By Alan Zendell
As we get older we all live with certain realities. Our ranks will thin, we’ll lose friends and loved ones, and eventually it will be our turn. We all know it’s true, but we generally don’t think about it unless we have to.
I lost my brother in October. I wasn’t supposed to − he was only sixty-five, four years younger than I am – but one night, without warning, he died in his sleep. I’m the calm collected one, or so everyone thinks. My baby sister (I always think of her that way) was beside herself with grief. But neither of us realized how difficult it would be. The next night, one of our favorite aunts died in Fort Lauderdale.
My sister, in New York, and I, in Maryland, had to arrange a funeral in Orlando by telephone and the funeral home lived up to its industry’s reputation for vulturism. They took full advantage of us to the tune of $13,500, and then conducted the funeral with no respect for the family and friends. My seventeen-year-old nephew was devastated by the cold insensitivity with which his father’s memory was treated.
It was an awful time. Hurricane Sandy howled, and we felt overwhelmed by our brother’s death and the total disarray he left behind. We plagued ourselves with questions: was there anything we could have done to avert this tragedy, any way we could have saved him? And then the final straw, the crushing responsibility for a nephew we barely knew and a niece we knew not at all who looked to us for solace.
Drowning in self-pity, I looked around and found myself surrounded by people who’d flown from all over the country to be there with us − spouses, sons, daughters, and cousins all rallying around us. I really have the most incredible family! They buoyed and sustained us like a warm, amniotic fluid. Se we embraced our new nephew and niece, and saw the beginning of rebirth in their eyes. Out of the ashes of tragedy rose the beginning of renewal.
We all flew home through Sandy and she caught up with us again on her way north. Through all her grief my sister lived without power for a week while I gradually got in touch with the enormity of my own. I slept badly, and I was listless and edgy, all symptoms of deep depression. But Thanksgiving was coming, and everyone who’d been in Orlando was going to be together again, including others who couldn’t attend the funeral. I’m not usually very good at asking for help, but I stood to tell them all how much their presence had restored me.
Fate wasn’t done with me yet, however, and in December, I lost another person, a wonderful woman who’d been like a surrogate parent to my wife and me for more than forty years. But though we’ll miss her, by the time of her passing we’d learned about the cycle of life.
On December 5th, my first grandchild entered the world. This beautiful, sweet boy has been the healing balm we all needed. Life is good.I’d like to introduce you all to Nathaniel Zendell, aged one month. Say, “Hi,” Nate
Alan spent more than thirty years as a scientist, aerospace engineer, software consultant, database developer, and government analyst, writing really boring stuff like proposals, technical papers, reports, business letters, and policy memoranda. But trapped inside him all that time were stories that needed telling and ideas that needed expression, so with encouragement and cajoling from a loving baby sister he plunged into fiction.
Since then, he has written mostly science and extrapolative fiction, the genre he loved since he was nine. But his stories are about more than aliens and technical marvels. He creates strong, three-dimensional characters a reader can care about, because it’s people and the way they live and love that are important. It’s the things they believe in and how much they’re willing to invest to preserve them that make a story worth telling. It’s convincing interactions and well-researched credible plots that make a story worth reading.
And, of course, like any writer, Alan loves having an audience.