Blessings from the Blessing Trail

Right now it’s Thursday afternoon. My media escort is behind the wheel driving us hell-bent-for-election between Mesa and Tucson. I’m in the passenger seat working on the blog. Why didn’t I write it yesterday? Because yesterday we traveled from Phoenix to Prescott for one event and then down Yarnell Hill—It is NOT a hill. It’s a mountain!—from Prescott to Wickenburg. On the way we passed Granite Mountain and the memorial to the Granite Mountain Hotshots who perished in that terrible wildfire. We all saw the wall-to-wall news coverage on that, but what didn’t come through on our TV screens is the incredible ruggedness of the terrain involved. Astonishing.

What I miss about doing virtual events, is the human interaction. That just doesn’t come through when I’m staring at my own face on a computer screen parked on my dining room table. So let’s start with some of the human interactions. At the Prescott Valley Library, the first woman who came to speak to me—a complete stranger—told me how delightful I am. And another woman who lived at Pima Hall a decade after I did, came up to introduce herself. At the signing table a middle-aged man asked me to sign a copy of After the Fire for “Betty’s kids.” I mistakenly assumed that the addict in their family must have been the man’s wife and the children involved were his. When I mentioned something to that effect he said, “No, this book is for my brothers and sisters and me. We’re Betty’s kids.” Wow!

In Wickenburg during the signing, a woman fighting back tears came up to the table. She was clearly struggling to say something, but was too overwhelmed. Finally, grabbing hold of my hand, she told me that reading the Beaumont books had helped her learn to read. It was a crowded room, and with my hearing loss, I was struggling to understand what she was saying, so I asked her to please send me an email. Today she did, and here it is:

Good evening Ms. Jance.

My name is _____ _____. We met tonight when you signed a book for me. As a child I was always placed in remedial reading. Along with many summer school sessions. I graduated from high school reading barely at the 8th grade level. I went to college at 22, a single mother. I was required to take a class called Critical Thinking and Evaluative Reading. My aunt had given me Taking the Fifth the summer before. With the help of my teacher I learned how to read that book. Really read. I knew the words but wasn’t able to truly comprehend what I was reading. How to follow a story. I fell in love with reading, and I’ve read all your books. AND I grew to love reading so much that I found Dorothy Gilman, Lillian Jackson Braun, Laura Ingalls Wilder and Thyra Ferre Bjorn (just a few).

I wish you many blessings in life. Thank you so much for making my life richer.

Whoa! By the way, standing proudly next to her during that encounter was a handsome young man who told me he was her second husband “the good one!” That one really made me smile because boy, do I know how lucky they both are.

This afternoon in Mesa, a woman in the front row told me she, too, had learned to read by reading the Joanna Brady books. And seated next to Sandra was a guy named Craig who spent six months being knocked for a loop by Covid. He said the only thing that kept him sane was being able to read my books one after another on his Kindle. He said it was a miracle he didn’t break his nose when the Kindle fell on his face. All those stories are powerful motivations for me to go on writing.

Early this week I received an email from a woman who’s the program manager at a dementia care facility in Tucson. She told me that one of her residents was still very high cognition, but she was mad at everything and everybody. The only thing that made her happy was having one of my books in her hand, and that she carried one with her almost everywhere she went.

That made me think of my mother, Evie. Several blogs ago, I believe I wrote about my mother’s personality transplant after my father’s passing and how my wonderfully caring, joyful mother suddenly turned mean-spirited and manipulative. It has taken me years to realize that she was probably suffering from an undiagnosed case of dementia.

So in Evie’s honor, I agreed to go to the facility tomorrow afternoon where I’d have lunch with my fan/patient and then later do a program for the residents where I would share some of the songs my mother taught us as we were growing up. I spent several days boning up on the lyrics. Unfortunately, yesterday I was told they are having a Covid outbreak so tomorrow’s scheduled visit will have to be postponed to a different time.

And then today in Mesa. When I was working on Blessing I had trouble locating a certain Tohono O’odham word, even with the help of Dean Saxton’s trusty Tohono O’odham dictionary. I turned to a Pima elder who happens to be a fan of my work. Not only did he help this Milghan writer, he came to the event in Mesa today and told me if I need help with any more words, to be sure to let him know. Then he shook my hand—twice. I felt incredibly honored! Still do.

See what I mean? Being an author on tour is the very best job in the world, and counting my blessings as I go along makes it event better.