Wednesday, 29 December 2010

In Memory: N M Browne


Today would have been my father’s birthday - a once forgettable date, lost between Christmas and New Year which led to rather a meagre birthday present haul. I never forget it now. He died twenty years ago, a few months before his 58th birthday and I still miss him desperately.
He was a painter who gave up painting for twenty years - from my early childhood until his early (and too brief) retirement. He gave up because it was impossible to combine painting with earning enough to support us. He was good at what he did and exhibited widely before I was born. Would he have ‘ made it’ if he’d carried on? Maybe. Did he regret the sacrifice ? I don't think so.
Anyway, the struggle to find time to teach, paint, and be a family man was too much. I still have a portrait of me he began when I was about four. I outgrew the dress I was wearing before he was able to finish it, which says it all. Consequently, I grew up with the knowledge that doing what you love is a privilege not everyone can afford.
My father always fostered my ambitions, even my mad decision to give up teaching, study for an MBA and become a business woman. He thought I was bonkers, but supported me none the less. He died before I discovered what he had always known - that I wasn’t really that kind of person.
I began writing only after his death, when suddenly life seemed short, precarious and altogether too precious to waste on work I hated. I had always wanted to write ‘one day,’ but dying days are certain and ‘one days’ aren’t.
He never saw me published and never met three of my four children.
Whenever things go badly with my writing, which if I’m honest is often, I wonder what his advice would be. Would he tell me to stick with what I love, to seize the day, or to face up to economic realities as he had to do?
I have no answer to this particular conundrum: I only wish I could ask him for his.

13 comments:

catdownunder said...

Oddly, it would have been my mother's birthday today. I wish I could remember her in the same way. Your father obviously knew the meaning of the words "unconditional love".

Becky said...

Such a moving post. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Could the answer to your question be to use your knowledge of writing children's books to supplement your writing income? Could you say do more school visits? Or perhaps teach creative writing to adult students? You mention that you were a teacher once so I'm sure the author talk thing would come naturally to you...

vh said...

Oh Nicky this resounds so true to me too. Tomorrow it will be 14 years since the death of my Father. It was a death we didn't expect and I still feel the guilt that I didn't take my boys in to see him in hospital that day but he was supposed to be coming home the next day.
I often wonder what he would think of what I am doing these days. He helped me set up my own business with boundless amounts of advice. He was never demonstrative but you still knew he loved you. He was a larger than life man and like you I miss my Daddy so much but at least now I know he is with my Mother and they are no doubt creating havoc wherever they happen to be.
Thank you for sharing x

Sue Purkiss said...

A lovely post, Nicky. I sort of feel it should be shared more widely - an article in a magazine or Sunday supplement maybe? There's something very special about what you've written here.

Nicky said...

Thanks Becky -thoughtful suggestions. I already teach CW part time at uni. I could do more school visits but I am already short of writing time as it is. I'll probably see what next year brings...

Catherine Johnson said...

Beautiful post Nicky, very monving and thoughtful
c

Stroppy Author said...

Very moving, Nicky. How could he be other than proud and delighted that writing has worked out for you? Thank you for such a thought-provoking and sensitive post.

Jennie Walters said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jennie Walters said...

Thanks so much for sharing this with us, Nicky. Your father would have been so proud to read it. Please keep posting and blogging, if nothing else! I so enjoy your contributions - re-read your Autumn piece from 2009 this autumn and loved it all over again.

Katherine Langrish said...

Oh Nicky, what a lovely post... my father never knew I was ever published, either, and he would have been so proud. Yours too. Thankyou.

Book Maven said...

A good day for me to read this. My mother died unexpectedly on New Year's Eve, 4 months after my father.

I have never wanted to celebrate the day since, even though that was 36 years ago.

My parents never met our children but they did know that my first book had been accepted for publication and were proud.I expect your dad would be too.

Penny Dolan said...

Fine post for a fine father. Nicky. So glad that you had such a supportive relationship, even if it brings poignant moments now.

The death thing does tend to clarify what you truly want to do, and you've done pretty well so far. Even the MBA must have focused you on yor writing when it happened. Good luck with balancing it all in 2011. Nicky - and everyone else.

Nicky said...

I met my husband doing my MBA and it got me a well paid job for a while - which was good. It always was an odd decision but not one I regret.