It has been two weeks time since the Blueberry Girl event in Manhattan.
We were in a taxi heading downtown from Neil’s hotel when Lorraine called me, saying, please, have Neil call home now, as she couldn’t get through to his cell phone. I heard the alarm bells of worry in her voice. He rang home and was given the news of his father’s unexpected passing.
I directed the cab to take us to the closest park. We walked in circles and from time to time, he would pause, staring into the trees while speaking quietly with his family by telephone. His morning meetings, we cancelled. Paul and Suzan were so gracious and understanding. I was somewhat of a dolt, not really knowing what to do or say, and I repeated my own dear Dad's patented lines...maybe one too many times, because Neil eventually looked up at me, squeezed my hand and said softly and kindly, "...you're doing just fine, Kit." The measure of that man...
He was scheduled to do a signing at Books of Wonder, and although I was pressing for a cancel, he wanted to continue with his obligations to Charles Vess and to his readers. We wandered up the street in the general direction of the bookstore. There was a huge line in front, and people jostled and cheered as he came through. Michael Stewart greeted us in front
No one knew his news except a few friends, and he kept a silent vigil.
Merrilee, his literary agent and Elyse, his publicist were there, we all wanted to just take him away. Continuing on with the event, I believe, bridged the sorrow of the day for him, which he did later thank people for.
Neil went on to do a brilliant reading. He signed for nine hours, six hours longer than he was meant to, until every last person had gotten a signature and a part of Neil.
He signed elbow to elbow with the fine Charles Vess, you can see his original artwork lining the bookshop walls.
stacks upon stacks of the Blueberry Girl:
Neil wrote BBG for Miss Tash Hawley, Tori’s daugher.
I toured with little Tash and her parents when she was
still but a merbaby age of three:
(i made this magnet for T's birthday many years ago)
here, Neil answers an interesting audience question:
At the event, I met with talented young Alice and her husband, Michael-- shown here with her stunning portrayal of Death and Dream:
Meanwhile, back on the home front, THE FABULOUS LORRAINE worked her otherworldly magic on the airlines to turn much "no" into "yes", all dust into gold-- she got the airline tickets needed to send him to his family immediately.
I remain in awe of Neil’s decision, and his strength of heart.
This more-personal-than-usual blog stands as a memorial to Neil’s father, David, who raised such a son.