’ve told. Or, at least, that’s my ambition.
If you happen to pick up the October issue of O The Oprah Magazine, I’ll be eager to hear what you think.