When I read the topic this month, I thought it would be an easy one to write about. Certainly, I thought, living with me has been a cakewalk for my wife Michelle, especially after having been married to me for almost twenty years, but then I had to back pedal. I wondered. Was it? What did she really think about living with a writer? I also wondered what my two children Audrey (age 8) and Nicholas (age 5) thought, if they even really understood. So, I asked them, and I was surprised by their responses.
When I asked my daughter Audrey what it was like to have a dad who is a writer, she said, “It’s boring. You stay on the computer all the time and type, but you are kind of fun to play with. It’s always good when you help me with my writing for school.” My son Nicholas, on the other hand, didn’t have a lot to say, shrugged and said “Uh…uh,” or something like that, which translated means, “I don’t know.” Nicholas and I have had conversations about his responses before he starts kindergarten this year, but so far, his changing those responses hasn’t stuck.
Michelle, though, had a great deal to add. She asked if I wanted the negative or positive first. I was surprised there would be any negative. She started, “I feel like a single mom sometimes. Between your job and then coming home and writing on the computer, you’re not as involved as you could be. When’s the last time you started baths for the kids?” I didn’t remember, but it hadn’t been that long and besides, they are old enough to be able to run their own baths. I imagine them dysfunctional adults unable to run a bath. She also told me she hated me eating at the computer, getting crumbs stuck in the keyboard and smashed onto the floor. I know that I sometimes snack at the computer, but I do try to clean up after myself. She also hates being grammatically corrected, but she admits that I don’t do that as much anymore. Of course, what she doesn’t know is that I think her whole family has some sort of undiagnosed word disorder and the correcting doesn’t do any good anyway. One time her dad was riding with us through a neighborhood where he lives. We were looking at homes and he told me to turn around in the “cow-de-sac.” I honestly didn’t know what he meant, but it finally dawned on me he meant cul-de-sac. I didn’t bother to correct him either.
Then, she changed her tune to the positive. She told me she has enjoyed the hundreds of good books on the shelves and laying all over the house to read (not mine, mind you), and she enjoys hearing stories, “multiple times,” she adds (hinting at my reading them aloud as I edit over and over and over). She also tells me she enjoys going to the festivals and conferences, so she can meet other writers. Recently, we were in the foothills of North Georgia in Canton, where Terry Kay (author of To Dance with the White Dog, among many other books) did a presentation after the panel discussion on which I had participated. I’ll admit that I got a bit of a rush from meeting him, seeing him in the audience, listening and even laughing a time or two. I have all of Terry’s books, and now Michelle is reading them and loving them (more than mine even though she won’t admit it. If I wanted to ask her to compare, she’d just say, “They are just different from yours.”). Incidentally, both of my children absolutely hated going to the festival. They were hot, tired, and hungry, and they hated being dragged over to the outlet mall in Dawsonville after the festival to hunt deals.
When folks come up to Michelle (she’s the extrovert in the relationship) and mention my writing, she thinks it’s “cool” and enjoys talking with others about my books. If she could change something, though, Michelle wishes I could devote more time to writing. I must admit that some days I would agree with her, but I do think if I had to write full time, it might be extremely difficult for me to do so. Writing also wouldn’t pay the electric bill, let alone the house payment, cable bill, cell phone bill, water and sewer bill, buy groceries, make the car payment, and let’s not forget the buying all the books I need to read.
Niles Reddick is author of a collection of Road Kill Art and Other Oddities, which was a finalist for an Eppie award, and a novel Lead Me Home, which is a finalist for a ForeWord Award and was a finalist for first novel in the Georgia Author of the Year Awards. He is author of numerous short stories in journals and anthologies. The Reddick's live in Tifton, Georgia, where Niles works for Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College. His website is www.nilesreddick.com