Birthdays and Family
Note: the title image is of me when I was little, sitting in the lap of my grandfather, James C. Kerns.
Most of my family’s birthdays occur in a six week span from mid-July to the end of August, starting with my older sister and ending with my father.
My sister and I chatted via Skype text, which is increasingly handy. I flew to Nevada for work on the day of my brother’s birthday. I spent the following week at a convention of coal miners who were organizing themselves for a fight to protect their own “family” of brothers and sisters that were active miners or retirees depending on increasingly fragile benefits. I did remember to call my brother on his birthday, even if it was in the middle of a virtually empty nuclear testing museum. And I called my father on this last Saturday, but we had already did the family reunion and gift-exchange kind of thing when he and Nancy made a road trip up from Tucson while I was in Nevada.
My own birthday was so uneventful, it was almost dis-spiriting. I never really pulled out of my funk until I got the usual calls from the family.
It’s funny how much family can mean to us. The Kerns family is not particularly close, and part of that has to do with being quiet, no-drama folks who are scattered across the country. Even our cousins are little more than Facebook friends, and we are fine with that. Yet, getting those calls, even though they were expected, still helped me get over myself for a while, listening to what everyone else was doing.
All while this was happening, my early-birthday gift to my father, the release of Jim’s Unsung Heroes, was starting to do fairly well on Amazon. In fact, it is probably my best-selling release since my first novel grabbed a small amount of attention in 2005. The book is a two-part release. One part is the true account of my grandfather’s war-time experiences, particularly in the days after he was seriously injured at the Battle of Wingen. The other part is a short story that retells those experiences in the context of a fictionalized Christmas dinner gathering of the Kerns family. The short story includes many specific details I found while researching the war, but the real joy from writing it was in the Christmas scenes.
Looking back on this summer, it is interesting to me how much the themes of family and survival recurred. I’m not sure what any of that means, but the writer in me does not want to believe in mere coincidences.