Saturday, June 16, 2007

Dad's Turn

Often I am asked which of the characters in my books are based on people I know. While all have foundations in people or types of people I have come across in my life, several are drawn directly from real people. Zenobia Washington, Odelia's best friend, for instance, is drawn from one of my dearest friends, Lori Tillman. Mike Steele, though not based on any one real personality, is a compilation of several attorneys I have had the pleasure and displeasure of working with over the years. But the character of Horton Grey, Odelia's father, is spot on when compared to my father, the late Arakel (Art) Jaffarian, or "Jeff" as he was known to many of his friends.

Like Odelia's dad, my father was nearly deaf in his later years and wore a hearing aid which he turned on and off at will. Mostly it was off. He was a sweet man, good with his hands, very mechanical and creative, loved movies, and was smart though he never went past 6th grade. He was the 13th and last child of Armenian immigrants from Turkey. He met and married my mother shortly after returning home from WWII. She was 18/19 and he was 32. He literally married the babysitter ... of his brother's children. Shortly after he and my mother divorced, he married into a family very much like Odelia's stepfamily (yes, payback's a bitch). He was very easy going unless pushed too far, then the swear words and yelling would commence, but once he got it out of his system, he was backto being his good natured self.

Unlike Odelia and her father, I didn't live close to my Dad and we were estranged for many years during my teens and twenties. But later we became close and I would visit him every Father's Day weekend in Council Bluffs, Iowa, where he'd moved so his wife could be close to her family. My father loved lamb and Armenian food and there wasn't a lot of either in Iowa. Every year I'd buy a whole leg of lamb, freeze it, and take it on the plane to him, along with other goodies I'd picked up at local Armenian markets.

But what I remember most about my visits were the long hours he and I would spend playing cribbage after my stepmother would go to bed. (And Dad's hand carved cribbage board still has an honored place in my home.) We'd play and talk long past midnight and he'd tell me stories about his life and his brothers and sisters and mother and father (who both died long before I came along). It's how I learned what little I know about that side of my roots.

Last month, I wrote about how my mother would have been proud of my writing accomplishments, and I have no doubt my father would have been also. He was always proud of me, no matter what.

So this weekend is for you, Dad.


Alice Zogg said...

Hi Sue Ann,

The tribute to your dad tugged at my heartstrings.

Both my parents have passed away a long time ago, but the older I get, the more often I think of the good times we had together.

Best regards,

Evelyn said...

Upon reading this blog, you solved the mystery for me in how you are able to so accurately portray Odelia's hard of hearing dad in your two novels so far. I especially noticed that upon
re-reading "Too Big to Miss" when Odelia's dad is tapping Odelia on her shoulder to get her attention even though she can hear him just fine without looking at him while he's talking. I immediately wondered who you know/knew that was hard of hearing when I read that. It reminded me of how I do that-get someone's attention to make sure they can hear me even though it's really me that needs to hear that person.

Thanks for sharing your heart-warming story! I loved reading about your visits to him and packing special Armenian treats for him to take with you.

prov-31 said...

Hi Sue Ann,

What a wonderful tribute to your dad!

So sorry I missed the party Saturday I hope it was fabulous launch.

Much love,
Lori aka Zenobia